Under the Radar details players in the Chicago White Sox system who may have suffered setbacks, gotten lost in the shuffle, or just haven’t surfaced as significant prospects as of yet. Next up is Bennett Sousa, who has provided impressive results since being drafted in this year’s 10th round, including being our Kannapolis Player of the Month for August.
Bennett Sousa (LHRP) Kannapolis Intimidators
Bennett Sousa, a resident of North Palm Beach, Fla. pitched all four of his collegiate seasons with the Virginia Cavaliers, where all but three of his 70 appearances were out of the bullpen. His best season was his junior year (2017), where he had a 4.09 ERA and 1.21 WHIP over 33 innings, allowing 25 hits and 15 walks while striking out 44. The Washington Nationals selected him in the 34th round of the draft, but Sousa elected not to sign.
In 2018 he struggled, to the tune of a 5.23 ERA and 1.35 WHIP over 43 innings, allowing 36 hits and 22 walks while striking out 61. His total collegiate numbers, with the exception of strikeouts, hadn’t been all that jaw-dropping: 5.50 ERA and 1.55 WHIP, while allowing 98 hits, 69 walks, and 130 strikeouts over 108 innings of work. Despite these numbers, the White Sox liked what they saw and drafted him.
Sousa, 23, dominated in his brief nine-game stint in the hitter-friendly Pioneer League, where he allowed just four hits (.089 OBA), zero walks, 18 strikeouts, and earning two saves for Great Falls over 13 innings of work. This led to an incredible 0.00 ERA and 0.31 WHIP, along with a phenomenal strikeout rate of 40%. He earned his promotion to Kannapolis on July 15, and while his production hasn’t been nearly as dominant, Sousa has been quite successful thus far. In 18 2⁄3 innings over nine appearances, he’s enjoyed a 1.93 ERA and 1.23 WHIP, while allowing 16 hits (.242 OBA), seven walks (9.3 BB%), 19 punchouts (25.3 K%), and earning two saves. Thus, through August 30, his combined totals for 2018 with Great Falls and Kannapolis are: 1.14 ERA, 0.85 WHIP, 31 2⁄3 innings, 20 hits (.180 OBA), seven walks (5.8 BB%), 37 strikeouts (30.8 K%), and six saves. Not too shabby!
The six-foot-three, 185-pound southpaw features an impressive three-pitch repertoire. His fastball maxes out at 94 mph but generally runs 89-92, according to Baseball Draft Report, and has low, hard, tailing action when down in the zone — a heavy pitch, when located correctly. Secondly, Sousa offers a mid-80s slider, with hard spin and downward bite. His third pitch is a changeup with nice, diving action, which he primarily uses against right-handed hitters. Righties have batted .225 against Sousa’s offerings this year, while lefties have hit a paltry .065 against him. The big thing with Sousa is not his stuff, but his control. A big reason for his problems with Virginia was that fell behind the count constantly, which led to higher walks and more pitches the hitters were able to see.
Sousa has pitched 31 2⁄3 innings over 18 games, so the White Sox aren’t treating him as a LOOGY quite yet. With his success and his age (he turns 24 next April), he should begin next season with Winston-Salem and earn a promotion to Birmingham by June . While righties have hit just .225 against him overall, they’ve fared better against him at Kannapolis, to the tune of a .298 average.
If Sousa can successfully locate his changeup and stay ahead on righties, he could be quite a successful multiple-inning southpaw option out of the bullpen— something similar to Jace Fry. If not, his floor would still be that of LOOGY; after all, an OBA of .065 versus lefties is nothing to sneeze at.