Springer Training


The sizzle on the Astros 2-0 start has quickly dissolved into a 3-5 record, losing five of six. But after 2-0, the only altered predictions from the original 2014 Houston Astros projections were in the form of jokes.

Obviously the team is going to be showing all the symptoms of rebuilding through the season, but they won’t be as unforgivable as the many, many mistakes they made night in and night out on routine grounders or blatantly missing locations, but as neat as the two straight wins were to begin this year — and cooler against the New York Yankees — you’ll drive yourself mad if you treat the club as anything but a continuing developmental project.

Hopefully you don’t.

We’re just over a week into the Major League Baseball season, and there are headlines and injuries and Tommy John surgeries in almost every clubhouse.

Yasiel Puig still don’t take nuttin’ from nobody, Felix Hernandez is still dominant beyond comprehension, the 2013 Boston Red Sox have made beards cooler than ever, and the Arizona Diamondbacks as well as the Cincinnati Reds share a league-low two wins with the Chicago Cubs.

The biggest story with the Houston Astros involves the much talked about outfield super-prospect George Springer and just when he will be called up.

A long shot to crack the Opening Day roster, Springer struggled mightily in Spring Training slashing .161/.333/.194 in 39 plate appearances after his historic 37 home run/45 stolen base/108 RBI minor league season in 2013.

The biggest hurdles in Springer’s anticipated promotion are service time and everyday at bat’s. The prior is no longer an issue after April 10th, when the 24-year old’s first eligibility for baseball’s free agency officially comes in 2020 instead of 2019 if he were to appear on the big league club before the 11th of April.

Also, the Astros face a peculiar “problem” with the latter, one that needs to be addressed one way or another — by potential trade or a demotion, one that could come without merit for the player being sent down, instead unlocking and opening the door and then throwing away the key.

Despite his spring struggles, Springer’s camp believes the future everyday right fielder is ready…and now. They boldly (or potentially not so boldly at all down at the line) turned down a 7-year $30 million dollar contract from the club.

We all believe in George Springer, right? And he could absolutely be worth double that or more in a few seasons, but he wouldn’t be the first prospect ever to bust out if he were to. *knock on wood*

Then they filed grievance against the club for starting their client’s 2014 in the Pacific Coast League and not the Major Leagues. That blew over fast, thankfully, because it was silly and stupid…and stupid.

The current depth chart for the ‘Stros features Dexter Fowler in center field. He’s a mainstay and there’s no doubt about that. Robbie Grossman is playing in left while L.J. Hoes and March 27 waiver claim Alex Presley platoon in right field.

Presley is a deceiving 28 years old, despite just 232 games played in his career from 2010-2013. He’s just as deceivingly popular of a name because he was traded to Minnesota from the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2013 for former AL MVP Justin Morneau.

Alex Presley (Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports)

He finished 2013 strong enough to make the Twins 2014 roster but in a similar situation as Houston, the rebuilding club way up north opted to roll with former prospect Aaron Hicks and waived Presley, who took on the 4th OF spot in Houston. Presley plays all outfield spots but he’s not expected to be a part of the team’s long-term plans, making him the most vulnerable of the Astros outfielders not named Dexter Fowler to be the ‘roster casualty,’ as they say, to the impending promotion and start of the career of George Springer.

L.J. Hoes and Robbie Grossman both profile as part-time occupants in the outfield, evidently in left field when Springer is called up and takes the AB’s most everyday in right field.

Alex Presley is the big wild card for two prominent reasons. He’s out of options but he’s also the most experienced option to patrol the outfield in a reserve role, something very risky to do with a young player like Grossman or Hoes, who as of now are apparently comfortable in their timeshare.

I’ve always liked Alex Presley. He can’t be optioned to the minors without again being exposed to waivers where I would fully expect him to be claimed. Did the Astros claim him with this short of an expected stay? I don’t believe so. But the team surely wants to go forward — at least in the near future — with Robbie and L.J., so perhaps they can flip the valuable and flexible reserve abilities of Presley for a return.

Because something’s gotta give, meaning someone’s gotta go.