Rounding the Bases: A ‘perfect’ MLB start for Springer, fans

Pat Sullivan/AP

Pat Sullivan/AP

They called it Springer Day. That should tell you enough.

Astros fans were understandably excited about the promotion of their heralded prospect. It didn’t stop there. Fans across the country, baseball writers and pretty much anyone who cares about baseball and has a Twitter account were declaring April 16 to be Springer Day.

Like any other big-time promotion, the masses expect big things right from the get-go. It’s just the nature of the business. Everyone starts talking about the player and their expectations. Then, others try to one-up those expectations. Finally, someone uses the words “Hall of Fame” or “Cooperstown,” and it feels we’ve reached the Everest of expectations.

We saw a little bit of that with Billy Hamilton this spring when his speed grabbed plenty of headlines. (Note: questions of his ability to reach base grabbed a few paragraphs as well.) We’re seeing it again with Springer.

And that’s why the first two games of his Major League career were, well, kinda perfect, at least in my eyes.

Here’s what we knew about Springer entering his MLB debut.

He’s got the rare package of power and speed, as evidenced by his 37-homer, 45-steal season in 2013. (He also had three homers and four steals in 13 games with Triple-A Oklahoma City before the call-up.) That speed allows him to play plus defense in the outfield. As such, he’s played plenty in center, but the Astros moved him to right with Dexter Fowler manning center in the Majors. His above-average arm plays just fine in right regardless. 

The biggest bugaboos come at the plate, where he strikes out — 27.3 percent in 2013, 24.6 percent in a small 2014 sample — more than you’d like. That comes with an aggressive, swing-hard approach that, yes, results in hard contact but also plenty of swings and misses, especially against the advanced arms of the Majors that are much more likely to exploit those holes than their Minor League counterparts.

Through his first Major League games, Springer is 2-for-9 with two singles, a walk, a run scored, four strikeouts and a caught-stealing.

On the face, does that line make you jump out of your chair? Of course not. And that’s why it’s perfect, because it’s a reminder that Springer has just moved up and has to adjust to several things — the pitching, the atmosphere, the life in general, really — before he starts putting up eye-popping numbers in the big leagues. Hopefully, many brakes have been pumped in the last few days.

But dig a little deeper, and the positives of Springer’s game came out, too.

The first hit of his Major League career was a dribbler up the third-base line. With his speed, he easily beat the throw to first. His second was also of the infield variety.

In the field, Springer has shown his worth. Despite misreading one ball off the bat, he showed that his speed allows him enough time to recover, and his athleticism gives him the chance to dive and make this nifty catch. Earlier, he notched his first outfield assist when he ran to back up a diving Fowler in center and started a relay that nabbed Eric Hosmer at the plate. (He also recorded an error in the first inning when he misplayed Norichika Aoki’s double off the wall in right Thursday.)

So all in all, it’s been an up-and-down first couple of games, and that’s something we all should have expected. What comes next is his settling-in with the Majors and a more impressive resume over a larger sample.

The home runs will come. The highlights will continue. Springer Day may have come with some unnecessary fanfare, but the Summer of George should still be filled with plenty of excitement.

Mascot Item of the Week

Triple-A El Paso unveiled its new mascot, Chico, early this week. I don’t know what I was expecting from a team named the Chihuahuas, but this wasn’t it.

For more mascot news, check out Ben Hill’s blogpost with the punny “A Mass of Cots-tumed Character headline.

Quick Hits

  • D-backs prospect Stryker Trahan talked about his move from catching to the outfield in this week’s Midwest League Notebook. “I’m on board with it,” he said. “I like the idea. I was always a fast guy in high school. Catching kind of — not really slowed me down — but it wore out my legs. I really like to run. The first few days, I really got into playing outfield. I was hooked. I really like it a lot.”
  • Trevor Bauer is off to a really good start with only one run allowed and 18 strikeouts over 12 innings thus far for Triple-A Columbus. He also impressed (6 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 8 K) in a one-start promotion for Cleveland. This comes after a rough 2013 season, during which he posted a 4.15 ERA in 22 Triple-A starts and a 5.29 mark in four Major League outings. “It’s nice to see results come from the path I chose to take,” Bauer told Jake Seiner. “You try to make adjustments and change some things like I did last year, and you don’t know how it will turn out. You think you know and that’s why you do it. Until it actually plays out, you don’t know how it’s going to turn out.”
  • Hunter Harvey bested and Class A Delmarva bested Lucas Giolito and Hagerstown in a match between two of the best pitching prospects in the Baltimore-Washington rivalry.
  • FanGraphs’ Wendy Thurm breaks down the “service-time dance” through the lens of Springer and D-backs top prospect Archie Bradley.

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