George Springer: Brian Todd explores the Super Two question


Brian Todd starts the week with a gut-check — some might consider controversial — question regarding George Springer and other rookies-to-be. It’s certainly a question that Jeff Luhnow will consider and one that the players themselves could decide with a great or average spring.

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If the world was a fair world, there would be no doubt. George Springer would be standing in centerfield on Opening Day waiting for that first fly ball from some damned Yankee (spit) hitter.

But the world isn’t fair, and the MLB collective bargaining agreement includes something called “Super Two.” According to Wikipedia (OK, I’m a cheater), a player has Super Two status if “he has at least two years of major league service but less than three, AND is among the top 22 percent for cumulative playing time in the majors in this class of players (and ties), AND was on an active major-league roster for at least 86 days in the previous season.”

If Springer starts the season in centerfield, none of that matters, His Major League clock starts. If he spends April and May and maybe part of June in Oklahoma City, well, now Springer isn’t so super.

For 2014, in the grand scheme of things, whether Springer plays all season in centerfield or not doesn’t really matter. Two extra months of George Springer, no matter how good he is, won’t put the Astros in the playoff hunt. They might not even pick up any extra wins, though they probably would. But even a couple of extra wins, well, what does it matter?

If he starts in centerfield on Opening Day or gets Super Two status, Springer becomes arbitration eligible in 2017 and is a free agent by 2020. If his Major League start is delayed a couple of months, just a couple of months in what is bound to be a crummy year anyway, then George Springer isn’t arbitration eligible until 2018. He won’t be a free agent until 2021.

You can make the same argument for Mark Appel. I know he’s not going to start the season on the 25-man roster, but if he starts the season in Corpus, is it possible if there are some injuries or ineffective starters that Appel finds his way to Houston by the end of May?

What about Jonathan Singleton? Last year in limited spring training action, he slugged the cover off the ball. What if he does the same this year, and Wallace and The Whiff King stink it up? What if Singleton goes to OKC, hits .290 and slugs the ball like, well, like he’s George Springer or something? Then Wallace starts the season hitting so badly he dreams of the Mendoza Line. Do you bring Singleton up on, say, May 15?

I could play this game all day. Alex Sogard is working on his control and consistency in the AFL right now. Jonas Dufek has struck out 12 and walked 2 in 9.1 AFL innings. And his WHIP is 1.02. Domingo Santana has a .952 OPS in the Dominican Winter League.

But keep them down, and they are hitting arbitration during the first club-option year of Altuve’s long term deal.

More importantly, they are cost controlled just that much longer while we wait for Correa and Ruiz. If all goes as planned (ha ha), Correa gets called up some time after Super Two in 2015. Maybe he doesn’t make the team until 2016. Ruiz is 2016 at the earliest. So we get those two through their rookie years and have one more year of Springer, etc. without having to spend an arm and a leg. Maybe we used that saved money in 2017 to get some bullpen help or an extra needed bat.

Maybe that cost control is the difference between a good team and a great one. Maybe, if 2017 s the year, it can be what puts Houston in the playoffs. Or maybe keeping Springer in OKC to start 2014 gets Houston to make it through the playoffs in 2017.

So, should Houston hold Springer down on the farm?

Is the $3 million or $4 million in 2017 worth it? What about the extra year of arbitration, keeping Springer from becoming a free agent until 2021? And keep in mind, if more than one rookie starts his Major League clock on Opening Day or gets Super Two status, you can multiply those numbers by each player.

If our other first basemen can’t provide the offense Houston needs at the corner, do we bring a smoke-free Singleton up before June?

Do we pick start Springer but hold the line on Singleton no matter what? Or, since we have a decent center fielder already (Barnes), do we bring up Singleton at first where we need him and delay Springer’s start?

Do you all hate me now for even suggesting all this?

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“Brian Todd lives in Rochester, Minnesota where his friends would make fun of him for being an Astros’ fan if the Twins didn’t suck too.”

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39 comments on “George Springer: Brian Todd explores the Super Two question

  1. Tough choices I guess the way Lunhow plays all this out will tell us what him and Crane are really thinking. If all their strategy is based on Super 2, then I would have to say they are looking to at least 2015-16 to be the team/organziation they are hoping to be long term. UGH

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    • It also says something about resources. If they avoid Super Two it means they are saving money from 2017 through 2020. That money, which grows each year, can be used for a piece of the puzzle. What if ghat extra $3 million means buying the kind of player Jeff Keppinger was when we had him? A utility player like that can make or break a team on the fence.

      Look, no one wants to see Springer on opening day more than I do. But if the avoid Super Two with him–and the others–it means “The Plan” has more long-term facets than we previously considered.

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  2. If the Astros(Luhnow’ s) main plan calls for sqeezing every dollar it can out of it’s players from now until forever, then Spring will start the year in OKC and be called up when his clock is ready. This would, of course, prove to the world that winning still means nothing to the Astros this year. Springer’s placement will reveal the nature of the beast.
    The real catch 22 to this type of thinking is the revelation to every Astros’s prospect, that winning comes second when compared to money, and the Astros’s prospects will remember that when it comes to signing long term deals with this club.
    Now let’s get one thing very clear: The Astros had the worst offensive production out of their CF position than any team in major League baseball, That is a fact, go look it up, I did. The Astros were the only team whose CF produced anOPS under .600 last year and it was way under .600 and way under the 29th team.
    Consider the fact that the Astros were also the worst defensive team in MLB and the worst baserunning team in MLB last year.
    Now if you have a five tool, Offensive Minor League POY ready to play and you dont play him where you need him worse than any team in baseball, that means that money means more than the fans, the players, and the game to your team and that your GM is the illigitimate son of your truly terrible owner.

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    • Oldpro,

      What about the others? Say Springer opens in Houston, do we hold the line on others no matter what they do this spring? Say Wallace stinks and Carter is average but Singleton is on fire in Florida. Do we hold Singleton back? Give Wallace another chance to fall on his face?
      What if we’re looking at that last bullpen spot and it’s between some retread free agent and Dufek? Say Dufek, who I don’t think has pitched at AA yet, is unhittable in spring training. Do we call him up by May 15?

      Do we call up Singleton on May 20 if we need help at first base or do we let Wallace stumble along? Do we endure two and a half months of record-breaking whiffing again from Carter?

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      • Since you asked, I think you make Singleton the 1B IN THE scenario you presented, because Wallace has been bad 90% of the time for 3 years and Singleton cannot be worse than Wallace and has the chance to get better. They also have Amador. Dufek is a different story.
        We have some young bullpen arms and the team has said they are going to spend money there. If they don’t… well, here we are again talking about offspring. I believe we let Dufek follow his plan to emerge when he is ready.
        To embellish on my point in the earlier post, if someone like a Carlos Rodon sees that the Astros are dead set against rewarding any player with advancement, due to future salary considerations, I would think that every player available would try to milk every dollar out of the Astros every chance they get. Loyalty breeds loyalty, and dung breeds stink. I err on the side of loyalty to my potential superstars especially after using their name in every interview you have given for the last year.

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  3. There are things in life that I will never understand. (Great story, Brian T). I know the football coach always starts his son at quarterback, with a better player moved to flanker. But one would hope that the best 25 players in the organization were on the MLB roster, and years forward, the Astros would not have an aversion to their own FAs. Under the above scenario, you would always have better and younger talent in the minors, but keeping junk in the majors. (Please re-read sentence one)

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    • Hey, I’m just here to stir the pot.

      And oldpro, replace Dufek with any young arm who hasn’t seen Houston yet, and it is still a conundrum. And it may not be as cut and dried as “Wallace stinks, Singleton can hit.” Maybe Wallace comes out of spring training with a bit of power hitting about .260, and he continues that through the first two months or so. But Singleton is slugging hard and hitting .290 or better. Then what do you do? Wallace is “serviceable,” but …

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      • What I said was Wallce has stunk enough over a decent period of time that if Singleton has a great spring training you go with him. It is better for the fans at the park and on TV(ten of them) to see a potential future player to struggle or produce when he is 22, but did well in ST, than to watch a guy who has been given tons of chances and looked terrible in 2013 and is five years older.
        Since Dufek has not been to AA yet, you might accelerate his plan with his success in low minors, but do you let him pitch in MLB at this point. I would see if he blows away 24 year olds at AA before I bring him up. Just my opinion.

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      • Wallace is only a part of the first base discussion today because we have not had a better option to put there. If Singleton make a splash at any point, Wallace goes, and that’s under the premise that Wallace is still around when Singleton finally shows enough. I’m hoping Wallace is gone on April 1, with or without Singleton on the 25 man roster.

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  4. Thanks Brian T for raising my blood pressure…..I know you are writing to stir the pot….Here is Dan’s multi-leveled essay on why Springer needs to start the year here.
    1) Age – He is older than Jose Altuve, Jonathan Villar, Jordan Lyles, Jarred Cosart and LJ Hoes. He is basically the same age as Matt Dominguez, Robbie Grossman and Brett Olberholtzer. For some persepctive – he is 3 years older than Bryce Harper who is starting his 3rd season in the majors, 1 year older than Anthony Rendon who is starting his second year and between 4 months and 2 years older than Cardinal star pitchers, Shelby Miller, Trevor Rosenthal and Michael Wacha. Forget about arbitration pay – when do we have to start paying him a retirement pension?
    Attitude – What kind of attitude do you expect from George Springer and any other minor leaguers in the system when they see the reward for putting up a nearly 40-40 year is more minor league bus rides? Sure you can say – it is only a few months… I think this is sending the wrong signal to the kids below.
    Future – You are talking to a high school kid like Lance McCullers Jr and you want him to join the Astros rather than kick back and enjoy the college life at Stanford or UT…. What are you going to point to … that we will promote you quickly up the line, but sit on you until you make sense economically?
    Luhnow’s health – If Springer does not make the Astros coming out of spring training, Luhnow will probably not be run out of town on a rail – small pieces of what’s left of his body may get run out of town on a rail. (And yes it is possible that you could not find enough interested parties to actually do this – but why risk it Jeff?)

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  5. I agree with OldPro. If they are good enough to make the roster then get them on the roster. If I was held back so the team could save money at my expense, I would remember it when the arbitration period began. Also, who is to say that after we bring all of these guys up as early as possible, we don’t have better guys behind them. If Luhnow and our talent evaluators are doing their jobs, we should not be limited to only 1.1 draft pick talent. Look at St. Louis, they haven’t drafted at number one within my fading memory.

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  6. When it comes to Springer, I agree wholeheartedly. Luhnow already did delay him once when he did not call Springer up in September. And, though no one liked it including me, there was a very good reason for it (an extra spot on the 40-man roster this winter).

    But I thin with other players, the question is less cut and dried. I think Singleton, even if he’s hitting the cover off the ball, stays in OKC for half the summer barring injuries to Wallace and Carter. Singleton has not proven he can hit AAA pitching, and unless he hits 1.000 in spring training, I think his 2013 shows he needs some seasoning.

    Dufek might be a bad example, but other pitchers–there’s a handful of them–with AA and AAA experience present similar tough calls. And it also depends on who Luhnow signs for our bullpen.

    And what if we can’t find that corner outfielder in free agency or via trade? Do we plug in a hot-hitting Santana? He’s tearing up the DWL. Do we start his clock before June? Say Grossman stumbles to start the season. Not horrible, but hitting .245 and really struggling. Do we put up with that until late June to avoid Super Two with Santana?

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    • I don’t really have a problem with them waiting a bit on Santana and Singleton. They are both much younger than Springer (Singleton 2 years, Santana almost 3). Singleton did not play well at AAA last season, Santana played well at AA – but not spectacularly and should at least be asked to put up a 1/2 season of decent work at AAA first.

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  7. Springer aside, I think the criteria for delaying a player has to do with his most likely development path. After a strong spring, prospect X may break camp with the team and go on a tear for two months, only to struggle with adjustments. Then, he spends the next two years up and down trying to get it together. A player that fits that profile (Singleton) should be sent to AAA regardless of his ST performance. I don’t think Springer fits that profile. He has adjusted, and even improved, with each advancement.

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  8. I have almost nothing to say today. oldpro has already summed up exactly what I was going to touch on. Why would a guy want to play long term for an organization that would deprive him of an opening day start after tearing up every level of minor league ball? On a team with no center fielder to begin with. And then add further insult by delaying his first real payday by a year?

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  9. Totally unrelated to this post – but I did want to point out something that should lift the hearts of all Astros fans. The Astros entered 2013 with few if any expectations on their shoulders and won 31% of their games. The Texans entered 2013 thinking Super Bowl or bust and have won 22% of their games.
    Now don’t you feel better?
    Since I’m also a Texans fan I don’t – but probably somebody feels better!

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    • Dan, I did not believe the hype. Too many question marks. I did not see a remarkably talented team in every area. Heck, they don’t even a kicker. And I also don’t think Kubiak is the coach to take them to a Super Bowl. I wish him the best of health of course. Life is short. And I hope his career does not take time from him and his loved ones.

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      • But I like what Case Keenum is doing. I was sports editor in Abilene when Case was at Wylie High. That was the same time period Colt was at Jim Ned and the guy at Abilene High (Taylor? I can’t remember) went to Texas Tech.
        I always liked Case’s game and I’m glad he’s getting a chance to show what he can do.

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  10. OK, back to Springer. I would like to know everyone’s expectations for him this year. Let’s pretend he is the starting CF on opening day. What will he accomplish this year?

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    • I think Springer hits in the .275 to .290 range. If he can develop that two-strike approach without significantly diminishing his power, we’re looking at 30 HRs, 25 steals and an OPS near .800.
      I also think he’s Rookie of the Year material. Does he win? Who knows. But he’ll be in the running.
      And, yes, despite the questions I pose above, I think he starts in Houston unless he hits below .200 in spring training or is injured.

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  11. Jose Altuve is a good mention, but a better one is Evan Longoria. Here’s the deal on Springer: are they certain he’s going to be a top 5 CF in the league AND want to play in Houston? If so they will start him in Houston and pay no more attention to the super 2 because he’ll be getting a favorable deal to both parties to buy him out of some of those years. Regardless, he probably does still have some improving to do in terms of pitch selection. Virtually everyone agrees he has no two strike approach. Will he improve / learn this at the MLB level if given the chance? It could be the difference between being Chris Young or being Andrew McCutchen.

    Singleton has to start the season at AAA with direction on exactly what he needs to do to get to the big league club. He’s young and obviously doesn’t need the pressure yet. Carter needs to be out of the outfield. It’s a win-win.

    I think there are too many arms at AAA which are likely not going to challenge for all star spots in the future, but can provide the innings needed to NOT promote any promising pitchers until June or later.

    Let’s see what happens at the GM meetings. It feels like there have to be moves to make.

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    • Devin, I don’t get your point. First of all, there is no certainty in any of this stuff. If anyone could possibly know now that Springer was going to be a top five center fielder and want to remain in Houston down the road, then Luhnow’s job would be too easy. Sure Springer strikes out more than we’d like him to, but he’s a power hitter with a .394 minor league OBP. And he does everything else well. We don’t have any guys like that now.

      And a question for you, before I ask why: You mention that there are arms at AAA that can provide the innings needed to NOT promote any promising pitchers until June or later….Which promising pitchers would you not promote? And which arms would you use in the meantime?

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  12. 1Oldpro: I would take .270, 20 SBs and an improvement in CF and be happy. As stated before, one would think the best 25 play. He fits that profile with the current roster.

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    • That’s pretty close to my thinking. I’m hoping for .260, 25 2B, 22 HR’s and 80 RBI’s. If he can rattle off those numbers, I think he will get some walks and keep that OBP up there. If he can limit his K’s to 150 in 600 PA’s he would be doing great for his rookie year, but I see him closer to 190 than 150. I was thinking 25-30 steals. He is supposed to be a fine fielder, but I have never seen him play.
      I’m dying for a TV deal so I can watch him and the rest of the 2014 Astros play. .

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  13. If we could get a .270BA/ .800 OPS and 25 HR/ 25 SB – that would be a great start for Springer. I hope his 25 SBs only has about 5 caught stealings – we were only successful 64% of the time last season and every stat guy in the world would tell you if you can’t steal successfully more often than that you should not steal (though I wonder if that applies to a team that is terrible in on-base %, slugging and strikes out the most in mlb history).

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  14. A few of you are not going to agree with me on this. When we acquired Jon Singleton he was immediately moved to our Top 3 Prospects list. He has spent 2.5 years in our system, being a Top 50 prospect in Baseball all that time. He is now sliding down on our prospect list and has spent almost five years in the minors.
    Jon is 6’2″ and weighs 235 lbs. He has one full year at AA and hit well there. Then he wasted a year. But it is time to either trade him while he has value as a top 50 prospect or bring him up and see what he’s got.
    Why would you sign a free agent for millions, when you have a top 50 prospect at AAA, whose problems may stem from the fact he feels he is ready to be given a chance with his organization, who has given Wallace many chances and is lousy.
    Every ranking system thinks this guy is a top prospect and sending him to AAA for year six in the minors may not be what he needs. Either trade him while he is valued or put him at first base and let’s see what we have.

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    • I am with you on this one for a change. I stated many times last year, “Quit yo yoing Wallace and lets see what we have.” Well I think we know at age 27. He hit .221 with 104 strikeouts. Singleton regressed or hit his peak or something in 2013. Yet over 3 teams he hit .230. So my take today for 2014 – play Singleton and lets see what we have, or trade him.

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    • I would be on Singleton’s side if…..
      1) He had not been hitting the whacky weed and gotten himself suspended or….
      2) He had played worth a toot when he got back
      If they hold him back this next season it is not holding him back as much as he held himself back.

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      • Dan, think he plays better with a bit of a buzz? Maybe that explains the fall off. In all seriousness, I don’t really have any expectation of Singleton. There has been a lot of hype around this guy from day 1. Maybe 2013 was just an aberration and he’ll get back on track. But he’ll always be a bit of a liability at first, and he won’t be going first to third on a base hit regularly. But most importantly, he’ll always be fighting the weight issue.

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  15. So what does anyone think about this morning’s revelation that Jason Castro could be on the market? At first I’m, no way. Then you think about it….the guy simply can’t catch. He’s a liability back there. So do you move him to 1B? Not really if you still believe in Jon Singleton, which I do. And you’ve got Carter to back him up. And let’s not forget Wallace (though I’d like to). So why not sell high on Castro. Maybe the knee holds up, maybe not. He needs to move to 1B in the not-too-distant future. That’s for sure. Plus, Castro is flat-out blocking Stassi AND Perez. Both are pretty much Major League ready. I’m all in on a Castro deal if it brings back something Major League significant and perhaps another ML-ready piece. Certainly an interesting argument.

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    • I wrote early this morning on CTH that I thought Casto would be traded before next year’s deadline, then I see on TCB that there are teams asking about him. If you look at Castro closely and consider our current needs and our sudden stregnth in upper minors at catcher, this is a possibility. Stassi and Perez are good defensive catchers with big time arms.

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  16. … and oh, the Astros need to avoid Super 2 status with George Springer even if he is 23 years old. If that means a short trip back to AAA to start 2014, so be it. When he does arrive, he’s going to be an impact player. Astros need one of those and need to keep him for as long as possible.

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    • I disagree. Springer is 24. If he starts in CF he will be arb eligible in 2016. Two years is long enough to figure out if he is your CF for the long term. If he Rules in those two years then you sign him to a long term deal. If he flattens out and is not the All-Star you were hoping for, go to arbitration in 2016 and try him for another year.

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    • So you don’t think Springer would be pissed off if he’s held back from Opening Day after all he’s accomplished? And of course, that will delay his free agent status by a year. You think that might keep him from giving a home town discount when the time comes to sign that first big deal?

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      • Listen folks – before next season is over Springer will turn 25…..free George Springer – it is time to see whether he is a mlb talent or not.

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