Springer's skills spring to life early in career
George Springer may be the ideal player to anchor the future of the Houston Astros.
Power is at a premium in baseball. Springer is an outfield prospect with significant power.
I saw Springer play for the Mesa Solar Sox in this year's Arizona Fall League.
Springer is a legitimate two-way player with raw skills and tools to dominate a game. In fact, his defense may be better than his offense at this stage of his development. That's saying a great deal -- because his offense is already very impressive.
Springer went to Avon Old Farms High School in Avon, Conn. Springer's performance in high school earned him a selection by the Minnesota Twins in the 2008 First-Year Player Draft. Instead of signing a contract, Springer chose to attend the University of Connecticut.
In his first year at UConn, Springer was named the Big East Rookie of the Year. He hit 16 home runs that season.
By the time he left college, Springer had broken school records for career homers with 45 and runs scored with 209.
The Houston Astros made Springer their first selection in the 2011 First-Year Player Draft. He signed a contract and started his career at Tri-City in the Class A New York-Penn League. He only played eight games in his first season.
In general, scouting evaluations begin with offensive skills. That's where I'll begin.
At 6-foot-3, 200 pounds, Springer has a unique and impressive body type and overall frame.
He has extremely wide shoulders and a broad, barrel chest. His upper body carries strength and power.
In comparison to his shoulders and chest, the trunk of Springer's body appears trim and almost wiry. He can still handle more physical development and add more strength to his lower body.
Springer uses above average strength in his wrists and forearms to generate his power.
In the Arizona Fall League, Springer hit four home runs and drove in 14 runs in his 70 at-bats. He hit .286 with a .412 on-base percentage.
I was very surprised at how far some of the home runs carried off Springer's bat. His Fall League homers were among the farthest hit. Using a slight uppercut swing, those awesome drives left the park in a hurry. Everyone watching knew they would be home runs the moment the balls left his bat. Springer left scouts no doubt about his game-changing power.
A right-handed hitter, Springer takes most pitches to his pull side. While his hands aren't lightning fast, when his swing is right, he gets his hands out front quickly enough to drive pitches to the gaps.
Looking at Springer in the batter's box, some might find his approach to be overly aggressive. Not really. Instead, I feel his strength and quickness at the plate dictate an approach that appropriately attacks pitches. That's what he does. He attacks pitches.
Sometimes he connects. Sometimes he doesn't. Making consistent contact is an issue.
This past season, Springer sent a message regarding his power, speed and hitting ability in his first full year as a professional in two Astros affiliates.
He hit a combined .302 with 24 home runs and 87 RBIs for Class A Lancaster in the California League and Double-A Corpus Christi in the Texas League. Using outstanding speed and quickness, Springer stole 32 bases while being caught only eight times. Those are outstanding statistics for a player new to the game.
Tempering his offensive statistics were 156 strikeouts in 581 plate appearances. He also walked 62 times.
Only 23, Springer has issues for development that are common to most young power hitters.
There are times when I saw the type of swing mechanics that cause frequent swings and misses, popups or grounders.
With his uppercut swing, it was not uncommon for Springer to fail to consistently get the barrel of the bat through the hitting zone quickly enough. Missing the barrel can yield unwanted, negative results.
In my observations, Springer didn't always shift his weight into the pitch. He often relied on his strong hands and upper body to do the work. During those times when he dropped his back end, his legs and his shoulders, his hands dragged behind. By gaining more help from his torso, he might consistently produce even greater power from his swing.
I think those issues will continue to improve dramatically with repetition and experience.
Defensively, Springer is already an extremely good outfielder. He has outstanding range in all directions. Taking direct routes, he has explosive speed and athletic ability, as well as the baseball instincts to quickly track pitches off the bat.
Springer's arm strength and carry are both above Major League average. From what I have seen, I believe he could become a Gold Glove-caliber defender.
In the Arizona Fall League, Springer played right field (eight games) center field (six games) and left field (two games). He handled 37 chances without making an error.
This past season, Springer played 123 games in the outfield, with 116 in center. He made only two errors in 285 chances.
I believe Springer is best suited to play center field. He will offer a powerful bat, outstanding speed and a "take charge" approach to a critical defensive position.
Speed is one of Springer's most outstanding tools. He will consistently put extreme pressure on the defense.
Springer leaves the batter's box quickly and runs from home to first well below the Major League average of 4.3 seconds.
Once on first base, Springer is a strong candidate to steal bases in bunches.
As a player with outstanding talent, Springer brings excitement to a franchise that will benefit greatly from his skills on both sides of the ball.
Bernie Pleskoff has served as a professional scout for the Houston Astros and Seattle Mariners. Follow follow him on Twitter at @BerniePleskoff. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.