Two members of the Nationals' low Class A Hagerstown club received 50-game suspensions, Major League Baseball announced. Both J.R. Higley, a 22-year-old outfielder, and Steven Souza, a 21-year-old third baseman, tested positive for Methylphenidate and Ritalinic Acid, which are classified as performance-enhancing substances under the minor league testing guidelines.
A third-round pick in 2007, Souza was batting .232/.309/.434 with 11 home runs in 302 at-bats for the Suns. The Everett, Wash., prep product stole 18 bases in 22 tries.
Despite a lackluster .233/.303/.353 batting line over 116 at-bats for Hagerstown, Higley is considered the better prospect of the two as a potential extra outfielder at the highest level. Injuries have limited him to 99 games in the past two seasons, and now this suspension will cost the 2008 ninth-round pick further development time.
According to his agent, Josh Kusnick, Higley "has been prescribed Adderall by a doctor to deal with his (attention deficit disorder). MLB has granted J.R. an exemption for this. However, at some point during the year J.R. took a Concerta when his Adderall prescription ran out, assuming that there would be no issue. Much to J.R.'s chagrin and utter disappointment he was mistaken and now must face the consequences of his mistake."
The Nationals have been hit as hard as any organization with drug suspensions. They lost Triple-A second baseman Seth Bynum earlier this season and last year weathered the loss of Stephen Englund and Stephen King, the organization's second- and third-round picks in the 2006 draft.
In addition to Higley and Souza, two free agent players also received 50-game suspensions, which they must serve if they sign minor league deals with new clubs.
• Outfielder Josh Flores, a 24-year-old whom the Astros released in June, recorded a second positive test for a drug of abuse.
• Second baseman Manuel Marquez, a 17-year-old whom the Cardinals signed in May and assigned to the Rookie-level Venezuelan Summer League, tested positive for metabolites of Nandrolone, a performance-enhancing substance.
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