The Astros rush to a youth movement in 2013 will not include one of the prospects Astros fans have heard a lot about if general manager Jeff Luhnow has his way.
Outfielder George Springer, the team’s first round draft choice in 2011, has excelled at every level since signing with the Astros in August that year. In 2012 Springer hit a combined .302 with 24 home runs, 87 RBIs and an OPS of .908 at High-A Lancaster and Double A Corpus Christi. He also had a strong stint in the Arizona Fall League, hitting .286 with 4 homers and 14 runs batted in in 21 games.
That season raised hopes among Astros faithful that he might be on target for a Major League debut sometime during the 2013 season.
But along with those gaudy offensive number comes a major drawback, strikeouts. Springer struck out 156 times in 506 at bats, and followed that up with 20 strike outs in 70 at bats. That’s an area Luhnow wants to see improvement.
“We know what type of player (Springer) is,” Luhnow said Saturday at FanFest. “He’s a speed, power, strike out guy. Great work ethic, great athleticism. I think he knows the issue on the strikeouts.”
That plan has run counter to the way the Astros have operated in recent years when players like Jose Altuve climbed all the way from High-A ball to the Major Leagues in one season. That was just two seasons ago in 2011, when the top four teams in the Astros minor league system finished a combined 97 games under .500. After the team finished trading veterans for prospects, the express lane to the Majors has slowed because the talent level has risen. Those same four teams finished the 2012 season 43 games over .500, and Lancaster won the California League.
That doesn’t mean that Springer, who will turn 24 in September, can’t force his way onto the roster sooner, similar to the way Hunter Pence did during Spring Training in 2007 when he hit .571. But even then Pence wasn't on the Opening Day roster. He didn’t get called up to the Astros until April 28th.
“I think for me, certainly he could come into camp and put him on the map and something could happen,” Luhnow said. “But I’m kind of thinking more 2014 for him.”