While the competition will be stiff, George Springer will at least have the opportunity to contend for American League Rookie of the Year.
The Houston Astros promoted Springer after the RedHawks 11-9 win Tuesday night in Colorado Springs, a game in which Springer hit a grand slam.
Springer being called up roughly two weeks into the season gives him an opportunity to showcase his skills the final 150 games in Houston. Some already are saying Springer will be the new face of the Astros.
“This game can humble you quickly,” Springer said at RedHawks media day. “That’s something I hold on to. My focus is to improve in all areas I didn’t have success last season. It’s not just offense or defense. It has to be both.”
A superb center fielder with great speed, Springer cuts down balls in gaps, turning potential doubles into outs. But he’ll probably play right field for Houston after the Astros acquired Dexter Fowler in the off-season which is why Springer primarily was playing right field for the RedHawks.
“The angles are different,” Springer said. “In this game you always have to adjust. If I end up playing somewhere other than center I’ll do everything I can to adjust.”
The timing assists the Astros. Some teams wait until mid-June to push back a player’s arbitration clock one year.
In Springer’s case, if Houston waited until after April 11 to promote Springer he couldn’t be a free agent until after the 2020 season. If he made the Opening Day roster, and remained in Houston all season, he would have become a free agent after the 2019 season.
Last season Springer nearly became the first minor leaguer in almost half a century to steal 40 bases and hit 40 homers in a season. Springer hit .303 with 37 homers, 45 steals, 108 RBIs and a .411 on-base percentage splitting time between Corpus Christi and Oklahoma City.
This season, Springer was batting .353 with three homers, nine RBIs, four steals and a .459 on-base percentage in 13 games with the RedHawks.
As for the Rookie of the Year race, even if Springer compiles stats normally worthy of the award, two foreign imports make 2014 a tough year to win the award.
White Sox slugging first baseman Jose Abreu, a star from Cuba who can also hit to all fields, is the overwhelming favorite.
Yankees right-hander Mashario Tanaka, the Japanese star, has a shot.
Red Sox shortstop Xander Bogaerts, a more traditional rookie candidate, is off to a slow start.
At least Springer will get the opportunity. Robbie Grossman was reassigned to Oklahoma City to make room for Springer.
“He’s pretty darn confident and pretty darn competitive,” said RedHawks hitting coach Leon Roberts two weeks ago. “Andrew (Jones) was the best five-tool guy I’ve coached the past 20 years. Like Andruw Jones, (Springer) has similar tools; the numbers, the defense, the throwing, running the bases. It’s just a matter of before he gets the phone call.”
That phone call came Tuesday night.