A rookie is a rookie is a rookie used to be the saying for every rookie in the MLB, but I think that is starting to change. Minor league systems are better at developing players, and amatuer players are more developed when they are drafted/signed as well. George Springer, a 2011 draft pick out of the University of Connecticut, should be a starter in the Astros outfield and will be a key piece in that lineup for the ‘Stros for years to come. However, we only care about this year, and the key to Springer’s success this year is based purely on how much playing time George Springer gets. Springer is easily the most talented of the Astros’ outfield options, but he could be limited because he is the young guy. The most ridiculous bias in baseball. Anyway, I look into the projections for Springer and his ability to help your fantasy teams.
Throughout the minor leagues, Springer has had pretty good statistics. He has racked up 62 homers, 81 steals on 97 attempts (83.5 SB%), 51 doubles, and a .299 batting average over the course of 3 minor league seasons. He had his best season last year in AA and AAA with 37 homers and 45 steals. He almost went 40-40 in his 3rd year as a professional! Obviously, he wouldn’t have come that close in the majors, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he pulled off 40-40 later in his career.
To get to his 2014 projection, I have to talk about his underlying statistics that are better at predicting his numbers for fantasy baseball.
In the minors, he has posted a BB% of 12.4, but a horrendous K% of 26.3% including a 30.9 K% when he made his initial jump to AA. His BABIP (batting average on balls in play) was around .370 throughout 2013. Looking forward to a jump into the major leagues this year, I would expect his BB% to drop and his K% to rise, and they would be around 11% BB% and a 27% K%. His BABIP should also drop to something between .320 and .330.
So the minor leagues do not do a good job keeping track of batted ball percentages so it is hard to make a good projection for this season. Either way, Springer’s minor league batted ball percentages look like he hits line drives on 18% of his contact, ground balls 45% of the time, and 37% of his hits are flyballs. During this past season, he hit 22% of his balls in the air out of the park. My conservative projection for his batted ball statistics in his initial major league year is 50% GB%, 18% LD, and 32% FB%. I also have him hitting 14% of his flyballs out of the park.
What does this all mean? Let’s put this into terms of the typical fantasy baseball owner. I think he will get about 550 PA this year if he makes the MLB team out of spring training. His underlying statistics produce a projected stat line that is poor in some areas, but good in others. It is also very conservative in my opinion. I have him having a .246 batting average, which would definitely hurt your fantasy team. However, this could easily turn out to be much higher because of his speed and he can get more infield singles than the average player (like Mike Trout). I also have him getting on base 186 times and taking off for second base 46 times. With an 80% success rate, he ends up with 37 stolen bases. Added to his 15 projected home runs, these counting stats are going to be valuable to your fantasy team. His stolen bases could end up higher than 40. If his batted ball stats don’t regress in his jump to the MLB, fantasy owners could be looking for a 25 homer and 40 SB season out of this rookie. His runs and RBIs are more dependent on his team, but I still have him around 55 runs scored and 70 RBIs.
Overall, Springer looks to be in for an interesting rookie season. If he gets the playing time and doesn’t struggle in the jump to the major leagues, we could be looking at a not-as-great-Mike Trout-type rookie season with less runs and RBI’s because of the Astros’ poor 2014 roster outlook. However, he could end up in the minors for 2014 and not working out for fantasy owners. I believe this will result in a big discount on draft day, and possibly, putting him on the waiver wire at the end of drafts. I would look for him in the mid-to-late rounds of your draft, especially if word gets out that he will be on the major league roster. If you are willing to take a small risk, I would make sure to have George Springer wherever you can in your 2014 fantasy baseball leagues. The way too early favorite for AL Rookie of the Year.