Astros outfield prospect George Springer is one of the more talented hitting prospects in the minors, which is where he will probably begin the 2014 season. I disagree with that decision, assuming that is what the Astros decide to do. But, with a very productive spring training, Springer could force the Astros hand to give him the starting right field job now that recently acquired Dexter Fowler will be manning center field.
The Astros seem to be leaning toward having Springer start the 2014 season in AAA, even though he thoroughly dominated the league last season. But, the Astros have no reason to rush him, as they won't be competitive for another few years. But, there is a fine line between rushing a player who has dominated at every level, and preserving service time.
Here is Brian McTaggart, Astros beat writer for MLB.com, on one of the questions the Astros have to answer heading into 2014:
1. When will George Springer make his debut?
Ah, the million-dollar question. You knew it was coming. Springer, one of the team's top prospects who put up huge numbers in Double-A last season and later Triple-A, should make his long-awaited Houston debut in 2014, but when? The chances of seeing him on Opening Day lessened when the club traded for Fowler to play center field, which is Springer's position. The club hasn't ruled out Springer in right, but since he hasn't done it much, it wouldn't be a shock to see him start in right field in Triple-A. Mark it down: He will make his debut in 2014, but exactly when remains anyone's guess.
Should he break camp with the team, what kind of stats could he put up in 2014?
To answer this question, I checked out some projections over on FanGraphs, and here is what I found:
Oliver: 600 plate appearances, 143 games, 26 HRs, 80 runs, 74 RBI, 26 stolen bases, .222-.307-.427, 233 strikeouts, 60 walks, 3.4 WAR
Steamer: 550 plate appearances, 9.1% BB%, 26.9% K%, .318 BABIP, 118 wRC+, 3.3 WAR
BaseballHQ (Baseball Forecaster): 315 at bats, 9 HRs, 45 runs, 42 RBI, 9 SBs, .241-.316-.398
Steamer and Oliver are by far the more optimistic on Springer, with Oliver projecting a 20-20 season from him in a full season of plate appearances. Oliver projects him to hit 26 HRs and steal 26 bases, but to strike out 233 times, which I think would break the record. Steamer hasn't released his counting stats as far as I know, but a 3.3 WAR and a 118 wRC+ is not too shabby.
I pulled the BaseballHQ projection from the 2014 Baseball Forecaster book I buy myself for Christmas every year. It is the fantasy baseball bible, in my opinion. BaseballHQ/Ron Shandler are less optimistic on Springer, as they assume, like many others, that he won't play a full season in the big leagues in 2014. Even still, they are optimistic with his counting stats, but with a low triple slash line.
To put his WAR projections in context, I took a look at where he would rank if he put up that WAR in 2013, and here are the players who put up either a 3.3 or 3.4 WAR:
His 3.3 WAR would have been better than the WAR put up by Justin Upton, Eric Hosmer, Alex Rios, Ryan Zimmerman, and Adrian Gonzalez, among others. That's a pretty impressive company to keep, wouldn't you say?
Springer will be the subject of plenty of spring training discussion as he already appears ready for the big leagues, but the team is being conservative due to service time concerns. Like I said, that could change with a good spring training.
What do you think? Should Springer break camp with the team out of spring training, or should they wait till May/June to call him up to preserve his service time?
Let us hear your opinion in the poll and comments section below.
Update: I just added the poll below. Sorry for the oversight.
- Fantasy Baseball Rankings: Top 20 Position Rankings
- Deep League Drafting: Third Base
- Keeper League Trade: Manny Machado for Alex Cobb
- 3 UP / 3 DOWN: 2014 Third Base Position
- Fantasy Hockey Roundup: Merry Christmas
- Alexander Guerrero: ZIPS optimistic on Dodgers second baseman
- 2014 Minor League Keeper Thoughts: Cincinnati Reds
- My Free-Agent Christmas Wish List
- Fantasy Baseball Rankings: Top 100 Hitters for 2014