We mention it quite a bit, but the TCB staff email list can get pretty long-winded on topics. In an effort to take some of those threads and share them with you, we're publishing this piece on a semi-weekly basis. First up is a topic Chris introduced on George Springer, because we haven't wrung our hands enough about him this spring.
So, without further ado, here's Springer Talk:
One of you guys wrote in the SB Nation blurb something about "George Springer's contact woes". It annoyed me, so I was all prepped to write an article debunking that myth. I've previously claimed that Minor League Central's contact% calc was in error.
Or rather, I'm pretty sure I'm wrong. A lot of it has to do with the goofy-@$ way they define their stats, but (assuming their COUNTING stats are right, which I've got no reason to doubt after comparing Springer to other top prospects like Bogaerts and Taveras):
(S Swing) = Foul + SMiss + BIP [ML Central includes HR & SF in BIP]
Contact % = (BIP + Foul) / (S Swing)
Contact % = (337 + 335) / (1030) = 65.2%
So in the data presented (and I know BIP stats are not collected for all AA and AAA parks, but 2418 pitches is a decent sample), George Springer had a contact rate of 65.2% last season. Against minor league pitching. For comparison, Chris Carter's contact rate was 65.4% against MAJOR league pitching last season.
Sorry, David. I now think Springer was incredibly stupid to turn down that contract, but I'm struggling to predict him ever hitting much better than .240 in the major leagues, especially once people start giving him great breaking stuff.
You'll be shocked that I have thoughts on Springer. His contact rate absolutely matters. We can't understand what kind of player he might be one day without putting it into context. But, I'd also point out that even with that poor rate, the dude hit .303/.411/.600 in 589 plate appearances last season. Carter never hit that well over that many PAs in the minors.
Other guys in that same contact percentage area are Giancarlo Stanton, Jay Bruce, Mike Napoli and Chris Davis along with Pedro Alvarez, Dan Uggla and Mark Reynolds. So, what if Springer turns into Bruce? Posting a 10 percent walk rate, striking out 25 percent of the time with 30 homers a year and a .330 OBP? I'd be very happy with him turning into a Bruce clone, because Springer would add more speed/steals and be even more valuable than the 3-4 wins Bruce has been worth in the past four seasons.
Also, OF COURSE Springer didn't take the safest route turning down that big extension. There is a non-zero chance that he becomes Brandon Wood, who had a 70.9 percent career contact rate in the majors. Springer may never get 1,000 PAs in the majors if he can't make contact consistently.
But, he believes he can succeed. He did last season, despite contact issues. What if his contact rate is less about a hole in his swing and more about his poor two-strike approach?
The point is, we just need more information. We need him playing in the majors to get a feel for how he'll perform, even if he struggles.
Actually, your email makes me feel a lot better with those comps.
That's why people like Keith Law view Springer as a unique kind of player. Springer has a .400+ minor league BABIP; it's hard to figure out where that settles in the majors. I can see Springer as a .220 - .250 BA hitter who produces star level value with HRs, walks, defense, and base running. And, that is basically what the projection systems are telling us. However, it will be interesting to see what the fan and media reaction will be to that kind of package. TCB commenters are more saber oriented than the average fan, yet we still see a lot of commenters saying that they want to get rid of Chris Carter at the first opportunity, presumably because they hate his BA and Ks. I am guessing the negative reaction from the non-TCB fans will be greater.
As I've said before, I would have recommended that Springer take the Astros' contract offer if I had been his agent. I am still optimistic that Springer will be an impact player during his 20's, but he may not have a long career, given that hitters with his profile are vulnerable to a batting average that declines rapidly with age (like, say, Jack Cust, Bill Hall, or Mark Reynolds).
I've taken flak in the past for saying that Springer seems like Mike Cameron to me, but I still stick with it, and I think we should all be happy if we get that out of him.
Who gave you flak? Cameron is the comp I throw out mostly, too.
Unless I'm feeling uncharitable. Then I say Casper Wells.
People who see his surface numbers in the minors and have convinced themselves that they'll fully translate to the Majors.
He should have taken the contract extension, but I can't hate on a guy for betting on himself. I've never been one that thought highly of Springer's contact ability, but I do think he'll be a fantastic player anyway. He's going to be a high-end defensive center fielder, he's going to hit for power and be a dangerous baserunner, and he will draw a lot of walks. He makes a lot of use of his power at the plate- whether it be in hitting balls a long way, or in drawing walks through being pitched around. He doesn't hit for good contact not because he's reckless at the plate, but because his swing just doesn't really set him up well to do so. For a player going on 25, that's the more desirable situation. Giancarlo Stanton, back when his name was Mike, hit like .330 in AA, but nobody thought he was going to hit more than .260 in the bigs. That's sort of how I've always felt about Springer. He's not a good contact hitter, but he's a passable one, and the rest of his game is well-above average in every regard.
Mike Cameron is a solid player. Gold Glove winner. An incredible stretch where he was a five-win player in four out of five years. I'd be thrilled with a Mike Cameron result out of Springer.
He's dynamic enough a player that he should be able to overcome whatever contact issues he has. Even if he's hitting .220, he can provide value n a lot of other ways.
I think fans are setting themselves for disappointment when they're trying to compare Springer to some of the games best five too guys.
I think that what some fans are expecting and just isn't fair to him.
I'll take a Mike Cameron or Curtis Granderson type production from Springer any day.
I blame David for single-handedly raising the bar to epic proportions.
If George Springer doesn't become the best player in the history of the franchise and turn in the best offensive season since Barry Bonds played, we, as Americans, will have been cheated. Do you want the communists to win?
I don't know how it was at TCB, but the circles I was in previously were talking about Jordan Lyles as the next Oswalt. I think people were looking at his A-ball numbers, and combined with him being one of the first two new major prospects, people were convinced that he was the savior.
Granted Springer has a good deal more tools and upside, but I kind of see the same thing happening. If Springer hits 230 in his first year, people are going to fall into despair and question if the rebuilding has failed.
Well maybe Bobby Bonds, not Barry Bonds. I am old enough to remember Barry's father as a player, and he was unique for his time. In the context of K rates at the time, his Ks were shocking, but he provided so much value with the base running, defense, and HRs that he was still considered as a contender for MVP in most seasons. And, yes, I would be more than happy if Springer can be in the same class as Mike Cameron or Granderson. But fans will be disappointed if they expect him to be Mike Trout.
I think it has more to do with fans not getting that minor league numbers don't translate to MLB numbers.
Yeah, minor league context is a hard lesson to learn. Most of the people on this listserv pay attention to the minors, at least to some degree, even if they don't focus on them. And yet, we're still sometimes surprised by prospects who don't pan out, or who seemingly come out of nowhere. That's true of professional evaluators, too.
It's easy to look around and name the young players who have come up through other systems and seen success. Buster Posey, Stephen Strasburg, Bryce Harper. What most people don't notice is the prospects who either A) never come up at all, or B) come up and don't perform. Which is, of course, most of them. It's been so long since the Astros had anyone really exciting come up through the system that most fans probably just don't have any sense of context.
Add to that the desperation for the team to have a young breakthrough player, combined with the realization that that player probably won't come through trade or free agent signing, and you get some pretty big hopes and dreams for Springer to fill. If you look at him as one piece of a roster, it's pretty easy to get excited. If you look at him as the sole hope for the future salvation of the venerable Houston Astros franchise, you're probably going to be disappointed.
Yeah, it's always been that way. I remember Astros fans who expected Pence to be the next Albert Pujols.
I had high enough expectations for Towles, and then he went off that one game and I was basically sold on him...then he flamed out.
Okay, Alex, now you've upset me.
Remember Troy Patton?
What's funny about Patton is he actually turned into a serviceable reliever for the Orioles... eventually. But when you consider what we all thought he was going to be (granted, I wasn't that heavily into the minor leagues in 2006/07), it's a pretty big dropoff.
What's particularly amazing is that you could actually make a case for the the Astros winning the Tejada trade... provided you ignore Tejada's contract.
The thing with Patton is most fans thought he was going to be the 2nd coming of Andy Pettitte.
He has turned into a pretty good reliever with the O's.
Tejada was a lot better for the Astros than people give him credit for (5.4 WAR).
Luke Scott: 5.6 WAR as an O's
Patton: 1.5 WAR
Matt Albers: 1 WAR
Dennis Sarfate: 0.1 WAR (haha...)
And then you consider the contract. I'd call it a push, at best, but considering the Astros' situation at the time, Tejada was just another McLane band-aid that hid the problems with the franchise.