George Springer is an asset to fantasy baseball owners, but if he’s really ready to run more his ceiling will rise exponentially.
After setting career-highs across the board in 2017, George Springer dropped off across the board last year. Most notably, he dropped from 34 to 22 home runs, 85 to 71 RBI and his OPS dropped over 100 points. A hidden injury is possible, but he played in the same number of games each season (140).
As the Houston Astros’ leadoff man, Springer has topped 100 runs scored in each of the last three seasons. But after coming to the big leagues with stolen base acumen (77 over the 2012 and 2013 seasons), and stealing 16 bases on 20 attempts over 102 games for the Astros in 2015, he is a dismal 20-for-41 on steal attempts over the last three seasons.
Springer hit his first home run of the spring on Monday. He reported to camp at 218 pounds, 12 pounds lighter than his typical playing weight. But being lighter is part of a broader plan, as Springer told reporters before Monday’s game, including Chandler Rome of the Houston Chronicle:
“I’m already strong enough. I don’t need to come into camp at 235 pounds … I need to be able to run, do what Skip wants me to do day in and day out.”
Springer has three stolen bases this spring, and the Astros as a whole have attempted 20 steals (13 successful) over their first 12 Grapefruit League contests entering Tuesday. Manager A.J. Hinch has placed priority on aggressiveness to the entire team this spring, with an emphasis on better secondary leads for some players. It appears Springer is taking those directions onto the field.
Last year the Astros only stole 71 bases as a team, good for 10th in the American League.
There is a line to be drawn regarding a more aggressive approach on the bases for the Astros, particularly pertaining to the leadoff man. Hinch surely doesn’t want Springer running into outs, with Alex Bregman and Jose Altuve following him in the lineup. His lack of efficiency, with a AL-leading 10 caught-stealing in 2016 and the same number of steals and caught-stealing (11) over the last two seasons, also makes pushing a change in approach concerning.
Still, Springer could easily double his attempts and reach double-digit steals this year. With some correction in home run/fly ball rate (15 percent last year; 20.2 percent career), 30 home runs is in play for 2019.
Via Fantasy Pros consensus data Springer is currently being drafted as OF18 in mixed leagues. Even with some upside built into a fresh projection, clearly outperforming that ADP (mid-fifth round in a 12-team league) is not necessarily in the cards.
But the prospect of 25-30 home runs and 10-20 stolen bases, to go with his typical 100-plus runs scored and a batting average that at least won’t hurt fantasy owners, puts Springer in the conversation as someone to consider targeting in your fantasy draft.