We have an early winner for the most obvious headline of 2012, right? After seeing that the Astros invited a unique mix of prospects to spring training on Monday, my thoughts turned to how likely it was that George Springer broke camp with Houston as a starting outfielder.
It was crazy. It was silly. It was ill-advised, but it was what popped into my head all the same. I decided to go home and trot out Baseball Reference to see how many games certain Astro first-round picks had in the minors before reaching the majors. I thought I remembered Craig Biggio getting up to the majors quickly, and Lance Berkman did too, but I wasn't sure how quick.
Turns out both had over 100 games, with Berkman topping 200 minor league games before making his MLB debut. Springer has 8 career games.
That alone is the biggest reason why he won't break camp with the team.
What surprised me is I did find some precedent for a first-round pick not playing very much in the minors. It just so happened to be one of the Astros two former No. 1 overall picks. Floyd Bannister, who was selected out of Arizona State, only needed 7 games in the minors after he was drafted in 1976 before breaking camp with the big league club in 1977.
Bannister went on to post a sub-4.00 ERA and win 16 games in a season, but he did not do either with the Astros. Oh, and he is not a position player. Both of those things bode poorly for Springer.
So, if we're just talking about position players, is there any precedent with other teams? Not really. Mark Teixeira was a pretty sure-fire prospect back in the day, but he spent 86 games in the minors the year after being drafted.
Rickie Weeks actually debuted in the majors the same year he was drafted in 2003, but only spent 7 games in the majors in September and was in the minors for the entire next season. Troy Tulwotzki spent 122 games in the minors before making his debut. Buster Posey spent 125 games in the minors.
Ryan Zimmerman is the closest we came, but even he spent 67 games in the minors the same year he was drafted No. 4 overall and spent 20 games in the majors that same September. He opened the next season as the starting third baseman, but he's got 59 more minor league games than Springer...
Gordon Beckham is another very close test case for Springer, since he signed late, spent 14 games in 2008 in the minors and played 45 more in 2009 before making his MLB debut.
If the Astros followed that timeline, that'd put them calling up mid-May to the big leagues, which could, I guess, be feasible (but not really).
Oh, and don't forget about poster child for this Pete Incaviglia. The college slugger who single-handedly made baseball outlaw draft pick trades never spent a day in the minors, moving straight to the major leagues. Unfortunately, he didn't exactly develop into a future star.
So, does the Astros invitation to Springer mean anything? No, it just gave me an excuse to dig through Baseball Reference for a couple hours. Winning!