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April 17, 2014

The Call-Up

George Springer

by Nick J. Faleris and Craig Goldstein

The Situation: Underperformance in the Astros’ outfield and the passing of enough days to guarantee that coveted seventh year of team control has opened the door for the promotion of the organization’s no. 2 prospect on Jason Parks’ 2014 team rankings and the 20th-ranked prospect overall on Parks’ 2014 Top 101. The powers that be in Houston are ready to show off to the franchise’s patient fan base another young piece of what they hope will become the foundation for future competitive Astros teams.

Background: Springer, a University of Connecticut product, was selected in the first round (11th overall) of the 2011 draft. Considered perhaps the toolsiest player in an absolutely stacked draft class, Springer was a divisive collegiate player for evaluators due to the nature of his aggressive approach and the amount of swing-and-miss in his game. Even with a troubling start to his junior season, Houston was not dissuaded and jumped on the opportunity to add his potential plus power/speed talent as the cornerstone of their rebuilding process.

Through his two full seasons in the minors, Springer routinely put his power on display, slugging .526 in 2012 between High-A Lancaster and Double-A Corpus Christi (24 home runs) and .600 in 2013 between Double-A Corpus Christi and Triple-A Oklahoma City. The high K-rates have remained as well, with over 25 percent of Springer’s 1200-plus minor league plate appearances ending in a strikeout. Fortunately for Springer and the Astros, those strikeouts have yet to prevent his power from manifesting. Additionally, Springer has improved his strike-zone awareness, as evidenced (albeit slightly overstated) by an impressive 95-point delta between his minor league career .302 batting average and .397 on-base percentage.

This is a case where the scouting matches up with the stats, as Springer’s undoing at the plate over the last full season has been tied to a lengthy swing that can be exposed in certain zones, rather than the wild flailing that commonly characterizes young power prospects. He exits the minors with a gaudy .302/.397/.562 triple-slash line and steps right into the spotlight.

Scouting Report: Springer is known for his classic speed/power profile, but the pleasant surprise in his development has been the barrel control he has been able to demonstrate despite a swing that can get lengthy and porous in certain zones. When he makes contact, it tends to be hard contact, and his bat speed has helped to make up for some of his other mechanical shortcomings. He is still learning to make adjustments behind in the count, and the tendency to swing through hittable pitches will be more aggressively exposed by major league arms, potentially leaving him vulnerable when he’s behind in the count. Overall, though, there is potential for a true impact offensive profile, including an average hit tool and above-average to plus in-game pop.

Defensively, Springer plays a strong center field and has improved the consistency of his routes as a professional. The arm can be a weapon, and while the body is strapping and physical, it’s an athletic composition and should work well up the middle for the foreseeable future. Springer’s plus speed plays both in the field and on the bases, with the former Huskie generally a solid decision-maker on the basepaths who’s capable of solid reads and jumps that help him to get the most out of his wheels.

Immediate Big-League Future: Springer’s immediate impact will be dependent upon his ability to adjust to the advanced preparation and execution of major league arms. He will regularly face pitchers with an ability to gameplan (both on their own and with the aid of advanced reports) and execute their strategies, which is often the biggest obstacle that mechanically-based swing-and-miss bats have to deal with when adjusting to baseball at the highest level. He will without question continue to hammer mistakes, and the rate at which he brings himself up to game speed should coincide with the degree to which he can lessen, or properly account for, the holes in his swing and approach.

There is nothing left for Springer to learn at the minor league level. This is that exciting sink-or-swim moment for an electrifying talent, and Houston should give him all the rope he needs to wade out into the often choppy waters of major league competition. While he will not single-handedly change the fate of the ’Stros, Houston fans can rejoice in the knowledge that his arrival signifies the biggest addition thus far to a team foundation under renovation for the past few seasons—a big step in the transition from blue print to realization. —Nick J. Faleris

Fantasy Impact: With only 13 games in the books, fantasy owners are getting near full-season value from Springer. He should provide power and speed in spades, with the potential for a negative impact in average. OBP leagues should see some benefit here, as he’ll draw his share of walks, racking up the strikeouts due to a limited two-strike approach (as opposed a limited knowledge of the strike zone). Points leaguers will have to consider the strikeouts, but don’t let that get in the way of the overall production that Springer can provide.

If you’re in the type of league where Springer isn’t already rostered, he’s worth a healthy amount of FAAB, thanks to his ability to contribute for the vast majority of the season. It’s difficult to name a number, due to the various methods of FAAB bidding and league dynamics, but I’d be comfortable going to $60, if not more, in most scenarios, knowing full well that there is significant risk involved. Even in shallow or re-draft leagues, Springer is a must-add thanks to his electric upside, but in re-drafts, don’t be afraid to cut him loose if he struggles. —Craig Goldstein

Nick J. Faleris is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Nick's other articles. You can contact Nick by clicking here
Craig Goldstein is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Craig's other articles. You can contact Craig by clicking here

26 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

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Nojsztat

Does Springer have an 80 grade name or what: George Chelston Springer III

Apr 16, 2014 10:20 AM
rating: 1
 
Al Skorupa

Even better: "Gerorge"

https://twitter.com/alskor/status/456628333921304576

Apr 16, 2014 20:17 PM
rating: 0
 
Nojsztat

D'oh.

Apr 17, 2014 06:35 AM
rating: 0
 
mrenick

hopefully this marks the beginning of a slow but steady influx of guys with enough talent to warrant being everyday players. I know it will be a lengthy process but as Astros fan, this is exciting.

Apr 16, 2014 13:16 PM
rating: 1
 
Ogremace

I know Springer rates much higher overall, but how similar is his game to Slade Heathcott's? They sound roughly similar but I'm certainly no scout. Also I just want to dream of Slade all day long.

Apr 16, 2014 14:13 PM
rating: 0
 
jonjacoby

Springer has Major League #want while Heatcott has Major League #slack.

Apr 16, 2014 15:14 PM
rating: -2
 
Al Skorupa

I don't think anyone would associate Slade Heathcott's game with #slack. He's one of the most intense hustle guys around. Springer has far more advanced baseball skills and louder raw tools. Springer makes much harder contact - and he does in in games, which I haven't seen from Heathcott. Springer is also larger and has a much better baseball body. There are some similarities in their games - both hustling outfielders who can run, but they aren't really that similar in my head. I wouldn't think to comp the two.

Apr 16, 2014 20:21 PM
rating: 2
 
Nojsztat

Exactly. Heathcott's biggest problem seems to a combination of the fact that he's always going full bore, even when he's chasing down fly balls on the warning track, and that he's injury prone. Lack of caution and brittleness do not mix.

Apr 17, 2014 06:35 AM
rating: 0
 
Ogremace

Thanks guys... guess I'll keep dreamin'...

Apr 17, 2014 17:52 PM
rating: 0
 
Johnston

Springer is the new Chris Young: he can do everything well - run, throw, field, hit for power - except hit for contact. If he can learn to hit, he's a future All-Star. Otherwise he's pretty much a future fourth outfielder.

Apr 16, 2014 15:17 PM
rating: 0
 
fairacres

Although Chris Young was a 16th round pick and Springer a first round pick.

That isn't to say Springer won't end up with a similar career path as Young, but it is to say at the outset of his career, Springer's potential was considered to be much greater than Young's (although Young was drafted out of high school, Springer out of college).

Apr 16, 2014 17:49 PM
rating: 1
 
dzemens

Chris Young never really hit for plus average, even at the minor league level though. A skill Springer has shown at every stop.

Apr 17, 2014 20:35 PM
rating: 0
 
bubba3m

So what player would you say is comparable, fantasy value wise, for 2014? Coco Crisp? Justin Upton? Hunter Pence? Starling Marte? Dom Brown? Desmond Jennings? Dexter Fowler?

Apr 16, 2014 18:42 PM
rating: 0
 
Matthew W

IMO, slightly less than Upton or Pence. More than fowler or Jennings, probably around Marte/Brown tier.

ADP around 60-70

Apr 16, 2014 18:59 PM
rating: 0
 
majnun

Slightly less than upton? You forgot a 1, or a 2, in front of your ADP

They said 2014

Apr 16, 2014 21:12 PM
rating: 0
 
JoshC77

He means Justin, not BJ....

Apr 17, 2014 05:09 AM
rating: 0
 
hcaeb2000

Only two players on that list that I would rate Springer ahead of for 2014 are Fowler and Brown. Don't go crazy guys. He could put up some awesome numbers but he could hit .200 with a few bombs and SB's. He is a rookie after all and more than one rookie in his day has posted great minor league numbers with a future all star pedigree and flopped. You can't tag his 2014 value as high as some of these guys just yet.Obviously in Dynasty leagues this changes a bit.

Apr 17, 2014 05:56 AM
rating: 0
 
hcaeb2000

However reading your post again you did say "value wise". So I guess that means if your playing in auction/salary cap type leagues things do change a bit.

Apr 17, 2014 05:58 AM
rating: 0
 
Matthew W

Most Proj systems and people give him in the range of

AVG: .250 - .270.
HR: 15 - 25
SB: 20 - 30 (seems high, but he walks a lot, so steals..)
R/RBI: 55 - 80

The lower end of the spectrum is around ADP 120. The upper end would be a top 30 overall player.

I split the middle. He could collapse, but so could every player. Go look at the top 20 batters drafted last year... There's risk in Every good player.

Apr 17, 2014 12:31 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Nick Faleris
BP staff

Walks may come down if MLB arms find pockets to challenge in the zone. Projection systems don't always capture that.

Apr 18, 2014 16:01 PM
 
BP staff member Craig Goldstein
BP staff

I actually think something like a useful BJ Upton is a decent comp for this year. Weak avg, but power and speed.

Apr 17, 2014 07:02 AM
 
tdogggett84

I have been offered Wil Myers for him. (5x5, redraft). Should I take that?

Apr 17, 2014 08:25 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Craig Goldstein
BP staff

I would.

Apr 17, 2014 09:58 AM
 
tdogggett84

Thanks.

Apr 17, 2014 10:32 AM
rating: 0
 
Tynan

In a heartbeat

Apr 18, 2014 12:49 PM
rating: 0
 
Matthew W

Well, springer is now Tied with Myers for HR, and beating him in SB...

Apr 19, 2014 06:42 AM
rating: 0
 
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