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 the third consecutive season, the Astros are AL West champions. The ‘stros clinched the division on Sunday afternoon with a convincing 13-5 win over the Angels. They were backed by three homers from leadoff man George Springer and individual homers from Alex Bregman and Aledmys Díaz.
Springer has the 22nd three-homer game in baseball this season. He’s the first Astro to hit three homers in a game since Yordan Álvarez last month, on August 10.
Justin Verlander lasted five innings in Sunday’s start, yielding two runs on six hits and a pair of walks with five strikeouts. The right-hander is arguably the frontrunner for the AL Cy Young Award, now 20-6 with a 2.53 ERA and a 288/42 K/BB ratio in 217 innings on the year. Verlander is 12 strikeouts shy of the 300-strikeout milestone and six strikeouts short of 3,000 for his career. If the Astros stay on schedule, Verlander would pitch the second-to-last game of the regular season against the Angels.
Sunday’s win marked No. 102 on the season for the Astros. The franchise record is 103 wins set last year. With six games remaining, it seems likely the Astros will set a new record.
The Astros and Yankees both won on Sunday, meaning the Astros remain a half-game ahead in the race for home field advantage. The No. 1 seed will also have the privilege of playing the Wild Card winner, which is down to the Athletics, Rays, and Indians.