The Houston Astros shuffled their outfield stable up earlier this week because, as GM Jeff Luhnow noted, they had too many outfielders with similar shortcomings on their roster. Basically, the team has been swinging and missing way too often. That's the understatement of the year! George Springer was not part of the new outfield reinforcement movement, but if the Astros' flycatchers continue to underwhelm all season, we may just see him be called up.
Every day, he's Hultzen, Hultzen
For now, though, Luhnow was adamant that Springer will remain at Double-A Corpus Christi, where he's hitting .289 with 11 home runs and 27 RBIs in just 121 at-bats. He also has nine stolen bases in 11 attempts. Springer is tall for an outfielder at 6-foot-3, 200 pounds, but he's extremely athletic and has the speed needed to cover adequate ground in center field. He has topped 20 home runs and 20 stolen bases in both of his full seasons in the minor leagues, and he should carry that 20-20 ability with him to the majors when he's ready.
He strikes out a tad too much to project solid batting average growth into Class AAA and the major league level right now, but if he closes some of the holes in his swing, he could become an elite fantasy baseball contributor once he reaches Houston and earns an everyday role in the outfield.
A September call-up is realistic in 2013. We already know the Astros are rebuilding, and it probably won't hurt them to give Springer a look late this year before he comes into spring camp competing for a roster spot in 2014. There are plenty of other young outfielders currently on the 40-man roster, however, and they'll be given a shot first. Springer should already be on the radar of keeper leaguers, but he should be starting to make his way into sight in deep mixed leagues next season. Continue to monitor his progress at Class AA and if he gets promoted to Triple-A Oklahoma City sometime this summer.
Danny Hultzen, the Seattle Mariners' top prospect pitching arm other than Taijuan Walker, was scratched from his start at Triple-A Tacoma in late April and was diagnosed with a strained rotator cuff and tendonitis in his left shoulder. He was told to rest for two weeks, and that was back on April 26. Before his injury, Hultzen was 3-1 with a 2.78 ERA and 25 K's in 22 2/3 innings (four starts).
Hultzen is an extremely advanced pitcher for his age (23), even with only one full season of minor league experience under his belt. He dominated at Double-A Jackson in 2012 before being called up to Tacoma, where he struggled with a 5.92 ERA and 43 walks in 48 2/3 frames. He had seemingly corrected his command problems at Tacoma this year before being injured with only six walks in his four starts.
Hultzen uses his tall, 6-foot-3, 200-pound body to give hitters a tough look with a high arm slot. This also creates excellent downward movement on his pitches. His changeup is his out pitch, and if he can perfect that pitch to complement his slider and fastball, Hultzen will be a high-K-upside pitcher at the next level.
His injury puts a damper on his inevitable ascension to The Show, however, and fantasy managers eager to own him this season may have to hold off until 2014. What's even more frustrating is that before he was sidelined, he looked like he was first in line for a promotion to the M's rotation. That honor could now go to any number of pitchers at Tacoma: Jeremy Bonderman, Blake Beavan or Erasmo Ramirez.
Don't completely count Hultzen out yet, though, in keeper leagues or even cavernous mixed formats. He could rebound from his injury soon, and if he picks up where he left off in April, Seattle may come calling. There's an argument to be made that he'll warrant ownership in all leagues if he's called up this season.
About Keith Hernandez
Keith, an editor with KFFL, joined the team as a Hot off the Wire analyst in 2008 and has been playing fantasy sports since 2005. He is involved in MLB, NFL and NASCAR content. He graduated from the University of California-San Diego in 2005 with a B.A. in Communications and was a four-year starter as a member of the baseball program.
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