Prospect Watch: George Springer Edition

Each weekday during the minor-league season, FanGraphs is providing a status update on rookie-eligible players. Note that Age denotes the relevant prospect’s baseball age (i.e. as of July 1st of the current year); Top-15, the prospect’s place on Marc Hulet’s preseason organizational list; and Top-100, that same prospect’s rank on Hulet’s overall top-100 list.

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George Springer, OF, Houston Astros (Profile)
Level: MLB   Age: 24   Top-15: 2nd   Top-100: 14th
Line: 61 PA, 14.8% BB, 24.6% K, .353/.489/.647 (.455 BABIP) [Triple-A]

Summary
Super athlete. Superstar? Springer showcased his skills during a stellar debut last night.

Notes
The Minute Maid Park crowd probably hoped George Springer would produce more than an “Infield Hit,” to Jeremy Guthrie for his first hit, but that sequence embodied many of the characteristics that define of Springer. As he waited for Guthrie’s offering, Springer stood tall in the batter’s box, making use of his long athletic frame. The vicious swing, a Springer trademark, had the 24-year-old off balance. His legs were only partially underneath him when he made contact. As the ball dribbled up the third baseline, Springer composed himself, hustled out of the batter’s box and beat Guthrie’s throw to first in roughly four seconds.

Springer is an elite athlete who posseses power, speed and an advanced understanding of the strike zone. Through 1264 professional plate appearances his strikeout rate was 26.4% due to contact issues, not a propensity to expand the strike zone. Due his long swing, Springer will always struggle to make consistent contact, but he has improved in that regard. At University of Connecticut, Springer’s rear (right) knee would routinely be firmly planted in the dirt after a hack. Since Houston drafted him 11th overall in 2011 however, he has improved his balance and shortened his swing.  It’s still one of the most aggressive cuts in the Major Leagues, but his patience/pitch selection will prevent him from becoming a liability on offense.

There was understandable excitement surrounding his debut, but Springer isn’t going to save Houston alone. At 24, he is an older prospect but he still has room to develop, especially at the plate. While his career minor league OPS is nearly 1.000, the adjustment to the major leagues could be rough early. Springer can decimate heat, but Major League off-speed offerings could cause him trouble. I expect the ferocity of his swing alone will tempt pitchers to test him with breaking balls and changeups.

Regardless of his initial contact rate, Springer’s other attributes will provide value to the Astros even if he struggles initially. Springer’s approach indicates he will post a league average or better walk rate from day one, allowing him to utilize his speed. He was picked off in his debut, but Springer’s natural instincts will be an asset on the basepaths.

On defense, he has a reputation as an average or better center fielder with a very strong arm. With off-season acquisition Dexter Fowler in center, Astros Manager Bo Porter started Springer in right field for his debut. Springer should be far better than his peers in right field, so the shift along the defensive spectrum will be partially, but not fully, negated.

Simply put, Springer is an exciting player. He possesses a combination of power, speed and athleticism rarely found in Major League Baseball. Be wary of expecting overnight stardom, but his talent should shine through on the highlight reel more often than not.




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Formerly of Bullpen Banter, JD can be followed on Twitter.


30 Responses to “Prospect Watch: George Springer Edition”

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  1. JTT says:

    Best case scenario sounds like an in-his-prime Curtis Granderson

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    • Stan Gable says:

      I think that’s a pretty decent comparison even though they’re not carbon copies or anything in terms of build, etc. George Springer might be more physically gifted than Granderson, but we’ll see if he plays CF as well as the former Tiger did in his early days (assuming, with the presence of Dexter Fowler, that he even gets the opportunity).

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      • Cool Lester Smooth says:

        Or if he makes anywhere near as much contact. Grandy didn’t start striking out as much as Springer did in AAA until he was 30 years old.

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        • Stan Gable says:

          Very good point & very good username. I sort of want to change mine to something along the lines of ‘Bushy Top McNutty’ now.

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      • Stan Gable says:

        I could see this one also. I think it’s sort of a reasonable middle ground between Granderson & Drew Stubbs but Young was practically Paul Molitor when compared to George Springer as far as minor league contact #s go.

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  2. Matty Brown says:

    I have been eagerly awaiting this young man to arrive. Fascinating High floor/High ceiling player.

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    • Los says:

      While I am excited about him, I don’t think you can call anyone with that strikeout rate “high floor”.

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      • Matty Brown says:

        I believe his power, defense in center, plate discipline, and speed certainly constitute a high floor. With his aforementioned powerful arm, he has 5 strong tools, even without the Hit tool. To me, that is a high floor player.

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    • James says:

      Not sure he has a particularly high floor with the contact issues. The ceiling is obviously there, but there’s also a risk he fails to even get on base more than 30% of the time.

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      • Cool Lester Smooth says:

        Yeah. Someone with that good an eye and that much swing and miss is not safe.

        Although I guess he could be “high-floor” if you consider 2012 Justin Maxwell a high-floor.

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  3. That Guy says:

    Why the quotation marks around infield hit? It was, in fact, a single that didn’t leave the infield.

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  4. Cybo says:

    I’ve seen a few comparisons around comparing Springer to Drew Stubs. Would you say these comparisons have any merit?

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    • Stan Gable says:

      Much more similar physically than George Springer & Granderson. Yeah, obviously things trended the wrong way for Stubbs in the long term, but there could be something there. I think something like Stubbs’ 2011-2012 campaigns is more likely in Springer’s immediate future than Granderson’s 2006-07.

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    • Brian says:

      They both play the OF, at least. Final year in AAA: Spinger had a 14.8% walk rate and 0.294 ISO. Stubbs had 10.8% walk rate and 0.092 ISO

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    • Cool Lester Smooth says:

      Chris Young without the contact is what I’d say.

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  5. tz says:

    The next Mike Cameron, with a bit more power and a bit less glove.

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  6. Thanks, Comcast says:

    That second at bat was encouraging, even if it was a weakly hit ball. With two strikes he laid off a pretty dirty slider just off the outside corner, followed up by a changeup in the same spot. Proving that he’s not going to chase is going to be very important for his long term success. He put up a good at bat in the 11th, too; eight pitches and he never swung at anything outside the zone. But sometimes, Greg Holland just blows one by you at 97 MPH.

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  7. Emcee Peepants says:

    Matt Kemp may be a good comparison? Same build, great athlete, lots of Ks, somewhat late bloomer, banged Rhianna*

    *projected for Springer

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    • Cool Lester Smooth says:

      Believe it or not, a guy who K’d 15% of the time between AA and AAA as a 21 year old really shouldn’t be compared to one who K’d 27% of the time between AA and AAA as a 23 year old.

      I’d take the under on Springer hitting .265 in the majors, much less .290

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      • Emcee Peepants says:

        Believe it or not, there was no need to be a dick about it.

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        • Cool Lester Smooth says:

          There’s lots of Ks, and then there’s how much Springer strikes out, while never having been young for his league.

          Kemp has had a K% as high as Springer’s AAA rate in exactly one full season, when he put up a 106 wRC+ en route to 0.1 WAR in 2010.

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        • Emcee Peepants says:

          Point taken, Kemp would be the absolute ceiling for Springer. I think they are similar physically (ht/wt/athleticism) and that Springer has the potential to match Kemp on the counting stats (excluding 2011) but probably not on the rate stats.

          He’ll probably also only bang Khloe Kardashian and not Rhianna.

          Better?

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        • Cool Lester Smooth says:

          Yeah, that’s fair. I definitely think he can approach Kemp’s counting stats, I just doubt he’ll hit for the same average.

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        • Johnston says:

          I really don’t like the comparison. Kemp always had a much better hit tool that Springer ever has.

          I’m sticking with Chris Young as the best comp for Springer.

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      • The Rajah says:

        I’ll take the under on Rhianna, too

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  8. Colbert says:

    Springer is not my personal favorite, but I like his style.

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