George Springer will be the Astros’ best position player, an All-Star, and a top 10 MVP finisher.
Within the modern star dynamics of the Houston Astros, Springer is starting to feel like a Best Supporting Actor nominee. In 2014, Jose Altuve‘s batting title and Dallas Keuchel‘s breakout stole his thunder. In 2015, Carlos Correa‘s Rookie of the Year campaign did the same. Springer played well each season but capped his own buzz with two significant injuries costing him months at a time.
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As a prospect, Springer had a reputation as a high-impact talent with major strikeout issues. An excellent FanGraphs piece on Wednesday from Jeff Sullivan looks at the quiet transformation in Springer’s contact rate in 2015, as he became a more contact-oriented player on pitches down in the zone, and boosted his line drive rate in the process. Those improvements have yet to pay dividends in his top-line numbers, but the improvement is seemingly already baked in for 2016.
Even if we don’t count those chickens, the reality of Springer’s value should be obvious. In 2015, at age 25, he posted a 3.8 bWAR in 102 games, the result of being an on-base machine, a superb baserunner, and an above-average defensive outfielder. For comparison’s sake, Correa had a similar bWAR (4.1) in a similar number of games (99). They were equally valuable players. And despite playing in 154 games — 50% more than Springer and Correa — the beloved Altuve posted only a 4.5 bWAR, less than one win of added value in his additional 50-55 games.
All of that is to say there’s a decent chance Springer was already the most valuable player in the Houston lineup — when he played. He was certainly better than Altuve. His costly broken wrist was a fluke injury, and I am not ready to tag him as injury prone though it is admittedly a fair concern. Assuming he’s healthy, however, look for Springer to put up an All-Star appearance and be the team’s MVP.
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