George Springer: Power and Speed Outfielder

Houston Astros outfield prospect George Springer has some of the loudest tools in the minor leagues. He’s a fantastic athlete with a combination of power and speed that’s rarely found in a player drafted out of college – and a cold weather college at that. Springer has put up some exciting numbers as a professional and offers hope for both fantasy owners and an Astros franchise that really could use some good news.

The Breakdown

The New Britain, Connecticut native attended Avon Old Farms School. Avon has been one of the better high school baseball programs in the state in recent years and has sent many players on to Division 1 programs. The Minnesota Twins were intrigued by the raw tools and gave the outfielder a look in the 48th round. Springer didn’t sign and ended up going to UConn as expected. He hit well as a freshman (.358/.454/.679 with 16 home runs) and never stopped hitting for the Huskies. Scouts flocked to the Storrs campus to see Springer along with teammates Mike Olt, Matt Barnes and Nick Ahmed. Springer didn’t disappoint and then also wowed scouting directors on the Cape. He had worked his way into consideration for the top half of the 1st round as a Junior, and the Astros ended up nabbing him with the 11th overall pick. Springer destroyed the California League last season to the tune of .316/.398/.557. He’s off to one of the best starts of any minor leaguer this year with 13 home runs already for Double-A Corpus Christi. The flip side of the coin here is that both those leagues are hitter-friendly and strikeouts have been frequent.

Springer immediately stands out on a baseball field with his athletic ability. He’s built like a major leaguer and he moves like one. too. He’s easily a plus runner and those wheels make him a constant threat to steal bases. In the outfield he glides from gap to gap and covers lots of ground. Runners won’t be testing his strong and accurate arm. At the plate Springer has a lightning quick bat and takes a big cut at the ball. His quick hands and wrists give him good plate coverage but he will expand his zone. He’s largely a patient hitter, but when he gets ahead in the count he can be fooled by both fastballs up and breaking balls low. Springer still needs to improve his two strike approach. He had made significant progress shortening up his swing his Junior year of college, but more work is needed. He still swings out of his heels a lot. Balance is a big issue. Springer sometimes falls down out of the box after a swing. He shows much better balance and weight shift in batting practice, but he still can’t seem to fully translate that to games. The bat speed and leverage in this swing equate to plus raw power. That’s really Springer’s game – hard contact all over the field. Strikeouts are always going to be a problem for Springer, but I don’t believe the K’s will stop him from being a good major leaguer. If things ever really click for him he has tools and ability that compare favorably with some of the best players in baseball. If they don’t, he’s still a five tool center fielder that’s a constant speed and power threat while providing value with his glove.

The Path to Playing Time

As I look at the Houston active roster… well, I don’t see many names that I’d count among the franchise’s long term core assets. There’s a whole lot of opportunity for a player like George Springer to stake a claim to a starting job. Justin Maxwell is perhaps the most interesting outfield piece the Astros have on their 40 man right now. Even so, we’re talking about a 29 year old with a .219 career batting average. Robbie Grossman, J.D. Martinez, Jimmy Paredes and Brandon Barnes all have some qualities that recommend them… but I’m not sure any of them are ideal fits as 1st division starters. Certainly none of these players can hold a candle to the potential that George Springer possesses. The organization clearly has a lot invested in this player. 11th overall picks with tools this loud are likely to get plenty of chances. Even with the dynamite start at Double-A, Astros GM Jeff Luhnow said he doesn’t plan on promoting Springer soon. There’s no need to accelerate the clock on Springer too quickly, of course. Still, the organization is trying to foster a culture of winning and Springer can begin the transition of this roster to a team that contends.

  • On 40 Man Roster: No
  • Options Remaining: 3

What to Expect

Home runs and stolen bases. Springer should be good for plenty of both. At his peak we could even see a 30/30 center fielder. Don’t count on batting average, though. Strikeout totals will be high and he may K 25-30% of the time.

  • Mixed League Value: Strong. Plenty of homers, stolen bases and counting stats if you can suffer a lower AVG. In years where he gets lucky on balls in play he could be extremely valuable.
  • AL Only League Value: Excellent. This kind of power and speed makes for an OF1.
  • Ottoneu Value: Excellent. Fangraphs Points settings rewards this skill set and won’t punish you for the strikeouts.
  • OBP League Value: Springer will take a walk, but the low AVG will drag down his OBP some. He is likely to be one of the only threats in Houston’s lineup once he arrives so he may get pitched around fairly often.

Here’s some video of Springer I took from his college days followed by some swings from Spring Training:

Jason Catania recently discussed George Springer perhaps being more valuable in fantasy baseball than reality.

Thanks for reading -AS

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Al Skorupa writes about baseball & baseball prospects for Bullpen Banter and Fangraphs/Rotographs. He lives in Rhode Island. He watches & videotapes a good amount of amateur and minor league baseball. You can follow him on twitter @alskor.

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