MLB.com Columnist

Bill Ladson

Souza, Giolito take home Nats' organization awards

Souza, Giolito take home Nats' organization awards

WASHINGTON -- On Wednesday, the Nationals named outfielder Steven Souza Jr. their Minor League Player of the Year and right-hander 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.

Souza, 25, was named the Triple-A 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).

Now in the big leagues, Souza collected his first Major League homer on Sept. 17 against Braves starter Alex Wood.

"It has been tremendous year, to cap it off with this award, I'm just truly honored, especially with the guys that have won it in the past," Souza said.

Souza has come a long way from 2010, when he was suspended for 50 games after testing positive for Methylphenidate and Ritalinic Acid -- performance-enhancing substances in violation of the Minor League Drug Prevention and Treatment Program. Today, he is considered the organization's fifth-best prospect, according to MLB.com.

"I think you look back on three years ago, when I was hitting .220 in [Class A]. It was kind of embarrassing," Souza said. "I always said, 'Thank God for everything He has done in my life.' It's definitely been a huge part. It's really fun to sit back and look at where I came from."

Going forward, Souza would like to improve his game in the outfield.

"It's not to say I'm awful defensively, but just take it to the next level," Souza said "That will help me stick around, make adjustments faster. Just those kinds of things, the little things will be more important now. I kind of have a good foundation with what I've learned from all the coaches."

Giolito, 20 and the Nats' No. 1 prospect, went 10-2 with an organization-best 2.20 ERA in 20 starts for Class A Hagerstown, striking out 110 batters in 98 innings while holding opposing batters to a .197 batting average along the way.

Difo, 22 and the Nats' No. 20 prospect, 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 Class A South Atlantic League's Most Valuable Player after leading the league with 176 hits while ranking second in total bases (263) and stolen bases (49), and fourth in RBIs (90) and runs scored (91).

Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the time. He also could be found on Twitter @WashingNats. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.