Starting now and continuing throughout this upcoming season, I will give you a little insight on the top-flight Astros farm system every week. I will highlight the “Prospect of the Week,”(this doesn’t necessarily mean that this prospect had the best overall week out of all Astros prospects) giving readers knowledge regarding the future of the Houston Astros, as well as intense examination of the prospects and an ETA to the majors. Being a die hard Astros fan myself, due to the big league club having historically bad seasons as of late, it’s hard not to become an “amateur draftnik” of sorts, as well as a devoted prospect lover. Funny thing about prospects is that they don’t always pan out the way you expect them to.
Originally drafted by the Minnesota Twins in the 48th round of the 2008 MLB Amateur Draft, George Springer thankfully opted not to sign with the Twins, and instead stayed in-state (born and raised in New Britain, Connecticut) by attending the University of Connecticut. This decision proved to be wise as Springer would go on to be named to the 2009 Baseball America Freshman All-America First team, while also garnering Big East Conference Rookie of the Year honors. Throughout his fantastic career at UConn, Springer racked up a .346 career average, 46 home runs, and 76 stolen bases.
The Houston Astros selected the five-tooled stud with the 11th overall pick in the 2011 MLB Draft, making Springer the highest draft choice in UConn baseball history. Playing a future Gold Glove caliber center field, a premium position in the bigs, with great range, while also possessing 30/30 potential, the Astros figured they got an absolute steal in George Springer.
Springer began his professional baseball career in the New York Penn League with the Tri-City ValleyCats (Astros low-A affiliate). While only playing a total of eight games his rookie season in 2011, he had eight hits in a total of 28 at-bats, and had a .303 on-base percentage (OBP). Springer spent his 2012 season between Lancaster (Astros high-A affiliate) and Corpus Christi (Astros double-A affiliate), and did not disappoint with a season stat line of 153 hits in 506 AB’s, a .302 BA, an slugging percentage of .526, while accumulating 24 home runs and 87 RBI in 128 games played.
Year three of the Springer project saw this young man have a record-setting, historically great breakout season. The power-hitting Springer, who also possesses the ability to cover center field like a blanket, became the 2013 MiLBY Offensive Player of the Year, after almost hitting the 40/40 mark (40 home runs and 40 stolen bases). This honor was well deserved as Springer, who split the season between the Class AA Corpus Christi Hooks and the Class AAA Oklahoma City Redhawks, boasted season numbers of 149 hits in 492 AB, a .303 BA, 37 HR, 108 RBI, 45 stolen bases, a .411 OBP, .600 slugging percentage, and a 1.010 on-base plus slugging percentage (OPS) in a total of 135 games played. Can you say, wowzaaaaaa?
However, Springer does not come without his fare share of uncertainties and weaknesses. Coming out of UConn and throughout his minor league career, there are still questions Springer has yet to answer. In my opinion, the biggest flaw in Springer’s game is that there is a little too much hit-and-miss to him despite his patient approach in the box. However, his uncanny ability to work long counts should somewhat limit strike outs in the future.
Throughout Spring Training, Springer joined Carlos Correa, Jonathan Singleton, Mike Foltynewicz, and Mark Appel as young, promising Astros looking to make an impression on the coaching staff. The only difference between him and the rest of these guys is that Springer, at 24, is the most MLB-ready product out of all the long list of top Astros prospects, and has shown throughout his past minor league seasons that he is more than ready to get the call up to the show.
Springer is currently ranked by Baseball America as the club’s second best prospect, and the 18th best prospect in all of baseball.
Jeff Luhnow, the absolutely brilliant GM of the Astros, told MLB.com earlier in the offseason, “I think George Springer will be a starting outfielder in Houston this year… Whether it happens Opening Day or sometime during the season, he’s a special talent.”
I wholeheartedly agree with Mr. Luhnow’s sentiments.
One of the most important things in my mind that stick out about Mr. Springer is how great of a guy/role model he is. In the school that Springer attended freshman year, New Britain High School, when one of his classmates once offered him marijuana, he immediately transferred to Avon Old Farms School in Avon, Connecticut to get away from such nonsense and distractions. That should tell you all you need to know about George Springer’s values, ethics, and commitment.
Springer began the 2014-2015 campaign in Triple-A due to the ‘Stros acquiring the extremely solid center-fielder, Dexter Fowler, to man Springer’s current position as we speak (L.J. Hoes, Robbie Grossman, Marc Krauss and Alex Presley all platoon the corner outfield positions, which is also a possibility for Springer to play when he gets called up). Springer should spend this time in the minors learning to drive outside pitches the other way and cut down on his strikeouts.
But don’t fret Astros fans, our hopes and prayers should be answered sooner rather than later, as I could see George getting called up sometime between late May and early June, because that would delay his arbitration clock from starting early enough so that the Astros would be able to control him an extra year.
It’s about time that we Astros fans see some excitement, leadership, and a potential superstar back at Minute Maid Park.
It’s about time for George Springer.