Still Not Buying George Springer In All Leagues?

To some extent, sure, pick up George Springer in all leagues. Dude obviously has power, and he’s supposed to have speed, and he’s got enough upside to be owned in all leagues. And yet, if you’re talking about buying him, or it’s a shallow league and the dropper is someone with a decent track record… there are still reasons to doubt that he’ll be a star in all leagues.

The obvious question mark is the strikeout rate. He’s got the fifth-worst strikeout rate among hitters with more than 150 plate appearances this week. Peppered around him are noted batting average heroes Danny Espinosa, Mark Reynolds, and B.J. Upton. We know strikeouts and batting average are negatively related — the batting average on a K is zero — and last year, the average BA for a batter with a strikeout rate over 29% was .231.

So now we know why the projection systems are calling for a worse batting average going forward, but are we sure that Springer will continue to strike out like this? In a word, yes. Springer also has the fifth-worst swinging strike rate in baseball, right there with Mark Reynolds. Last year, batters with a swinging strike rate over 15% averaged a 29.3% strikeout rate. And contact rate is stable.

Fine, he’ll strike out a bit much and is a batting average risk. If he has enough power and speed, we won’t care. Sure. But exactly how much speed will he have? He stole 45 bags last year, but this year he’s only taken off seven times combined between the minors and majors. You have to take off to steal, and I’m sure learning major league pickoff moves takes a bit. I’ll take the more conservative route and project him for another 15 attempts (ten successful).

My natural pessimism has hit a wall. Even with Doubtful Dan or Debbie Downer’s glasses on, we’ve got a .235 hitter with big power and ten steals — probably a play in any league, even if it’s a bit borderline in shallower leagues.

Springer has hit all of his homers in the last fourteen games. Perhaps there was some sort of skill change that we can notice and appreciate?

Over his last fourteen days, Springer’s swinging strike rate is down to 13% and his strikeout rate is down to 19.6%. He’s swinging less (42.1% down from his season number of 49.4%), but about the same on pitches in the zone and outside of the zone. In fact, his improvement in contact rate has been mostly on pitches outside the zone, as his in-zone contact rate has stayed the same (74.5% for the season, 74% over last two weeks).

Still, that doesn’t mean he’s not adjusting at the plate. Take a look at this swinging heat map from baseballheatmaps — he’s swinging much less at stuff high and low and away from righties.

springer heat map

Maybe the starker change has been in his swing plane. Over the past two weeks, he’s been hitting two fly balls per ground ball. For the season, he’s been hitting one fly ball per ground ball. That’s a new swing that’s built to use his prodigious power — his 302 feet on homers and fly balls is 21st in the league. His major league numbers are a bit short of his minor league ones in terms of outfield fly balls (32.9% in minors, 23.6% in majors according to Minor League Central), so let’s call this Springer finding his way back to where he’s always been.

So it looks like Springer’s recent mini-breakout is one part finding his old swing plane and one part learning how to adjust to major league pitching. He’ll always miss too much, the batting average will always be a risk, but the power is already here and the speed should be above-average if not better. Skepticism is always healthy, but at this point, there’s got to be a way to find Springer a spot on your roster if he’s on your waiver wire.




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37 Responses to “Still Not Buying George Springer In All Leagues?”

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  1. jeff says:

    I’m probably getting ahead of myself and drinking the Kool Aid way too quickly, but I’m considering making him one of my 5 keepers.

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    • Ray says:

      Springer should be an easy keeper choice, depending on who your other keepers are.

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      • jeff says:

        12 team league – Trout, McCutchen, Longoria, Freeman, and Scherzer.

        Kinda getting sick of Longoria…been on my team since 2009. Plan right now is to trade Longoria for a closer + elite second baseman, but we’ll see. Gotta sleep on it.

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    • jdbolick says:

      If you’re in an OBP league, perhaps. If you aren’t, then try to convince your competition to change to OBP.

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      • Jason B says:

        That conversation should go well!

        “Hey let’s switch to the stat categories that benefit me most! No? …. alright.”

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    • Stan Gable says:

      Mileage varies. In a 12 team mixed format, I’d lean towards ‘no’ (assuming acceptable alternatives) without the presence of more information.

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      • jeff says:

        I’m leaning towards sticking with the five I have (Trout, McCutch, Longo, Freeman, and Scherz) and then hope I can scoop Springer up early next year.

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    • unretrofied93 says:

      I’m in a 12 team mixed league OBP format, He’s a Keeper for sure with me. We only have 3 keepers per season, but i’d get him as my last round pick.

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      • jeff says:

        12 team league, not OBP, but OPS. Trout, McCutchen, Longoria, Freeman, and Scherzer. We don’t forfeit draft picks for keepers.

        Kinda getting sick of Longoria…been on my team since 2009. Plan right now is to trade Longoria for a closer + elite second baseman, but we’ll see. Gotta sleep on it.

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    • Heilig says:

      I’d probably keep him over Scherzer (maybe Longoria).

      Pitchers are just so easy to get in the late rounds and players with Springer’s ceiling are very hard to find.

      Glad I’ve locked him in 2 keeper leagues.

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    • S. Urista says:

      Trout, McCutch, Freeman, Scherzer, Longo? Jesus – you’re running away with your league for like the third year in a row, right?

      (I should know; 12-team 5×5; I have Trout, Encarnacion, Bumgarner, and Cruz as late-round keepers and I’m crushing for the third year in a row. Also have Polanco and Taveras sitting on my bench LOL)

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  2. jh says:

    Just picked up springer last week and someone offered me Gerrit Cole for him today. I should accept, right?

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    • Ben WMD says:

      If you can spare an OF and need a starter, I would.

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    • Ray says:

      I would keep Springer, especially with all the pitchers landing on the DL/having surgery this season. Springer is an annual 20-20 hitter with a good chance for more.

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      • pudieron89 says:

        How about he has a 20-20 season in the show before we declare him “an annual 20-20 hitter”? I mean jeez, I’m bullish on him, but in actuality it’s 2 good power weeks, during which he’s had zero steals.

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      • Emcee Peepants says:

        Also, during those 2 good weeks he had only a 19.6 K%, 5-10% lower than he had in any of his MiLB stops. I don’t think we should judge him based on one super hot streak just like he shouldn’t have been judged based on his horrible start.

        Yes it’s a good time to pick him up, but let’s hold off on anointing him a 20/20 guy until he has some consistency.

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    • stewart wolinsky says:

      He would be getting the better player

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    • Heilig says:

      No way.

      You can grab another “Gerrit Cole” in the waivers anytime.

      Dylan Bundy, Noah Syndergaard, Archie Bradley are some high potential guys that might be had for free.

      You can’t always find Springer’s talent on waivers.

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  3. mario mendoza says:

    How about his ability to take a walk? Can he get enough BB to make him valuable in OBP (instead of AVG) leagues?

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  4. mario mendoza says:

    What BB% does he need to overcome a 29% K rate and achieve a .340+ OBP? 12%?

    Do you think he’ll get there? His milb BB% is ~14%, but I’m not sure if milb BB% is always a few ticks higher than what can be achieved in MLB.

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    • atoms says:

      Yeah, I don’t really care about K-rate and BA if the OBP/walk rate is there. I’m in an OBP league. I do think you’re right about milb bb% generally coming down in the majors, but there should still be a correlation. I can see Springer carrying a 10%+ walk rate in the majors.

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    • pudieron89 says:

      Even with his miserable April, his unsustainable may has his OBP at .348 for the year (9.7% BB% for the year)

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    • Albert Einstein says:

      Author says a reasonable batting average for someone with 29% K-rate is between .230-.240. So in a 100 PA sample lets say he gets .24*(100-BB%-1) hits, which assumes the HBP% is 1%.

      Then figure out how many walks he needs in order to hit your OBP target given the number of hits and HBP that you already know.

      Pretty simple stuff.

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      • Isaac Newton says:

        The answer being between somewhere between 12-13% depending on his actual batting average.

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  5. Menthol says:

    I suffered with the slumping SOB for weeks and now you’ll have to pry him from my cold, dead fingers!! Springer dingers forever, baby!

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  6. Bert Simpson says:

    To pick up Springer, I’d need to drop Viciedo, Yelich, or Wil Myers (OBP league). Please advise!

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  7. Basmati says:

    Too late for me, had to drop him a few weeks ago when he started looking like another overhyped prospect. Then he broke out.

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  8. stonepie says:

    he’s looking like justin upton to me. check out their numbers:

    batted ball:
    upton: 18.1% Ld 37.1% GB 44.8% FB
    springer: 20.2% LD 40.4% GB 39.3% FB

    plate discipline:
    upton: 26.4% O-Swing 69.7% Contact 14.3% SwStr
    springer: 28.7% O-Swing 64.7% Contact 17.0% SwStr

    both with elite batted ball distances as well (upton 309 ft, springer 302 ft)

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  9. Zach says:

    If you’re not sold on Springer’s numbers (which are damn good), take a look at the video. I was blown away by this home run he hit a couple days ago, the insane bat speed and power combination is screaming all-star player.

    http://m.mlb.com/video/v33165811/housea-springer-lines-a-tworun-homer-to-left/?c_id=mlb

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  10. Proposition Joe says:

    The only player with a K-rate around 30% or higher that was able to maintain a decent batting average is Chris Davis. 0.270 in 2012, 0.286 in 2013. What is it about Chris Davis that he able to do that? Better swing rate? Better contact rate? Any similarities between Springer and Davis that might indicate he can possibly maintain a similar BA?

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  11. David says:

    Yeah I rely on my eyes in situations like this, I’ve seen that sweet swing of his enough now to know I’m all in, forget the numbers.

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