George Springer, Outfielder, Houston Astros
2014 season (Minors): 16 G, 55 AB, .345 BA, 3 HR, 9 RBI, 6 SB, 1.107 OPS
2014 season (Majors): 78 G, 295 AB, .231 BA, 20 HR, 51 RBI, 5 SB, .804 OPS
Joining the 40-40 club (40 homers and 40 steals in a single season) has always been a rare feat, evidenced by the fact that it’s been accomplished just four times in baseball history. With the overall decrease in power and steals in baseball the past few years, it could be quite some time before anyone ever joins one of baseball’s most exclusive clubs. But if you were to make a list of baseball’s top candidates to even have a shot at reaching the milestone, Astros outfielder George Springer would be at or near the top.
While 40-40 may be a dream, a healthy Springer could join the less exclusive 30-30 club somewhat easily. The Astros’ first-round Draft pick in 2011 first became a household name after his first full season in the Minors in ‘12 when he hit 24 homers and stole 32 bases. But the baseball world really got excited the following year when he put together an absolutely unbelievable Minor League season splitting time between Double-A and Triple-A. In 135 games, Springer had a .303/.411/.600 slash line with 37 homers, 45 steals and 108 RBIs.
After the Astros waited a few days into the season to delay his service clock, Springer made his big league debut on April 16 last season. After getting off to a slow start, he hit his stride in May, going on an absolute tear with 10 homers and 25 RBIs in 26 games that month. While he slowed down a bit, he was a steady enough hitter into July before a lingering quad injury reached the point where his season ended abruptly.
While he played into July, Springer later admitted the left quad was bothering him for weeks before he and the Astros eventually decided he could no longer play — which was an explanation for his lack of speed all season (five steals on just seven tries).
Now healthy, Springer is coming off a solid spring in which he hit three homers and stole two bases. If not hitting No. 3 in the lineup, Springer will often hit No. 2 behind one of the best leadoff hitters in the game, Jose Altuve. Either way, he’ll see runners on base often, and with more protection with major home-run threats Evan Gattis and Chris Carter behind him, pitchers can’t just pitch around Springer.
For a young hitter, Springer is pretty patient at the plate, and he posted a .336 OBP despite hitting .231 last year. While projection systems have to be at least somewhat on the conservative side with a 25-year-old coming off an injury, the overall consensus is still in the 25-30 homer range with 15-plus steals. While a 30-30 year may be pushing it, it’s certainly not out of the question. If the quad is fine, Springer’s ready to become the superstar he is expected to be.