Jonathan Singleton is the biggest name the Astros have acquired via the trade market, and in that sense he is the symbol of the new outlook in Houston. Carlos Correa might be the most well known prospect in the Astros minor league system due to his status as the number one draft pick last season. But I would argue that George Springer is the face of the new era in Houston.
Springer was drafted 11th overall in 2011 on the heels of a successful career for the University of Connecticut. The fact that Springer played baseball collegiately gives him an advantage as far as when he can be projected to reach the big leagues. Last season was the first full season Springer spent as a professional and the 5-tool outfielder certainly did not disappoint.
After starting the season in Class A Lancaster, Springer then finished the season for AA Corpus Christi. Between the two levels Springer had a .318 batting average with 24 HR, 87 RBI, 32 SB, but in an even better measure of his speed and power combination, Springer had 10 triples. But before you get too excited, it is important to keep in mind that those stats were compiled in 106 games in Lancaster and only 22 in Corpus Christi. And that is why Astros fans should temper their expectations of seeing Springer in Houston in 2013.
At first glance I was thinking that there was no question Springer would earn a mid-season promotion. But then the editor at Climbing Tal’s Hill, Greg Thurston, spoke to Jeff Luhnow at Fan Fest a few weeks ago. It was at that time that Luhnow stated that we should not expect to see Springer in Houston this season. Of course anything can change, but it is his plan that Springer spends a full season at each level of the minor leagues. That is the plan the Cardinals used with Oscar Tavares and all that has done, is make him one of the top prospects in the game.
Once I heard that plan, I took a closer look at Springer’s 2012 season. And at that point, it makes more sense that Springer will be spending 2013 in the minor leagues. Springer only hit .219 in AA as opposed to .316 in A ball. That .316 average was also boosted by a .404 BABIP which is clearly not repeatable. Aside from the drop in average, my main concern regarding Springer is his propensity to strike out. Springer struck out 26.5% of the time in Lancaster and 30.9% in Corpus Christi. He is still a young player so there are still some things that will have to be worked out as he progresses in his career, but his skill set is still undeniable.
Despite the full workload, Springer still had a good showing in the Arizona Fall League playing against other top prospects. In 21 games Springer hit .286 with a BABIP of .348. This performance is more believable. Springer also hit 4 HR, drove in 17 runs and stole 5 bases. In a lot of cases young players do not perform well in the Arizona Fall league due to fatigue from a full season of minor league baseball, but that did not happen for Springer. Against top competition he maintained his level of performance.
The future is bright for Springer. That much is clear. He has potential and has backed it up with his play thus far in his professional career. While it would be exciting to see him in Houston sooner rather than later, I prefer that patience is exercised here. It seems that is what Luhnow is exhibiting, which will only enhance Springer’s development. The Astros are in no rush, and young players are not in short supply. There is simply to no reason to fast-track any prospects, and it seems that is the stance the Astros are taking. Springer and his 5 tools will be worth the wait.