Against the Yankees. In Minute Maid Park. April 1.
It doesn’t seem likely the Astros will be chasing a pennant or even the playoffs in 2014. But if one of their players is in the Rookie of the Year chase, fans would pay attention. In April and in September.
The Astros haven’t had a legitimate ROY candidate in quite some time, but they’ve “stolen” more opportunities in recent years from potential candidates. Here are a few:
- Jarred Cosart. Debut July 12, 2013. He was the top pitching prospect in the system since coming over in the Hunter Pence trade in 2011. ROY: Wil Myers, Tampa Bay.
- Jose Altuve. Debut July 20, 2011. He was an All Star in his first full season (2012), but played only 57 games after making the jump from Corpus Christi in his rookie season. ROY: Bryce Harper, Washington.
- Jason Castro. Debut June 22, 2010. Actually, probably made the jump to the majors a half-season too early. Didn’t light it up in the half season in 2010, but would have been tough to make his mark then. Perhaps waiting until 2011 would have been better to get a full season. ROY: Buster Posey, San Diego.
- Hunter Pence. Debut April 28, 2007. Didn’t play a full season in his first year up, but finished third in the voting. ROY: Ryan Braun, Milwaukee.
- Craig Biggio. Debut June 26, 1988. Mid-season callup in 1988 and won a Silver Slugger in his first full season in 1989. ROY: Chris Sabo, Cincinnati.
There are some other mid-season call ups who may have had a chance in a full season. In fact, the Astros have had countless rookies over the past few seasons, most of whom wouldn’t warrant any consideration as a ROY prospect.
Springer, on the other hand, will have all types of pressure and expectations, if only because he’s ranked high on every prospect list and because he hit the lights out of the baseball at Corpus Christi and Oklahoma City in 2013.
But, as the organization continues it reformation project and Houston fans continue to be patient — okay, some fans continue to be patient — getting the 24-year-old (yes, 24!) on the field Day 1 of 2014 could be a huge PR bonus for the Astros.
Tell me, what else can he improve at AAA? Of course, he could learn to cut down on Ks or continue to hone his plate skills or learn how to read the ball off the bat from center field even better. Yet, most of the those things, he can learn with a major league hitting instructor while playing against major league pitching.
Where would he hit? That would depend on how well he plays in spring training. Third in the order shouldn’t surprise anyone. If the Astros want to take the slow path, hit him sixth. Just hit him!
Is there anyone among us — anyone in Houston for that matter — who can make any sort of case to leave Springer in OKC for even one more day?
One last thought: If the Astros play their cards right and plan promotions accordingly, Houston could have rookie of the year candidates for the next several years. Think about it: