George Springer Rumors
Where did the year go?
The 2013 minor league regular season is in the books, and the lucky few are currently competing in the playoffs. We've seen a lot of exciting moments during the year. We've also seen a lot of prospects significantly improve their values. To celebrate the best of the best, MLBTR is celebrating the 2013 All-Prospect All-Star Team, which features the top players in the minors at each position. Given the depth at some positions -- as well as the lack there of at others -- this was no easy task.
The players were chosen by considering a mixture of future potential and statistical results.
Catcher: Austin Hedges, Padres -- Because of his abilities on both defense and offense, San Diego's catcher of the future narrowly edged out the Yankees' Gary Sanchez. His abilities on both sides of the ball also impressed his employers, according to Padres Assistant General Manager of Player Personnel Chad MacDonald. "He has the tools and skill set to impact both sides of the ball... and we are excited about his future with the San Diego Padres," MacDonald said.
Hedges will probably never be the strongest offensive catcher in the league but he won't embarrass himself, either. Behind the plate, he's perhaps the best defensive catcher in the minors if you take everything into consideration: arm, receiving, blocking, game calling and leadership.
First Base: Dan Vogelbach, Cubs -- This position was the hardest one to find a deserving candidate. The Astros' Jonathan Singleton missed the beginning of the year due to a suspension and then struggled with his consistency. The Angels' C.J. Cron failed to consistently tap into his raw power. Vogelbach, just 20, performed well at two A-ball levels and showed the ability to hit for average and power while also getting on-base at a solid clip.
Brandon Hyde, the Cubs' director of player development, said Vogelbach's successes came from hard work. "It was an impressive season with raw power to all fields," he said. "He has an advanced approach for his age, and he controls the strike zone."
Second Base: Rougned Odor, Rangers -- Second base was another tough position to settle on the winner. The Angels' Taylor Lindsey, Cardinals' Kolten Wong, and Twins' Eddie Rosario also received serious consideration before the award went to Odor. The Rangers' prospect hit more than .300 between High-A and Double-A with a strong OPS and 32 stolen bases -- all at the age of 19. The left-handed hitter also popped 58 extra base hits, including 41 doubles. With all the middle infield depth in Texas, Odor could make things very interesting -- and crowded -- in short order.
Third Base: Miguel Sano, Twins -- Sano was the runaway winner at third base, although the Cubs' Kris Bryant could give him a run for his money in a year's time (assuming both prospects are still in the minors). The Dominican native launched 35 home runs and produced a .610 slugging percentage. However, he didn't hit for a great average after his promotion from High-A to Double-A, and he combined to strike out 142 times in 123 games, so there are some holes in his game that need to be addressed.
Shortstop: Javier Baez, Cubs -- There were five players that were considered in this slot, including Xander Bogaerts (Red Sox), Francisco Lindor (Indians), Addison Russell (Athletics) and Carlos Correa (Astros). Baez, though, came out ahead when considering his outstanding statistical results and the fact that he has a chance to be as good as any other player on the list. Just 20, he finished the year in Double-A and hit a combined 37 home runs with 20 stolen bases and a .920 OPS.
Hyde was impressed with Baez's ability to make adjustments after being promoted to Double-A. "He hit in the middle of the order on a prospect-laden team. He made huge strides defensively and with his plate discipline," Hyde said. "He has a unique combination of raw power, speed and off-the-charts instincts, especially for a 20 year old in Double-A."
Outfielder: George Springer, Astros -- Springer, 23, had an eye-popping season while playing at both Double-A and Triple-A. He narrowly missed becoming a 40-40 player (HR-SB) with 37 homers and 45 steals while playing at the highest levels of the minors. Springer's approach produces massive strikeout numbers, but he showed improvements in that area as the year progressed.
The prospect impressed the club's front office not only with his play but also his attitude, according to Quinton McCracken, the Astros director of player development. "George is an exceptional five-tool talent, and even better person. He has great makeup, work ethic, off-the-chart intangibles coupled with incredible athleticism... He's a very special player," he said.
Outfielder: Byron Buxton, Twins -- Buxton was the biggest no-brainer on this list. Just 19 and in his first full pro season, the five-tool outfielder played at two A-ball levels while hitting more than .330 and producing double digits in doubles, triples and homers. He also got on base at a .424 clip, stole 55 bases in 74 tries and played above-average defense in centerfield. The Twins have one of the best minor league systems in all of baseball and could be a massive threat in two to three seasons.
Outfielder: Gregory Polanco, Pirates -- Polanco edged out a few other players because, at a very young age, he showed a five-tool approach and had an impact in numerous areas. The 21-year-old outfielder showed that he may one day develop into a 20-20 or perhaps even a 30-30 player. After beginning the year in A-ball, he ended the season in Triple-A.
Pirates Director of Minor League Operations Larry Broadway said the most impressive thing about Polanco's growth has been his maturity. "He has fit into each clubhouse and added value to the culture of each club that he's been on," Broadway explained. "He continues to approach the game with a learner's mentality and is always looking to find a way to get better. He's not afraid to make a mistake in the process, which has allowed him to progress well in all areas of his game."
Starting Pitcher: Archie Bradley, Diamondbacks -- Bradley and Dylan Bundy grew up playing baseball together, but the former passed the latter on top prospect lists after the Orioles' prospect blew out his elbow. Just 20 years old, Bradley spent the majority of the year in Double-A and finished the season with a combined ERA of 1.84 and 162 strikeouts in 152 innings of work. He also allowed just 115 hits.
Starting Pitcher: Taijuan Walker, Mariners -- Utilizing a strong fastball and excellent breaking ball, Walker, who just turned 21 on Aug. 13, made older competition look foolish as he produced outstanding numbers in Double-A and Triple-A before earning his MLB promotion. The right-hander struck out 160 batters in 141 1/3 innings while allowing just 112 hits.
Chris Gwynn, the Mariners director of player development, said Walker is oozing talent but he's also an extremely hard worker. "Going into the offseason last year he realized there were some things he needed to work on to get better," Gwynn said, listing fastball command (down in the zone, to both sides of the plate) and improved secondary pitches as two of those things. "Coming into this season he was a man on a mission... and had a dominant season in Double-A and Triple-A didn't phase him. It shows he wants it really bad."
Starting Pitcher: Noah Syndergaard, Mets -- Jameson Taillon (Pirates), Kevin Gausman (Orioles) and Robert Stephenson (Reds) also received consideration as the one of the top pitchers in the minors but the final spot went to the Mets' prospect. Syndergaard showed a rare combination of power (his fastball can tickle triple digits) and control when he struck out 133 batters in 117 2/3 innings and issued 28 free passes. Just 20, the Texas native finished the year with 11 starts at the Double-A level.
Reliever: Steve Geltz, Rays -- It's hard to find a worthy reliever because many of the best MLB bullpen aces originally come from the starting ranks. Geltz, though, is still only 25 years old and he was the hardest pitcher to hit in Triple-A (minimum 50 innings) by allowing a batting-average-against of just .152. That mark was actually the seventh lowest in the entire minor leagues. His strikeout percentage (31.3 percent) was good for 12th in Triple-A ball. Not bad for a player that went undrafted and signed with the Los Angeles Angels as a free agent in 2008.
There's a chance that the two Texas clubs could find themselves on the opposite ends of the standings come season's end. As the MLBTR reverse standings tell us, the Rangers entered today four games behind the Braves for the best record in baseball, while the 39-81 Astros have a firm grasp on the league's worst record. The Astros are on pace to become the first team in baseball history to select the No. 1 overall pick in three consecutive amateur drafts.
Here are some news items out of the Lone Star State...
- Astros prospect George Springer will remain in minors through the end of the Triple-A season and their playoffs, general manager Jeff Luhnow tells MLB.com's Brian McTaggart. The center field star could be brought up by mid-September if the club feels it would make sense. Springer, 23, has a combined .303/.411/.605 line and 33 homers in 520 PA between Double-A and Triple-A this season. Baseball America tabbed Springer as the 20th-best prospect in the sport in their midseason prospect rankings after ranking him 37th before the season; he was also highly-touted by both ESPN's Keith Law (43rd) and MLB.com (58th) in preseason ratings.
- The Astros will make relief pitching a priority this winter, manager Bo Porter told reporters (including McTaggart). Houston will likely try to obtain at least one veteran reliever to aid their young relief corps, McTaggart speculates.
- The Rangers and Lance Berkman are trying to decide if they will wait until the rosters expand on September 1 to activate the veteran slugger from the DL. Berkman played four games on a rehab assignment but told reporters (including Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News) that he has "concerns about competing at the level I think I am capable of. If I can’t do that, I’m not sure, I can be a positive piece for the team. There is no doubt I can compete. I just don’t know about the level.” Berkman has a .732 OPS in 282 PA with Texas this year but he has been on the DL for over two months with hip and knee injuries and even considered retirement earlier this summer.
- Adam Rosales could be a factor in the Berkman situation, MLB.com's T.R. Sullivan explains. The infielder would likely be the one designated for assignment to make roster space for Berkman and the Rangers don't want to lose him again. Rosales has already been designated four times since July 8 and has bounced back and forth between the Rangers' and Athletics' rosters over the last few weeks.
Alex Rodriguez's public battle with the Yankees took another turn today when the slugger denied a report that the club intends to fine him a day's pay for conduct during his recent rehab assignment. According to ESPNNewYork.com's Andrew Marchand, a hand-delivered letter written by Yankees GM Brian Cashman informed A-Rod that the club plans to punish him for seeking a second opinion on his quadriceps injury and also for failing to appear at Yankee Stadium last month after meeting with MLB officials to discuss the Biogenesis investigation. In an article by Bryan Hoch and Josh Vitale of MLB.com, however, A-Rod denied receiving the letter. "Maybe they sent it to my lawyers," Rodriguez said. "But I'm not really going to talk about that." More Saturday night MLB links...
- Neither Ian Desmond nor Jordan Zimmermann appear close to contract extensions with the Nationals, Bill Ladson of MLB.com reports. Zimmermann, 27, said his camp and the Nationals broached the subject in the offseason but didn't come close to an agreement. "I'm not going to give a huge team discount," Zimmermann warned. "Just something fair is all I ask."Meanwhile, Desmond recognizes that he has two years of arbitration remaining and doesn't appear to be in a hurry to put together a deal, according to Ladson.
- Everth Cabrera's recent suspension has reinforced the fact that the Padres' farm system is thin on shortstop talent, Jeff Sanders of the San Diego Union-Tribune says. “You’d like to have a shortstop at every level that you feel is a prospect – has a chance to be an everyday guy,” assistant GM Chad MacDonald said. However, as Sanders notes, the club's best prospects at the position remain in the lower minors. For now, former first-round pick Logan Forsythe figures to get an extended look at short for the Friars.
- Astros top prospect George Springer may finish the season at Triple-A, Brian McTaggart and Chris Abshire of MLB.com say. Springer, 23, is hitting .303/.410/.597 with 38 stolen bases across stops at Double-A and Triple-A this season. However, Astros manager Bo Porter didn't give any indication of when Springer might be called up to the major league club when discussing the outfielder today.
- Will Middlebrooks was called up to man third base for the Red Sox because he has more experience at the hot corner than Xander Bogaerts, Scott McLaughlin of WEEI.com reports. Many speculated that Bogaerts, who's hit .300/.392/.487 in 481 minor league plate appearances this season, would get the call, but manager John Farrell says the team prefers that he continue to take reps at third in the minors. The Sox want Bogaerts to be ready in case Middlebrooks struggles or hits the disabled list, according to McLaughlin.
If not for the hapless Miami Marlins, the Astros would be in line for the worst record in baseball for the third straight season. Clearly, it's been a rough stretch for the Houston fan base. The good news is that a strong group of reinforcements is on the way to The Show. The fans will have to take a leap of faith while the high-ceiling, minor-league talent rises to the surface.
The last two-plus years of mediocrity in Houston have allowed the organization to receive the first overall draft picks in both 2012 and 2013. An astute group of talent evaluators and baseball minds in the scouting department has helped to ensure the organization not only made the most of its first overall selections, but also made some clever trades for young talent while shedding players that did not figure into the rebuilding vision.
General Manager Jeff Luhnow has worked to ensure the club is pointed in the right direction as it moves to recapture some of the organization's past successes. But, truth be told, the club's front office and scouting department began to find its footing in 2010 -- almost two years before Luhnow was hired away from the St. Louis Cardinals to replace ousted GM Ed Wade.
From 2000 to 2009 the Astros' drafting efforts bordered on brutal -- especially when focusing on the club's first choice each season. Current Astros catcher Jason Castro (2008) stands out as the lone bright spot in an otherwise dreary decade. It certainly didn't help that the club's free agent exploits cost the scouting department three first round selections (2003, 2004, 2007) and resulted in the selection of forgettable prospects such as Robert Stiehl, Derick Grigsby, and Max Sapp.
As mentioned above, the 2010 season began the major shift for the Astros and the past five first round draft picks are among the 10 best prospects in the system. Let's have a closer look at them:
2010 -- Delino DeShields Jr., 2B, Georgia HS: Reds prospect Billy Hamilton received a ton of hype last year for breaking the century mark in steals, but DeShields also swiped more than 100 bags in a much quieter fashion. It's been a slower go for the 20-year-old Astros prospect in 2013 as he's managed just 15 steals in 24 attempts. He's holding his own at the plate with a .280 batting average but has yet to have a true breakout to solidify himself as one of the top prospects in the game.
2010 -- Mike Foltynewicz, RHP, Illinois HS: Foltynewicz flew under the radar for a few seasons but the hype is starting to build -- and it's easy to see why. The right-hander's velocity has crept up in the past year and he's been clocked as high as 98-100 mph in recent starts. Only 21, he opened the 2013 season in the offense-padding launching pad in Lancaster (High-A) and held his own before a promotion to Double-A in early May. Since that time, hitters have batted just .157 against him, and he has a 1.41 ERA in nine appearances. Brian T. Smith of the Houston Chronicle recently took a look at Foltynewicz and highlighted both his talent and his drive to succeed. "Everybody knows what kind of power and strength he's got... But the encouraging part is since he's been here we're starting to get better down location, OK, and his breaking stuff and changeup (are) really coming along really nice... you won't find much better talent than he's got."
2011 -- George Springer, CF, University of Connecticut: It took a couple of years but Springer has officially sprung. The young outfielder is tapping into his raw power on a more consistent basis (18 homers, .618 slugging percentage) while treading water with his contact rates. Springer still strikes out a lot (77 strikeouts in 61 games) but the tradeoff for the power output is worth it. He could be ready to patrol the outfield in Houston before the 2014 All-Star break. In another piece for the Chronicle, Smith featured Springer, and the prospect said he's not trying to put too much pressure on himself: "It's just kind of one of those things where I'm not too concerned about the results. I just try to go out and compete and play hard and develop as a player," Springer said. "It's one of those things where I was told to just let the results happen... For me, it's all about slowing myself down, having a lot of fun..."
2012 -- Carlos Correa, SS, Puerto Rico HS: One of the youngest hitters in A-ball at 18, Correa has started to heat up and has become more consistent while flashing the tools that caused him to go first overall in 2012. After hitting .221 in April, the young Puerto Rican's batting average is now up to .292, and he's walked 30 times in 50 games. Correa is still at least two years away from adding stability to the Astros' big league shortstop position but the wait could be well worth it. Brandon Simes of MiLB.com recently spoke to the young infielder and Correa gave his thoughts on what Mark Appel should look to do now that he's been drafted by the Astros. "Just focus on making the organization proud, keep working hard and try to get to the big leagues as fast as possible," Correa said. "I saw him getting called. I'm very excited to have him here with us in the organization. I'm looking forward to meeting him and being able to play together."
2013 -- Mark Appel, RHP, Stanford University: Appel is not property of the Astros just yet -- and something could still go terribly wrong -- but there is a very good chance that the college senior will eventually come to terms with his hometown club. After turning down the Pittsburgh Pirates as the eighth overall selection of the 2012 draft, the right-handed pitcher's gamble paid off as he has become an even better player, will earn a larger signing bonus, and appears ready to develop into one of the top pitching prospects in the game.
As the saying goes, things are always darkest before the dawn, and -- if the minor league system is any indication -- Houston fans are in for a bright future.
We're a week away from the August 15 deadline for MLB teams to sign their 2011 draft picks. Here's the latest on a few signings, a few players still in negotiations and a few players who are going to college...
- The Dodgers have agreed to terms with sixth-rounder Scott Barlow and 10th-rounder Tyler Ogle, reports Jim Callis of Baseball America. (Twitter links) Barlow, a right-hander who had committed to Fresno State, will earn a $150K bonus. Ogle, a product of the University of Oklahoma, received a $100K bonus.
- George Springer is expected to sign the Astros, tweets Stephen Goff of the Houston Examiner. Goff said he would be surprised if the Astros didn't ink their first-round pick, selected 11th overall.
- Right-hander Jack Armstrong, Houston's third-round selection, talks to MLB.com's Brian McTaggart about his elbow problems and how he isn't worried about the signing deadline. The piece also notes that Springer passed his physical with the team last week. Springer and Armstrong are the only two unsigned players among the Astros' first 13 draft picks.
- "The Royals will be offering the biggest bonus in franchise history" to Bubba Starling, writes Sam Mellinger of the Kansas City Star, and while "most observers expect a contract to be signed...there is just enough in [agent Scott] Boras’ history and confidence to make everyone unsure." Mellinger also briefly details Boras' background and his dealings with the Royals over the last several years.
- Rangers officials tell MLB.com's T.R. Sullivan that they don't expect sixth-round pick Derek Fisher to sign a contract. Fisher, the Pennsylvania high school player of the year, has a commitment to the University of Virginia and "his asking price exceeds what the Rangers are willing to pay."
- The Brewers officially announced the signing of second-rounder Jorge Lopez, reports MLB.com's Audrey Snyder. We heard last week that Milwaukee had agreed to terms with Lopez and fifth-rounder Michael Reed, though no final word has yet come on Reed's deal.
- The Phillies have signed seventh-round pick Kenny Giles to a contract with a $250K bonus, reports Baseball America's Jim Callis (Twitter link). Giles, a high-schooler who had committed to the University of Arizona, "has touched 99 mph with his fastball."
- Marlins second-round pick Adam Conley and Diamondbacks seventh-rounder Ben Roberts will "definitely sign," reports Kendall Rogers of Perfect Game USA, while Yankees sixth-round selection Jake Cave is "about 95 percent" signed. (Twitter links)
- Rogers also tweets that Taylor Ard (a 25th-round pick for the Red Sox) and Derek Jones (the Orioles' 13th-rounder) will not sign. Both players have committed to attend Washington State.
- WEEI.com's Alex Speier has an update on the status of every Red Sox pick from the first 10 rounds of the draft, including both signed and unsigned players.
Thanks to our loyal readers, MLBTR generated 3.1 million pageviews over the weekend! We appreciate you making MLBTR a regular stop, and have a lot of cool things planned in the coming months. On to today's links...
- Mets GM Sandy Alderson told ESPN New York's Adam Rubin that he tried to acquire a reliever before the deadline, but to no avail (Twitter link). He would not rule out a trade before August 31st.
- The Red Sox will not have interest in Lyle Overbay, reports Nick Cafardo of The Boston Globe (on Twitter). The Pirates designated Overbay for assignment today, and as Cafardo notes, he has great numbers in Fenway Park: .323/.395/.500 in 177 plate appearances.
- Anthony DiComo of MLB.com (via Twitter) doesn't envision Jason Isringhausen re-signing with the Mets this offseason.
- The Astros are very confident that they'll sign first-round pick George Springer, but it may come down to the last week, tweets MLB.com's Alyson Footer. Last week we learned that Springer's father met with the independent league Long Island Ducks.
- ESPN's Jerry Crasnick names a bunch of waiver trade candidates in his latest article.
- The Twins wanted closer Drew Storen and minor league second baseman Stephen Lombardozzi for center fielder Denard Span, and the Nationals declined, according to MLB.com's Bill Ladson. I think that would have been a solid deal for Washington.
- The Indians announced they signed infielder Argenis Reyes to a minor league deal; he'd been playing independent ball. In slightly more important news, Ubaldo Jimenez will debut for the Tribe Friday in Texas.
- The extent of Boston's interest in Ubaldo? Scott Lauber of the Boston Herald says exec Allard Baird put in a call on Thursday and the Red Sox weren't in touch after that.
- Both sides have denounced the $30MM figure that was floated for Dylan Bundy, tweets MLB.com's Brittany Ghiroli. Talks are expected to start this week for the Orioles' fourth overall pick. Ghiroli has more on the topic here. Bundy is advised by Jay Franklin at BBI Sports Group; the company also employs his father.
- The Rockies were close to trading third baseman Ian Stewart to an undisclosed National League team yesterday, reports Troy E. Renck of the Denver Post, but the deal fell apart with a half hour to go.
- The Mariners and Red Sox are sharing the costs of Erik Bedard's incentives, reports Geoff Baker of the Seattle Times.
- Newly-acquired players Zack Wheeler and Jonathan Singelton head updated top ten prospects lists for the Mets and Astros, courtesy of Baseball America's Jim Callis.
1:40pm: Springer's father explained to MLB.com's Brian McTaggart that he and his son met with the Ducks' GM as a contingency in case an agreement can't be reached. Returning to college is not a likely option for Springer.
12:23pm: Astros first-round draft pick George Springer may sign with the independent league Long Island Ducks, tweets @zoodig. This development is a sign that the University of Connecticut outfielder is not close to a deal with the deadline about three weeks away.
The typical bonus for the #11 pick is in the $1.8-2MM range, according to Baseball America.
George Springer credits his father - a “tremendous athlete” - for passing along the genes that prompted Baseball America to suggest that the Astros’ first round selection may be the best college athlete in this year’s draft. Springer’s mother passed along something other than athletic genes; she introduced her son to gymnastics at a young age.
“It helped me tremendously with body control and body awareness and just being able to understand my own strength,” Springer said on a conference call.
The 11th overall selection can do flips standing or on the run, but his biggest asset on the baseball field is speed. Springer plays an aggressive, energetic center field for the UConn Huskies, though he’s open to shifting to a different position if that’s what the Astros want.
Before Springer joins the Astros’ outfield, they have to sign him. The commissioner’s office has typically recommended bonuses in the $1.5-2MM range for 11th overall selections, but Springer’s college season is still underway, so he says he has a “long way to go” before negotiating a potential bonus with the Astros.
“I really don’t know,” he said. “I’m still focused on helping [UConn] win.”
The draft takes place one week from today; here’s the latest as teams prepare their draft boards for next Monday...
- ESPN.com’s Keith Law projects the Pirates to select UCLA right-hander Gerrit Cole with the first overall pick, though he says they’re still seriously in on Virginia left-hander Danny Hultzen and high school outfielder Bubba Starling. It’s too early to rule out Rice third baseman Anthony Rendon either.
- The D’Backs could take Hultzen, UCLA right-hander Trevor Bauer or high schooler Dylan Bundy third overall, according to Law.
- It looks like the Orioles will take an arm fourth overall; they have Bundy, high schooler Archie Bradley and Cole in their sights.
- If Bauer falls to the Indians, they’ll take him, according to Law.
- The Cubs “sent a small army” to watch outfielder George Springer at the Big East tournament.
- The Padres are interested in UConn right-hander Matt Barnes and Vanderbilt right-hander Sonny Gray.
- The top three players on one team’s draft board are advised by agent Scott Boras, according to Yahoo’s Jeff Passan.
- Rendon's stock is down a bit because of a dip in production and injury concerns, writes Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic, but Rendon's coach at Rice, Wayne Graham, expects the third baseman to go within the top two picks.
- The Giants shouldn't (and won't) alter their draft strategy in response to Buster Posey's season-ending injury, writes Jim Callis of Baseball America in a mailbag.
With the MLB draft coming up on June 6th, let's take a look at some draft-related tidbits..
- Peter Abraham of the Boston Globe tweets that the Red Sox released Ryan Harvey, who was the 2003 1st round pick of the Cubs. The 26-year-old was trying to convert from the outfield to the mound but never found his way out of extended Spring Training with Boston.
- There's been talk of a lack of elite bats in this year's draft, but there appears to be a good amount of depth when it comes to the outfield prospects, writes Jonathan Mayo of MLB.com. Mayo highlights a number of the top outfielders in the draft, including Bubba Starling, George Springer, Mikie Mahtook, and Jackie Bradley.
- More from Mayo who writes that there's a good deal of buzz around Stanford closer Chris Reed, who is seen by some scouts as a starter. Reed, it appears, will be taken somewhere in the sandwich round.
- Meanwhile, Mayo writes that two pitchers, Oregon lefty Tyler Anderson and Texas A&M right-hander John Stilson, may have hurt their stock with recent poor outings.