The Houston Astros still don’t figure to be very good this year, but this should at least make them more interesting — top prospect George Springer is being called up and figures to make his major league debut tonight against Kansas City.
Springer, who came into the season ranked 18th on Baseball America’s list of Top 100 prospects, likely could have made the team out of spring training, but by keeping him in the minors for two weeks, the Astros have delayed his free agency by a year. Had they kept him in Oklahoma City through May, they could have also delayed his arbitration clock, but Springer will now almost certainly be a Super Two player.
Of course, the number of arbitration years are irrelevant when you’re trying to buy out a player’s entire stay in your organization. Reports surfaced this spring that Houston offered Springer a 7-year, $23 million deal last September. Had he signed the deal, he probably would have made the Astros out of camp — delaying his free agency and keeping him through 2020 becomes a moot point when he’s signed through 2021, so there would’ve been no need to have him run roughshod over the Pacific Coast League again. He declined, though, seemingly preferring to go year-to-year, and for that he found himself back in Oklahoma City to start this season. All he did was hit .319/.429/.574 in 12 games.
While he may struggle to make consistent contact — he struck out 161 times in 135 games last season — he’ll also provide the Astros with some much-needed pop. He hit 37 home runs in those 135 games last season, and also stole 45 bases on 53 attempts.
If anything, Springer will be super fun to watch as a Three True Outcomes type of hitter that also happens to be a terror on the basepaths. After a couple years of being unwatchably bad, it looks like the Astros are going to give their fans a little hope for the future. If you’re still going to lose a ton of games, you might as well be entertaining while you do it, and Springer (and possibly Jonathan Singleton and Mark Appel later this year) should help them at least do that.
Robbie Grossman was sent down by Houston to create room in the outfield for Springer, and Lucas Harrell was designated for assignment to clear a 40-man roster spot for him. Scott Feldman, returning from the bereavement list, will take Harrell’s spot in the rotation.