It's a little bit rare for multiple mock drafts to have a consensus pick deep into the first round, but this year that seems to be the case for the No. 18 selection of the Oakland Athletics.
Several sources have the A's targeting University of Connecticut's George Springer, a power-hitting outfielder with good speed.
Springer, currently a center fielder, was originally drafted in the 48th round of the 2008 draft by the Minnesota Twins (1,437th overall) out of Avon Old Farms High School in Connecticut. He chose to attend the University of Connecticut instead, a decision that has propelled him into the first round and have him ranked as high as the 11th best player in the draft by some experts.
The Athletics used their first pick in last year's draft to select a center fielder as well, Michael Choice, currently one of the organization's top-five prospects.
If the Athletics select Springer, they could look to move Choice to a corner outfield position, a position several scouts speculated last season may be better suited for him in the long term.
On the other hand, Springer is a natural center fielder, with the potential to win several Gold Gloves. He has above-average speed and can cover a lot of ground. He has an accurate cannon for an arm and has reached 90 mph on his throws from the outfield. He patterns his play after Torii Hunter, and makes spectacular leaping and diving catches.
Offensively, Springer has above-average power, too, and has displayed good hand-eye coordination, hitting the ball to all fields. He has a long swing, but has shown the ability to make the adjustment to offspeed pitches. He currently projects as a 20-plus home run player, even in the spacious Oakland Coliseum.
If he is able to shorten his swing and square up the ball better as he develops, he could turn into a consistent power threat and a 30-plus home run star.
On the basepaths, he has speed that has been described as "aggressive-yet-savvy." He does not have the type of speed that makes him a constant threat to opposing batteries, yet he makes good reads and gets good jumps.
He should be able to pick his spots and reach 20-30 stolen bases a year consistently. In college, he stole with an 85 percent success rate.
Back in February, ESPN's Keith Law, ranked Springer the second-best prospect in the draft, calling him:
"An athletic outfielder with an above-average arm who projects to hit and hit for power and just needs to refine his approach, especially with two strikes."
Springer conducted an interview with MLBTradeRumors.com's Ben Nicholson-Smith in March.
The two questions Nicholson-Smith asked that I enjoyed reading the most were as follows:
BNS - When you’re at your best, what might be some of the specific things that we would see from you on the field?
GS - One hundred percent - this’ll probably sound dumb - but just balls out all the time. Not playing with any fear. Not afraid to fail. I just go out and I let the game come to me - I just go out and I play as hard as I possibly can and if for some reason the game says that I have to run into a wall, I’ll run into a wall.
BNS - I’ve seen your game written up as a combination of power and speed. Do you see yourself as a power guy, or a speed guy, or somewhere in between.
GS - I see myself as a guy that can hit for power, but I don’t necessarily see myself as hitting for power [primarily]. I see myself as hitting the ball hard and however far it goes, if it stays in the ballpark, I just keep running.
If Springer does fall to the Athletics—and things can certainly change between now and Monday that could see him taken before the A's pick at No. 18—then it is conceivable we could see an outfield of Michael Choice in left field (ETA: 2013), George Springer in center field (2014 in my opinion) and Michael Taylor in right field (2012) as soon as late 2013 or spring training 2014.
While Taylor's power projection has dropped over the past two seasons, he was originally projected as a 20-30 homer guy.
Meanwhile, Choice is showing good power with Stockton so far this season. The A's could have three legitimate power threats in their outfield, as well as a fourth power threat in Chris Carter at either first base or the designated hitter role.
I know a lot of things can change as players start to come off the board, but if Springer does fall to Oakland with their first pick, he appears to be as close to a no-brain selection as there is in this deep field of first-round options.
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