Maybe the Astros just didn’t think George Springer was ready after all.
Back in March when the Astros assigned top prospect George Springer to the minors there were reports that his agent and the MLB Players Association were considering filing a grievance on his behalf, claiming that service time and/or contract considerations were playing a part in his not making the big-league roster.
Springer had a monster season in the minors last year, hitting .303 with 37 homers and 45 steals to establish himself as an elite prospect. And then when he got off to a big start at Triple-A this season, hitting .353 in 13 games, there were lots of complaints about the Astros not calling him up right away.
Houston eventually did call up Springer on April 16, waiting just two weeks rather than the usual service time-related timetables for prospects, but here’s the thing: Springer has really struggled, hitting .185 with zero homers and 24 strikeouts in 16 games.
It’s certainly very possible that the Astros’ timetable for Springer was based on something other than purely merit or development, but they would be far from the first team to handle a top prospect in that manner and ultimately it turns out that he wasn’t ready to thrive in the majors immediately anyway.
For a few days, it looked like Aaron Judge was finally hitting his stride in the postseason. He was still striking out at a regular clip, piling more and more strikeouts atop the 16 he racked up in the Division Series, but he was mashing, too. He engineered a three-run homer during Game 3 of the Championship Series, followed by another blast and game-tying double in Game 4. His one-out double helped pad a five-run lead in Game 5, while his 425-footer off of Brad Peacock barely made a dent during a 7-1 loss in Game 6. And then Lance McCullers‘ curveball found and fooled him, as it did five of the 14 batters it met in Game 7:
The strikeout was Judge’s first of the evening and 27th since the start of the playoffs. No other major league batter has racked up that many strikeouts in a single postseason, though Alfonso Soriano’s 26-strikeout record in 2003 comes the closest. Within that record, Judge also collected three golden sombreros (four strikeouts in a single game), narrowly avoiding the dreaded platinum sombrero (five strikeouts in a single game).
It’s an unfortunate footnote to a spectacular year for the rookie outfielder, who decimated the competition with 52 home runs and 8.2 fWAR during the regular season and was a pivotal part of the Yankees’ playoff run. Thankfully, the image of McCullers’ curveball darting just under Judge’s bat won’t be the image that sticks with us for years to come. Instead, it’ll look something like this: