HOUSTON -- There were few players more popular with the fans at last weekend's FanFest than outfield prospect George Springer, the man who put up eye-popping numbers in the Minor Leagues last year and had the Astros' faithful beating the drum to see him play in Houston.
Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow said fans will finally get a chance to see the organization's No. 3 prospect play at Minute Maid Park this season, but don't necessarily expect him to be in the Opening Day lineup April 1. No matter when he arrives, though, the club's most anticipated offensive prospect since Hunter Pence has the front office and fans excited.
"I think George Springer will be a starting outfielder in Houston this year," Luhnow said. "Whether it happens Opening Day or sometime during the season, he's a special talent."
Last year, Springer batted .303 with a .411 on-base percentage while slugging .600 with 37 homers, 45 steals and 83 walks between Double-A Corpus Christi and Triple-A Oklahoma City en route to being named the Astros' Minor League Player of the Year. He'll report to his second Major League camp next month with expectations higher than ever.
"That's in the past and this is 2014, and I have a lot to live up to, in my standards," he said. "Just go out there and have fun and see how hard I can hit it."
Springer, 24, wasn't promoted to the Majors Leagues last year because the Astros didn't need to put him on the 40-man roster just yet and wanted to save that roster spot. Luhnow didn't rule out Springer making the Opening Day roster in 2014, but he emphasized that Springer is an everyday player and would have to win a starting job.
Also, the arrival of Dexter Fowler via trade from the Rockies means the Astros will likely push Springer to right field, a position he could certainly handle because of his athleticism and arm strength. The fact he hasn't played there much could help the team make the decision to start him in Triple-A to get added reps in right.
"He'll get reps out there in the spring," Luhnow said. "Yeah, there's a difference between center field and right, and he's got plenty of arm to play right and his instincts are really good, and he learns quickly. I don't think it's going to be a big transition. It's not like taking an infielder and putting him in the outfield."
Springer said he doesn't care where he plays.
"I'm OK playing [right], and it's not up to me," he said. "I'll find out soon enough."
When asked about trying to make the club of Spring Training, Springer said that should be the goal of any player in camp. He got his first taste of Major League camp a year ago, but he didn't get much playing time in the Grapefruit League.
"I'm just looking forward to starting the year and getting a good start in Spring Training and getting ready to play a full year," he said. "[My mindset] is the exact same, just go out and play hard and have fun and be a sponge -- just learn from whomever's there."
Luhnow reminded reporters Saturday that Springer has only played 62 games in Triple-A.
"It's just hard with a limited about of time in Triple-A to say someone is completely ready to play every day at the Major League level," he said. "With a prospect like George Springer, you don't want him to come up and play off the bench. I really think a player like that needs to come up and play every day. I think we're close. We'll learn a lot more in the spring, but I do expect, based on what he did last year, he'll spend a majority of the season with the Houston Astros."
While Astros fans might not be too patient when it comes to Springer's arrival, the outfielder has taken a different approach to his promising future.
"I was always taught as a kid to be patient in everything that you do," he said. "The goal for me is to get there and stay there, not to just get there and not stay. I'm excited, and it's just one of those things where I'm going to keep paying attention and when the opportunity falls, I'll be happy."