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The best MLB free-agency fits for George Springer

AP Photo/Patrick Semansky

I remember seeing George Springer play his draft year at the University of Connecticut. Touted as a potential first-round pick in 2011, Springer was an intriguing power-speed combo, so I went to New Britain Stadium to see the Huskies take on non-baseball powerhouse Georgetown.

Springer had a hitch in his swing back then, resulting in a back-leg collapse at times, and the soft-tossing kid from Georgetown fed Springer a steady diet of junk to keep him off balance. In his first at-bat, after a couple of swing-and-misses, Springer got hit by a pitch. In his second at-bat, he struck out on a breaking ball, chasing a pitch off the plate.

Then came the third at-bat. New Britain Stadium has a high, 20-foot outfield wall and center field is 400 feet away. It's not easy to hit one out there. Springer connected on what looked like a hard line drive to the center fielder ... except the ball kept going and going until it soared over the fence for a huge home run.

Oh, yeah, I see it.

The Houston Astros selected Springer with the 11th pick in the 2011 draft. He dominated in the minor leagues, including a 37-homer, 45-stolen-base season between Double-A and Triple-A in 2013. He should have been called up that September, but before Kris Bryant and his situation of service time drew greater attention to the practice, the Astros manipulated Springer's service time after he declined to sign a team-friendly, long-term offer and didn't debut until mid-April of 2014. That pushed his free agency back to now, after the 2020 season, so Springer reaches the market a year later and a year older than he otherwise would have, in the middle of a pandemic after a season in which the sport suffered huge economic losses.