Before Carlos Correa, before Alex Bregman, before Lance McCullers, the Astros had an uber prospect coming through the minor league system and his name was George Springer. Last year I wrote a similar article to this one, but with Springer's hot start, I think it would be cool to look back at his "prospect" days.
George Springer, born in New Britain, Connecticut, also played his high school baseball in Connecticut. He was a solid prospect coming out of high which actually got him drafted by the Twins but did not sign and decided to attend college. Springer signed with the University of Connecticut and had a fantastic career there.
Springer was named to the 2009 Baseball America All-Freshman team after hitting .358 with 16 HR in 56 games. A great season but he would only get better. His sophomore year he finished hitting .337 with 18 HR and 33 SB. His junior year he finished strong hitting .350, 23 2B, 12 HR, 31 SB and nearly cutting his strikeouts in half. He was named Big East Player of the Year and named First Team All-American by Perfect Game USA and Louisville Slugger.
Springer entered the draft process as one of the top college prospects and one of the most exciting players in the draft. He was fast and had a ton of power. Some scouts had issues with his swing and thought it might hurt him moving forward but he was also seen as a potential five tool center fielder. The Houston Astros ended up selecting him with the 11th pick in the 2011 MLB Draft.
Springer signed for $2.52 million (just for reference, the slot bonus for #11 pick in 2017 is now $4.19 million) and was assigned to short-season Tri-City ValleyCats. He only played 8 games there before the season ended. Prior to the 2012 season, Baseball America rated George Springer the #59 prospect in all of baseball. The Astros started him out in High-A and Springer performed well hitting .316 with 22 HR and 28 SB (143 wRC+). He was promoted to AA where he played in 22 games, only hitting .219 with 2 HR. The book was the same on him though, huge power, big time speed, but some swing and miss concern.
Springer started the 2013 season rated the #37 prospect according to Baseball America. He began the year in AA and absolutely destroyed the Texas league. He hit .297 with 20 2B, 19 HR, 23 SB in only 73 games good for a 174 wRC+. The Astros promoted him to AAA and he continued his hot hitting finishing with a 175 wRC+ in 62 AAA games. He finished the season with a combined line of .303 BA, 27 2B, 37 HR, 108 RBI, 45 SB in 135 games. As you could imagine, many fans were clamoring for his call-up.
To the dismay of many Astros fans, Springer started the 2014 season in AAA rated the #18 prospect in all of baseball. It didn't take him long (13 games to be exact) to receive the call. On April 16th, 2014 the Astros called up Springer to make his MLB debut. Astros fans fell in love with his energy and his homerun power.
In 78 games as a rookie, Springer hit just .231 but did club 20 HR and post a 129 wRC+. This included a stretch where he hit 7 HR in 7 games. Unfortunately, his season was cut short with a quad injury. Springer was back healthy and ready to roll for 2015. He got off to a bit of a slow start but started to pick it up until he made a running catch smashing into the RF wall. This left him with a concussion and he had to miss about a week but he came back with a vengeance.
In the 48 games after he returned he hit .305 with 8 2B, 9 HR, 24 BB. He was on a roll until July 1st when he was hit in the wrist by a pitch from Edison Volquez. This caused him to miss nearly two months. He came back in late August and finished the season hitting .276 with 19 2B, 16 HR, 3.8 WAR in 102 games and made huge strides with his strikeout rate dropping it from 33.0% in 2014 to 24.2% in 2015. Coming into 2016 many pegged him as a sleeper MVP pick. While he didn't win MVP, or receive any votes, he had a very solid season proving he can stay healthy playing in all 162 games and finishing the season with 29 HR, 82 RBI and 5.0 WAR.
On November 23rd, 2016, the Astros officially signed Josh Reddick to a 4 year deal. With Reddick being a right fielder it was an easy decision to slide Springer over to his natural position in center. The 2017 season is young, but Springer has came out of the box storming, already hitting four lead-off homeruns and a walk-off homerun.
From being the Astros top prospect three years in a row to helping the Astros to the playoffs in 2015, Springer has become a favorite of fans and the media in Houston (evident with the #SpringDinger tag). With Altuve, Correa, and Bregman on the Astros, Springer helps form one of the best young cores in all of baseball. He has also turned into one of the most dynamic lead-off hitters in baseball with his power/speed combination. Springer is 27 years old this season, under team control until 2021 and, hopefully, he can help lead the Astros to the promised land.