The Washington Nationals today named outfielder Steven Souza Jr. their Minor League Player of the Year and right-handed pitcher Lucas Giolito their Minor League Pitcher of the Year. The club also named infielder Wilmer Difo the recipient of the second-annual Bob Boone Award. Nationals President of Baseball Operations and General Manager Mike Rizzo, Vice President of Player Personnel Bob Boone, Assistant General Manager & Vice President of Player Development Doug Harris and Director of Player Development Mark Scialabba made the announcement.
Souza Jr., 25, was named the International League’s Most Valuable Player and Rookie of the Year after leading the league in batting average (.350), slugging percentage (.590), on-base percentage (.432) and OPS (1.022). In 96 games for Triple-A Syracuse he collected 25 doubles, two triples, 18 home runs, 75 RBI, 52 walks, 26 stolen bases and 62 runs scored in 96 games for the Chiefs. For his efforts, Souza Jr. was also named to the International League mid-season and post-season All-Star.
A third-round pick in the 2007 First-Year Player Draft, Souza Jr. made his Major League debut on April 13th at Atlanta and collected his first Major League hit two nights later in Miami. On September 17th at Atlanta, Souza Jr. clubbed his first Major League home run, a solo shot off Atlanta starter Alex Wood.
Giolito, 20, went 10-2 with an organizational-best 2.20 ERA in 20 starts for the Hagerstown Suns of the Single-A South Atlantic League. He struck out 110 batters in 98.0 innings while holding opposing batters to a .197 batting average along the way.
The Nationals’ top pick in the 2012 First-Year Player Draft, Giolito earned two South Atlantic League Pitcher of the Week citations (June 30 & July 28) and was selected to represent the Washington Nationals in the 2014 SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game in Minneapolis. Following the season, Giolito was named the Most Outstanding Pitcher and the Top Major League Prospect in the South Atlantic League by MiLB.com.
Difo, 22, becomes the second recipient of the Bob Boone Award, which is granted annually to the Nationals minor leaguer who best demonstrates the professionalism, leadership, loyalty, passion, selflessness, durability, determination and work ethic required to play the game the “Washington Nationals Way.”
Difo was named the South Atlantic League’s Most Valuable Player after leading the league with 176 hits while ranking second in total bases (263), second in stolen bases (49), fourth in RBI (90) and fourth in runs scored (91). His 90 RBI were the most among Nationals farmhands, while his .315 average was good for second behind Souza Jr. Difo set career marks in nearly every offensive category, hitting .315 with 31 doubles, seven triples, 14 home runs, 90 RBI, 37 walks and 91 runs scored in 136 games for the Suns.
These players will be honored for their achievements prior to Thursday night’s game versus New York.
WASHINGTON NATIONALS MINOR LEAGUE PLAYER AND PITCHER OF THE YEAR
2014: OF Steven Souza Jr., RHP Lucas Giolito, INF Wilmer Difo (Boone)
2013: OF Billy Burns, RHP Taylor Jordan, 2B Tony Renda (Boone)
2012: INF Matthew Skole, RHP Nathan Karns
2011: INF Steve Lombardozzi, RHP Brad Peacock
2010: OF Tyler Moore, LHP Tom Milone
2009: C Derek Norris, RHP Brad Meyers
2008: OF Leonard Davis, RHP Jordan Zimmermann
2007: OF Justin Maxwell, LHP John Lannan
2006: INF Kory Casto, RHP Zechry Zinicola
2005: INF Kory Casto, LHP Michael O’Connor