I love it when they make me look like I know what I’m talking about.
Prior to last season, my friends and I shared our best-in-the-AL West-prospect lists. Rangers’ prospect Jurickson Profar took almost everyone’s top spot. Mariners’ right-hander Taijuan Walker got a lot of love as well. Other consensus choices were Mike Olt, Mike Zunino and Carlos Correa. One of my best friends who is an A’s fan — God bless him — even threw Sonny Gray’s name into the mix.
But there was one name strangely absent from everyone else’s list.
It was at that moment I proclaimed Astros outfield prospect George Springer might just turn out to be the best player of any then-current minor-leaguer out of the AL West.
Who the heck is George Springer? — someone asked. I don’t much talk to that someone anymore.
At the time, my answer was simple. George Springer is a right-handed version of Larry Walker. Too high of praise, my friend accused. Like I said, we don’t much talk anymore.
Walker was indeed a great player. He is one of those guys I put in the class of greatest players that justifiably aren’t in the Hall of Fame. Through 17 years in the big leagues, Walker could do it all. In an era where the term “five tools” got bandied about far too readily, Walker was a legit five-tool player.
The Rockies great won three NL batting crowns in four years: 1998 (.363), ’99 (.379) and 2001 (.350). Walker not only led the NL with 49 home runs in 1997 en route to being named NL MVP, he also earned one of his seven career Gold Gloves. He also tabbed 150 career assists as a right fielder.
The point of the player comparison wasn’t to claim Springer is going to compile such a resume. Who the heck knows what Springer is going to do over the next decade or two? Maybe he will pull a John Frank and decide to quit professional sports to attend medical school. (That is your obscure reference to 49ers football of the ‘80s, thank you very much.) In the meantime, rest assured that in the here-and-now, George Springer is a bad, bad man on a baseball diamond.
Last year, Springer took it to another level. After two seasons of proving himself as a solid prospect in 2011 and ’12, Springer emerged as one of the best prospects in all of baseball in 2013 while being promoted from Double-A Corpus Christi and Triple-A Oklahoma. The center fielder fell three homers shy of going 40-40, clubbing 37 home runs and stealing 45 bases. And yes, he can catch and throw.
On the heels of his alma mater UConn sweeping the national championships in men’s and women’s basketball, it is fitting Springer received the call to the major leagues Tuesday.
Good luck, George Springer. Thanks for making me look like I know what I’m talking about.