Perhaps George Springer signing with Toronto puts to the test how a free agent acclimates to his new park for fantasy. Many players struggle joining a new franchise trying too hard in an effort to justify their contract to the fanbase. However, Springer's leaving behind the tainted legacy in Houston with a World Championship shrouded by stealing signs. Under heightened scrutiny, Springer performed well in 2020 but, as his Statcast data reveals later on, he deserved even better.

In 2020, Springer played in 51 contests accruing 222 plate appearances with 37 runs, 14 home runs, 32 RBI, a stolen base and a .265/.359/.540 slash line. While these results remain less than Earth shattering, Springer owned a 10.8 walk percentage with a 17.1 percent strikeout rate, .299 isolated power (ISO) and a .400 weighted on-base average (wOBA). His discipline metrics on Fangraphs yielded small changes, but nothing which moves the needle in terms of his outcomes this season.

Switching to Statcast, Springer produced 153 batted ball events with 19 barrels (12.4 percent), an 88.7 MPH average exit velocity and 42.5 percent hard hit rate. His sweet spot percentage rose to its highest level since 2015 at 35.3 percent. As referenced above, Springer's expected statistics, based on quality of contact, jump off the page with a .294 expected batting average (xBA), .570 expected slugging (xSLG) and .387 expected weighted on-base average (xwOBA). For the visual crowd, here's Springer's zone profile as evidence:

Adding a bit more intrigue to these results, Springer improved his zone swing percentage on Statcast to 74 percent last year, up five percentage points compared to 2019. He upped his zone contact percentage slightly while his chase rate and chase contact both increased as well. Despite swinging more, Springer reduced his whiff percentage by 1.2 percent in 2020. Remembering the truncated nature of the season, it's tough to predict changes to a veteran's profile. Still, Springer cut his ground ball percentage to its lowest level since the onset of Statcast in 2015 down to 35.6 percent while his line drive rate spiked to 30.1 percent. He pulled the ball more last season (43.8 pull percent) along with driving the ball up the middle in just under 40 percent of his batted ball data.

When viewing his results the last two years, Springer appears to be on a path to hitting for more power not only by recent results, it may be by design. Before expanding his sample size for confirmation of this observation, here are Springer's percentile rankings in some key categories last season:

  • xwOBA - 96th percentile
  • xBA - 92nd percentile
  • Barrels - 89th percentile
  • Speed - 82nd percentile

Springer averaged a 94.3 MPH average exit velocity on all his line drives and fly balls in 2020 with the majors’ 11th-best maximum exit velocity of 115 MPH. Armed with a hard hit rate at or above 42 percent in each of the last two years, Springer's combined total for the two years of 231 hard hits (exit velocity of 95 MPH or better) yields a 44.2 hard hit percentage in them.

From the second half of 2019 through and including the 2020 season, Springer's numbers trend towards power:

  • Springer 2H 2019-through-2020: 113 games, 506 plate appearances, 86 runs, 35 home runs, 82 RBI, two stolen bases; .273/.371/.568, 11.9 BB%, 18.8 K%, .296 ISO, .391 wOBA

One does not need to steal first base when launching 35 home runs in just over 500 plate appearances. Springer's home run total in this sample ranks fourth in the majors. He's also ninth overall in isolated power and tied for 11th in weighted on-base average. Keep this tidbit of information stored for later in the projections.

Prior to seeing his forecasts for 2021, Springer's last three seasons serve as a baseline in this process. Here are his numbers in them:

  • Springer Last Three Years: 316 games, 1,413 plate appearances, 237 runs, 75 home runs, 199 RBI, 13 stolen bases; .274/.362/.509, 11.3 BB%, 19.5 K%, .235 ISO, .369 wOBA

Taking this a step further, all of Springer's line drives and fly balls in an overlay with his potential new home in Rogers Centre courtesy of Statcast:

Springer's former home ballpark, Minute Maid Field favors right-handed hitters pulling the ball. Although Springer pulled the ball more often in 2020, it's not prevalent in his spray chart. In fact, Springer may benefit hitting the ball to right-center and right field in Toronto. For Springer's career, he hit 95 home runs in 398 games away from Houston with an .883 on-base plus slugging percentage (OPS). During 397 home contests, he launched 79 home runs with an OPS of .819, a 64-point differential.

Fun fact, before delving into the projection sets, Springer's hit 136 home runs from the leadoff spot in the majors since 2014 ranking second only to Charlie Blackmon (147). Second fact, of Springer's last 61 actual home runs graded on Statcast, 34 of them rate as no-doubters (out of any major league ballpark), a robust 55.7 percent.

With all of this in mind, Springer's projections from two sites appear as such:

  • Springer 2021 Steamer projection: 144 games, 661 plate appearances, 105 runs, 34 home runs, 85 RBI, seven stolen bases; .271/.364/.504, 11.7 BB%, 20.1 K%, .234 ISO, .364 wOBA
  • Springer 2021 ATC projection: 137 games, 602 plate appearances, 96 runs, 32 home runs, 81 RBI, four stolen bases; .271/.362/.510, 11.2 BB%, 19.5 K%, .239 ISO, .371 wOBA

Not too much variance between the two systems. Using one more courtesy of a tweet about a system which incorporates Statcast data as well, THE BAT X ranks Springer as a top ten hitter overall for 2021 with 627 plate appearances, a .279 average, 98 runs, 36 home runs, 92 RBI, five stolen bases and a .384 weighted on-base average.

Some may be scared off by Springer signing with a new team, and it can be a slippery slope. However, his underlying data from the last two years hints at a sustainable power breakout which may come to fruition this season. In fact, in my estimation, it's more likely Springer hits 40 home runs and steals seven or more bases. If he hits in the .270's with a run at triple digits in runs atop a burgeoning Blue Jays lineup, Springer moves into the top ten at his position for fantasy. Feeling lucky?


Statistical Credits:

ATC courtesy of Ariel Cohen

THE BAT X courtesy of Derek Cart