Following standout careers at the University of Connecticut, George Springer and Matt Barnes have met little resistance in the professional ranks thus far. Both 2011 first-round picks—Springer went 11th overall to the Astros; Barnes 19th to the Red Sox—emphasized that point with noteworthy performances this weekend at the high Class A level.
Springer, who plays center field for Lancaster of the California League, smashed three home runs in a game on Friday, May 11, joining six other minor leaguers to accomplish the feat this season. Though the outburst occurred in homer-friendly Lancaster, Springer stressed efficiency by going deep in each of his three plate appearances during doubleheader Game Two's seven-inning contest.
The 22-year-old Springer also homered in his final PA of the first game of Friday's doubleheader, giving him four clouts in a row and fattening up the day's batting line to 5-for-7 with four homers, seven RBIs, five runs scored and a stolen base. Through 147 at-bats for the JetHawks this season he had batted .313/.362/.571 with eight homers, six doubles, four triples, eight steals and a Cal League-leading 32 RBIs. He ranks third in the league in homers and fourth in slugging.
Amateur scouts wondered if Springer might be too raw to experience immediate success in pro ball, and a look at his numbers away from Lancaster's Clear Channel Stadium lends credence to those concerns. In road games he's batted a more modest .269/.329/.418 with two homers in 67 at-bats.
Barnes, a righthander who earned a quick promotion from low Class A Greenville to Salem this season, has allowed a mere three runs and 10 baserunners through his first 12 Carolina League innings. The 21-year-old has fanned 20 of the 46 high Class A batters he's faced following Friday's eight-strikeout start at Myrtle Beach. Barnes allowed his first pro homer in the game (to DH Vin DiFazio) but also navigated six innings while allowing just two runs on five hits and no walks.
Barnes leads the minors with 62 strikeouts and ranks second in WHIP (0.67), third in ERA (0.70) and sixth in opponent average (.153).
In other U-Conn-Huskies-in-the-pros news, 2011 second-rounder Nick Ahmed owns a .370 on-base percentage with high Class A Lynchburg in the Braves system, though he's tailed off in May, going 10-for-42 (.238) with six walks in 11 games.
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