Earlier this week, we profiled Houston Astros first base prospect Jonathan Singleton, currently playing for Triple-A Oklahoma City. A few members of the Minor League Ball community asked for a complementary article on outfielder George Springer, which seems very approrpiate given that Springer is a top prospect actually on the big league roster. We aim to please, so here it is.
George Springer was Houston's first round pick in 2011, 11th overall, from the University of Connecticut. He was the last first round pick of the Ed Wade era but his combination of tools and skills would interest any baseball scout or executive of any background. Springer put up outstanding numbers in college, hitting .358//.454/.679 with 12 steals as a freshman, .337/.492/.658 with 33 steals in 35 attempts as a sophomore, and .350/.458/.624 with 31 steals in 38 attempts as a junior. There were some questions about his ability to make contact and maintain such batting averages against pro pitching, but his combination of power and speed was special.
Springer opened 2012 with Lancaster in the High-A California League, hitting .316/.398/.557 with 28 steals, 56 walks, and 131 strikeouts in 433 at-bats. That's a great hitting environment however, and he didn't perform as well after being promoted to Double-A Corpus Christi, hitting .219/.288/.342 in 22 games with 25 strikeouts in 73 at-bats. Of course, the issue there was sample size and even advanced college players can require some adjustment time when they reach Double-A.
Returned to Corpus Cristi to open '13, he hit .297/.399/.579 in 273 at-bats, with 19 homers, 42 walks, 23 steals, and 96 strikeouts. Promoted to Triple-A Oklahoma City, he remained hot with a .311/.425/.626 mark, 18 more home runs, 41 walks, 22 steals, and 65 strikeouts in 219 at-bats. He began '14 with Oklahoma again but clearly had nothing left to learn down there, hitting .353/.459/.647 in 13 games.
Springer is a 6-3, 200 pound right-handed hitter and thrower, born September 19, 1989. Even if he has problems against big league pitching, there's no point in sending him back to Triple-A: what he needs to learn he can only learn in the Show. His bat speed is simply too good for the minor leagues, which masks the problematic aspects in his game even against advanced Triple-A pitching.
Unlike some young players with contact issues, Springer makes an effort to work counts and will show the patience to draw walks. However, he can still get flummoxed by breaking stuff and I still doubt he will hit anywhere close to .300 against major league pitching, at least in the short run. That said, he has excellent power when he does make contact. He is also very fast and is adept at using that speed on the bases and in the outfield. He has a strong arm, too, running and throwing well enough to be a fine center fielder, although he 's playing right field in the majors so far.
Fantasy-wise, Springer should be a prime property contributing in multiple categories. Even if his batting average is erratic or disappointing, his broad base of skills will make him a long-term regular and a potential All-Star.