Drafted 11th overall a year ago out of UConn, George Springer wasn’t the typical, well-polished collegiate product we’re used to seeing go in the first couple rounds. No, Springer’s skill set more closely resembled that of a high-ceiling high school prospect — strong, athletic, toolsy, but still raw. Houston’s previous baseball ops regime drafted him with the understanding that his development would require more patience than most guys his age. It was one of a handful of moves from the lame duck front office that current GM, Jeff Luhnow, would be thankful for. Maybe this all suggests that Ed Wade and his crew made their best moves after they’d stopped caring. Or maybe they’d finally figured out what they were doing, but too late to keep their jobs. Either way, Luhnow was gifted with a head start on his rebuilding process. And George Springer is hugely important to that process, indeed.
Springer’s been at High-A Lancaster in the Cal League since the season opened in April. His numbers throughout have been impressive: .321/.401/.568, 17 HR, 63 RBI, 20 SB. His performance of recent, however, has been especially terrific, as the 22-year-old has hit .419/.500/.698 through his last 50 PA. Skeptics will tell you he’s the beneficiary of a hitter-friendly league, a hitter-friendly ballpark, and a BABIP at .400. It’s tough to ignore the impact of the ballpark and league factors, but when considering prospects, the BABIP measure is too often overblown. In Springer’s case, the inflated batted ball figure is more a product of his crushing pitchers than it is of his being lucky. And from that perspective, the stat reflects a prospect who’s ready for the next level, not one who’s doomed to regress. The K’s are a concern (98 already), and I’m afraid they’ll always be. But Springer is certainly an exciting young outfielder, and his first full year of pro ball is revealing that he might not need as much time as we initially thought. I’m hopeful for a promotion to Double-A during the second half, and for arrival in Houston as soon as September 2013.
Keeping with the theme of prospects trending upward, Tony Cingrani has been attracting some well-deserved attention lately. I talked a little about him in my week 13 review, but I thought I’d offer a bit more insight here. At 6-5, 205, he certainly passes the eye test. And, as you might expect, Cingrani has no problem generating velocity with that lanky frame. His fastball sits in the low-to-mid-90’s, but great extension off the rubber helps the offering play as a plus-plus weapon. The major concern entering this season was lackluster secondary stuff. Scouts are still doubtful that his breaking ball will ever be a productive pitch, so it’s no wonder that Cingrani relies primarily on a nice, fading changeup when going off-speed.
So what has all of this added up to in 2012? Several whiffs and few hits is what. In 17 appearances between High-A and Double-A, Cingrani has posted a 1.28 ERA and a 0.94 WHIP while striking out 11 per nine. This has been a major breakout campaign for the lefty, who’s still thriving as a starter as he nears 100 IP on the year. But because he’s lacking a third plus offering, many still wonder if he’ll end up in the ‘pen when he reaches the bigs. Surely that’d be his quickest path to Cinci, but for fantasy purposes, let’s hope the Reds keep him in the rotation. Arrival sometime in 2013 seems most likely, but he could probably help in relief this year, if needed.