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.



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JTT
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JTT

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

Stan Gable
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Stan Gable

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).

Cool Lester Smooth
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Cool Lester Smooth

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.

Stan Gable
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Stan Gable

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

Johnston
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Chris Young.

Stan Gable
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Stan Gable

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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