Upon being called up in 2014, Houston Astros outfielder George Springer made a big impact. Over just 78 games (295 at-bats) in his first big league action, he hit 20 home runs and drove in 51 runs on his way to a top-10 finish in the American League Rookie of the Year race.
Expectations were high for Springer heading into 2015, and he mostly delivered by hitting .264 with 13 home runs and 14 stolen bases through July 1 (75 games). But he suffered a fractured right wrist when hit by a pitch during that first game of July, and Springer’s absence until September surely hampered a lot of fantasy baseball owners.
Springer finished last season solidly, with a .304/.373/.464 slash-line, three home runs and 12 RBI over his final 27 games. That yielded solid final numbers, with a .276 average, 16 home runs and 16 stolen bases, and taking into account just 388 at-bats it’s easy to project big things for Springer in 2016.
Springer only had five stolen bases in seven attempts with the Astros in 2014, but in only a slightly bigger sample size of playing time he ran much more last season (20 attempts). That fits better with his minor league track record (45 stolen bases in 2013), and Springer also shifted into the leadoff spot often (182 at-bats, with four stolen bases) for Houston last year. That said, he actually had more stolen bases (eight) when hitting third in the lineup last season.
An elevated BABIP (.342) boosted Springer’s batting average last year, but he also traded fly balls (30.1 percent in 2015; 39.3 percent in 2014) for line drives (24.5 percent in 2015; 15.3 percent in 2014). So somewhere between last year’s .276 and 2014’s .231 batting average looks like a reasonable expectation in that category for Springer in 2016.
Given the relatively unique nature of last year’s injury, durability concerns should not follow Springer into the coming season. His lineup spot may dictate some of his production, particularly his RBI total, and if his 2015 BABIP corrects his batting average may fall a bit. But I’m easily putting Springer in line for a 20-20 season in 2016, and there’s upside potential in both of those totals if he gets 500-plus at-bats.