Low Level Prospect Review: George Springer, OF, Houston Astros

HOUSTON - AUGUST 19: Houston Astros first round draft pick George Springer takes batting practice at Minute Maid Park on August 19, 2011 in Houston, Texas. Springer was introduced earlier to the media at a press conference. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)

The Twins took a shot back in the 2008 draft on a high school outfielder out of Connecticut in the 48th round, but weren't able to lure him away from his commitment to the University of Connecticut. That decision turned out much better for the player involved, as George Springer was drafted last year with the 11th overall pick by the Astros, and signed for a $2.525 million bonus right before the deadline. Springer finished his college career with 48 home runs, 76 stolen bases, and a slash line of .348/.469/.653.

The Astros were able to get Springer into 8 games with their short-season rookie league affiliate last year, but his full-season debut was this season with the Astros' High-A affiliate in Lancaster, CA. So far, he's been very good on the offensive side of the game, hitting .313/.362/.571 with 8 home runs, 26 runs, 32 runs batted in, and 8 stolen bases through Wednesday's game. He has shown a bit of a flair for the dramatic this point, as his first home run of the season was a grand slam, and also homered in 4 straight at bats across a doubleheader on May 11th. But he's playing in the California League, so all the numbers should be taken with a grain (or block) of salt. What could we expect to see from Springer as he progresses through the minors, and once he gets to the Majors?

Springer profiles to provide a solid combination of power and speed, along with the ability to stay in center field long-term. Obviously, the numbers in Lancaster are not a great reflection of his potential, as he is currently trending out to hit 32 home runs, steal 32 bases, and drive in 128 runs. Clearly, that's not likely to happen for the season, and is unlikely to reflect what he could actually show in the Majors.

The advanced metrics so far point to some pretty serious regression once he is in a different playing environment. His BABIP thus far is at .388, and even with his speed, I would be surprised to see it above .320 on a regular basis. According to Minor League Central, he currently has a Line Drive/Ground Ball/Fly Ball split of 18.9%/41.5%/30.2%, as well as a HR/FB% of 25%. The home run trends simply aren't sustainable with either the HR/FB rate or his ground ball rate either honestly.

John Klima of Baseball Prospect Report posted a recent scouting report, and he noted that Springer's swing is long and that he's "a free swinger pulling off too many balls". The strikeout rate so far (27% vs. 6.7% walk rate) definitely backs up that report.

Long-term, I think that Springer could be a 15-20 home run, and 15-20 stolen base outfielder when he reaches the Majors. The biggest problem I see right now is that if the strikeout rate is that high in High-A, what will it be as he progresses through the minors? He has already shown that he can hit at the High-A level, but the Astros would do well to keep him in High-A until he can show improvement in his swing and strikeout rate. Given those skills to work on, I would say that Springer will likely be to move through the 3 levels (including High-A) over the span of 2 seasons, but that is banking on the fact that he will improve on those areas.

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