The Angels lucked out big time in 2008 with uber-prospect Mike Trout, who has not-so-quietly developed into one of the game’s two best prospects.
For some lucky team drafting in the top-five in 2011, they could be looking at a similar situation with Connecticut slugger George Springer.
Springer has blossomed into a true five-tool outfielder for the Huskies, and is expected to be a key piece of what the team hopes is a run to the CWS this season. He did his part last season, helping UConn to a 48-16 record and a CWS regional bid.
Springer hit .337 with 18 home runs and broke school records with 60 walks and 84 runs scored. He led the team in OBP, and also stole 33 bases in 35 attempts. In the field, he registered only one error all season.
As a freshman in 2009, Springer became the first Huskie to earn the honor of Big East Freshman of the Year after he hit .358 with 16 homers and 57 RBI, establishing numerous Big East and UConn freshman records.
Springer has also spent a chunk of the past two summers on the Cape playing in the CCBL, learning to adjust to wooden bats. He performed well enough this past summer that he ranked as the number one prospect in the league according to ESPN’s Keith Law.
As a pro player, Springer would most likely ditch his five-tool talent to focus on his best tool: His power. His focus on power would eventually necessitate a shift from center-field to a corner, where he has the potential to develop into a 30+ home run guy. Think of Alex Rios as a good comp for Springer.
Aside from hitting, Springer is an above-average defender, and should excel as a corner outfielder, where his arm strength will be more than good enough, and his athleticism will make tracking down balls a piece of cake.
And while his speed will likely diminish as he focuses on developing his power stroke, he should still maintain 15-20 steal speed in the Majors.
There’s been some talk circulating that Springer could have an outside shot at the number-one overall spot in the 2011 draft. With Anthony Rendon available, I find it hard to believe, but if he doesn’t respond well from his second ankle surgery in two years, it is a distinct possibility, and frankly, one that should get the Pirates thinking.