Astros nation is pretty excited, and rightly so. Three st right 100-loss seasons, a change in baseball management, a logo re-branding and a switch in leagues have all been accepted as a part of a plan for the future, one which Astros' fans have bought into, mainly because it has come with the excitement of a rejuvenated farm system. Now, the first significant fruit of that labor is on his way to Houston today in the form of center fielder George Springer, causing some of the irrational exuberance that can only come from the combination of losing and optimism.
The best way to keep the faith of the locals through a stretch of bad seasons is with prospects to generate optimism for the future. Just ask Cubs fans. The people of Houston have given GM Jeff Luhnow carte blanche to build up the farm system at the expense of the major league club, and he's done just that. With the promotion of Springer, Astros fans feel like the worst is over and that everything is uphill from here.
Which, to a certain extent is true. But the most common mistake fans make when it comes to following prospects is to get over-excited and set themselves up for disappointment.
Springer is a very good prospect. At Baseball Prospectus, we ranked him second in the stacked Astros farm system and 20th overall in baseball. He should immediately become the best hitter in the Astros lineup, although in a lineup with seven regulars hitting under .200, that's not hard to do.
But what he's not is the savior to the Astros futility. He is just one player on a bad team and won't change much on his own. He's also not without his flaws. He's much more of Mike Cameron than Mike Trout.
Springer is going to strike out a lot, a characteristic that actually will allow him to fit right in to the Astros whiff-prone lineup. It hasn't held him back yet, but with two seasons of over 150 strikeouts in shorter minor league seasons, he could approach the 180-200 strikeout mark in the majors. It didn't hurt Cameron either, who was a 20-20 player five times and a 4-WAR or better player six times despite massive strike out totals, so it's not a complete knock on Springer, but it does require us to restrain our excitement when discussing his potential, which otherwise would be exceptional. Springer profiles as a similar type player to Cameron, complete with strong center field defense, and immediately becomes the most well-rounded Astro on a team filled with one-dimensional players.
Springer undoubtedly makes the Astros better, and fans should be excited. He is the first major piece of the prospects that are going to turn this franchise around and is every bit the signal that the team is heading in the right direction that the fans have anointed him to be. But he is a flawed hitter that could struggle at times and be prone to extreme hot and cold streaks. No player is the savior of an entire franchise, and he's not even the best prospect that's on their way to the majors. He just happens to be the first.
He is, however, the only player in the Astros lineup that opposing teams will need to truely fear, which, for the Astros, is a significant step in the right direction.