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George Springer: 30 home run, 20 stolen base threat

George Springer's power + speed combo makes him a valuable target early in fantasy drafts.

Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

If you're looking to draft a player with both significant power and speed upside in fantasy drafts, George Springer is your guy. A former top 20 prospect, Springer dominated the minor leagues in 2013, hitting to a 176 wRC+ with 37 HR and 45 stolen bases between AA and AAA. Springer struggled a lot during his first month in MLB, but he's produced at an extremely high level since: over his last 160 big league games, he has 35 HR and 20 SB, with only 4 caught stealing, an 83% success rate. Springer didn't run much in his rookie season, but he stole 16 bases in 102 games last year, with an 80% success rate, good for 7th in AL stolen base success rate. That is roughly a 25 stolen base pace over 160 games.

His power/speed combo makes him an easy 20/20 threat in 2016, and he might get to 30/20. Last year, only 4 batters reached a 20/20 year: AJ Pollock, Ryan Braun, Paul Goldschmidt and Manny Machado. Mookie Betts (18 HR), Starling Marte (19 HR), and Justin Upton (19 SB) fell just short. In 2014, only 5 players did it. For 30/20, it gets even more scarce: two players reached a 30/20 year last year, Machado and Goldschmidt. There aren't a whole lot of players who can accomplish this, and Springer is on that short list.

What jumps out at me about Springer is some notable changes he made in his batted ball profile last year, his first full season in MLB. He hit way more line drives, popped up less, and significantly cut down on his swing and miss:

Year

LD%

Pop up%

K%

SwStr%

2014

15.3%

8.3%

33.0%

18.6%

2015

24.5%

3.5%

24.2%

13.9%

He also turned in a much more balanced batted ball spray: more going the other way, and less pulling the ball:

Year

Oppo%

Pull%

2014

20.8%

43.2%

2015

27.1%

34.2%

This makes defensive shifts more difficult to employ, and bodes well for maintaining a higher batting average and on base percentage. By hitting into better trajectories, Springer's batted balls are more likely to fall in for hits. He appears to be evolving as a hitter at the MLB level.

One important thing to note is that Springer fractured his wrist in early July and saw a notable drop in home run power when he came back. Wrist injuries tend to zap power to some degree. Springer's home run to fly ball ratio fell from a strong 22% pre wrist injury to a mediocre 11% post injury. With a fully healthy and strong wrist in 2016, expect Springer's home run power to resume to pre injury levels.

Here are ZiPS and Steamer with their median projections for Springer in 2016:

Proj.

AVG

OBP

SLG

HR

R

RBI

SB

ZiPS

.248

.341

.459

23

70

63

17

Steamer

.256

.343

.463

25

77

74

15

I'm obviously a little higher on Springer than the projection systems. After a horrible first month adjusting to MLB pitching, Springer has performed at a very high level. I get that this is somewhat of an arbitrary endpoint, but it isn't exactly rare to see a prospect come up and struggle in his intro to the big leagues before figuring things out. He's hit to a 135 wRC+ with a .260/.362/.483 slash over his last 160 games, and as mentioned at the top, he has 35 HR and 20 SB in that stretch. Springer is a guy who has the ability to finish inside the top 20 in fantasy this year, and with his 2015 adjustments, he doesn't appear to be the low batting average risk that he was in his rookie season.

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