Astros call up highly touted prospect Springer
Outfielder joins Houston after tearing up Triple-A pitching at Oklahoma City
HOUSTON -- Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow said he had been thinking about calling up outfield prospect George Springer for several days prior to finally pulling the trigger following Tuesday's night loss to the Royals at Minute Maid Park.
The Astros, struggling mightily on offense this year, should receive a boost from the arrival of Springer, who will be uniform for Wednesday's game and will likely start in right field. The team also reinstated pitcher Scott Feldman from the bereavement list and designated right-hander Lucas Harrell for assignment in moves announced Wednesday. Outfielder Robbie Grossman was optioned to Triple-A Oklahoma City.
Springer, Houston's first-round pick (No. 11) in 2011, was hitting .353 with three homers and nine RBIs at Oklahoma City while playing right field and center field. Luhnow said a combination of factors led to his decision to call on Springer.
"We feel pretty good with the reps he's got in Spring Training and the reps he's gotten so far during the season that defensively he's ready to go," he said. "Offensively, he's been heating up the last week or so, and we want to get a guy when he's hot."
The Astros are hitting .185 as a team through 14 games, with several players in slumps, including Chris Carter (.136), Jason Castro (.179), Matt Dominguez (.196), Mark Krauss (.120) and Jonathan Villar (.163).
"We've got guys here that are really struggling offensively, and we're hoping he adds that spark to our offense and gets everybody going," Luhnow said. "What better way to get them going than to bring up the rookie that potentially could be a game-changer."
Springer, the Astros' No. 3 prospect and No. 21 overall, continued his assault on Minor League pitching Tuesday. He went 3-for-4 with a grand slam, a walk and four runs in Oklahoma City's 11-9 victory at Colorado Springs.
"He's not going to a perfect player, but he's going to be a darn good player and has a chance to be a very special player," Luhnow said.
Luhnow had initially given himself a deadline of the end of this series against the Royals to call up Springer if the club was still struggling on offense like it's been. Things soon changed.
"After Saturday's game when we scored those five runs in that one inning, I thought, 'OK, well maybe we've turned around and I'll give it a little more time,'" Luhnow said. "When you start a season with a group of players, you want to give them enough time to succeed, but the reality is we're at the point where we can't afford to have players underperforming and playing every day. We can't have that, so in the case of both Lucas and Grossman, it was time to make a change.
"We're not in a position where we can let players struggle for long periods of time in Houston. That's what Triple-A is for, and there are other options, and we have enough talent in our organization where everybody needs to realize that if you're not performing, there's another option for us, and we're going to go and get that option at some point."
Luhnow did admit he's worried about the pressure Springer could face being viewed by most as the man who will save the team on offense.
Last year, Springer batted .303 with a .411 on-base percentage while slugging .600 with 37 homers, 45 steals and 83 walks between Double-A Corpus Christi and Oklahoma City en route to being named the Astros' Minor League Player of the Year.
"I am concerned about that, but not enough to not make the move happen, because the reality is he's got a history of being an exciting player who can hit home runs and steal bases and play good defense," Luhnow said. "If he just sticks to what he's good at, he's going to be fine. We think he's ready. Everybody has some transition when they get to the big leagues, and I expect he will have some transition.
"He will have our support, and I fully believe that he is a type of worker and player that will quickly address any deficiencies that reveal themselves, and he will be what everybody hopes and expects him to be, which is a very good to great player."
Springer, 24, wasn't promoted to the Majors Leagues last year because the Astros didn't need to put him on the 40-man roster just yet and wanted to save that roster spot. Luhnow didn't rule out Springer making the Opening Day roster out of Spring Training, but he emphasized that Springer is an everyday player and would have to win a starting job.
By calling up Springer now, he'll likely qualify for Super Two status and be eligible for arbitration one year earlier than he would have if he were called up after the Super Two eligibility date (expected to by late May/early June). That would be a hit to the team's pocketbook, but it will be worth it if he's as good as advertised.