George Springer, OF Houston Astros
Height: 6’3″ Weight: 200
As the clock marched relentlessly toward the midnight signing deadline, Houston Astros General Manager Ed Wade wasn’t going to let his top prize from the 2011 MLB first year player slip through his fingers in the final minutes. “With two minutes and 15 seconds left, we got our No. 1 signed,” Astros GM Ed Wade said. “Literally.” When it was all said and done the Astros signed him for $2.525 million, above the slot value of $1.791 million set by Major League Baseball. “I think you’re always worried until you hear yes on the other side,” said Bobby Heck, the Astros’ director of scouting. “We don’t need to not sign players with where we’re at.”
An NCAA First Team All-American in 2011 for the University of Connecticut Huskies, Springer is starting his professional career with the Tri-City ValleyCats of the New York-Penn League. Cats fans are chomping at the bit to see the 11th overall selection in the 2011 draft play. He reported on Tuesday, but probably won’t play until Thursday – leaving him exactly 3 games to play with the Cats – and you can bet he won’t be back in 2012 as the Astros are likely to start him at a higher level next season.
The 6’3″ Springer, who will turn 22 next month, is coming off a season with the Huskies where he hit .343 with 12 home runs, 77 rbi, 60 runs, and 31 stolen bases. He walked 36 times while striking out an impressive 38 times in 237 at bats. He also had an OPS of 1.082.
Springer is what every team covets; he’s a 5 tool player, and an intelligent one at that. He has a long swing where he puts his whole body into an uppercut style swing which generates a ton of power. It’s been very effective in the college ranks, but I think the Astros may tinker with his swing in the Arizona Fall League. As is, he may have a tough time catching up to a really good fastball, or anything high in the strike zone for that matter. Having said that, there have been several productive major league players with horrible fundamental stances/swings that have had very good careers.
Springer is very athletic and very fast. Combine that with great fundamentals and you have an excellent defender. He has tremendous awareness and excellent body control. If the bat holds true, there isn’t any reason he won’t contend for, and possibly win, a gold glove. He’s a great leaper and will go after the ball and make diving catches. He compares very well to Ken Griffey, Jr. in center field, and his own assessment of being like Torii Hunter is very close as well. He runs a 6.6 – 60 yard dash and can hit 90 mph on the radar gun. Springer can make the long throws and is quite accurate with them.
Springer will get a taste of pro ball in 2012, but it won’t be until we see him in AFL and in full season ball in 2012 that we can really give a reasonable projection of what he could be. Right now, he could be anything from a young Carlos Beltran with 30/30 seasons or he could be a fourth outfielder for the Astros.
Many people wonder why the Astros would take an older center fielder in the 2011 draft when they took a younger one in 2010 in the form of Delino DeShields, Jr. The Astros clearly felt that they were taking the best player available despite many “experts” picking him to go from #13 (John Sickels) to #18 (Keith Law of ESPN and Jonathan Mayo of MLB) in the draft. Baseball Instinct’s Tom Belmont had him #6 in our 2011 MLB Draft preview, so perhaps the Astros were paying attention to what we thought of Springer. Probably not, but it does sound good.
I think this was a great pick by the Astros. Taking a 5 tool player with 3 years of college experience is never a bad thing. As Tom pointed out, he could move very quickly in the Astros organization and has the tools to be a star. While we don’t like to make too many bold projections before a player has a single at bat at the professional level, I like Springer’s chances of reaching the majors in 2013 as a regular contributor and marching towards stardom.
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