Astros sign first-round Draft pick Springer
Club also inks third-round selection Armstrong before deadline
HOUSTON -- As time slipped away and the deadline to sign picks from the 2011 First-Year Player Draft crept closer, the tension rose among the Astros' baseball operations staff. A couple of signatures on the dotted line quickly turned the tension into jubilation.
The Astros got their men late Monday night, signing first-round pick George Springer and third-round pick Jack Armstrong, announcing the deals just after the 11:01 p.m. CT deadline. Springer got a $2,525,000 bonus, and Armstrong signed for $750,000, according to a person with knowledge of the situation.
"This was a contentious day, but at the end of it we got the two prime guys we set out to get over the last couple of months," Astros assistant general manager/director of scouting Bobby Heck said. "At the end of the day, we knew both kids wanted to play."
Springer, 21, was drafted with the No. 11 overall pick out of the University of Connecticut, where he hit .343 with 12 homers, 77 RBIs, 31 stolen bases and a .450 on-base percentage during his junior season. He will likely begin his career at Class A Short-Season Tri-City.
"He stayed in shape," Astros general manager Ed Wade said. "We had a chance when he came in for his physical the other day to see him firsthand, and he's in pretty good shape. I'm sure he's going to be able to bounce back and do whatever we ask."
An athletic center fielder, Springer could make an impact on the big league club sooner than later, considering the Astros last month traded away Gold Glove center fielder Michael Bourn. The position is more wide open than it was entering the season.
"We'll have to get his game legs under him before we can get him some game action," Wade said. "We'll probably have him [in Houston] by the end of the week to get him in front of [the media]."
Wade credited the pre-Draft homework performed by Heck and his scouting staff for getting the final two deals done. The Astros signed 35 of their top 50 picks this season, including their top 13 selections.
"Along with finding young talent, you always have to go out and sign them," he said. "The work the scouts did in advance played a huge part in this, and I think both sides were very professional."
Armstrong, 21, appeared in 13 games for Vanderbilt, going 9-1 with a 2.65 ERA while striking out 17 batters in 17 innings. The 6-foot-7 right-hander spent his summer pitching in the Cape Cod League to re-establish his value after injuries slowed him down in college this spring. Armstrong is the son of former Major League pitcher Jack Armstrong Sr.
"It was a full family decision, just talking with my dad and mother and my brother and sister," Armstrong told MLB.com via phone. "It was the right time, the right fit and the right people. I'm excited to get my professional career going, and I think it's with the right organization."
Armstrong said the Astros presented the perfect situation for him, considering they're an organization in rebuilding mode and have shown a willingness to move young players through their system at a quick rate.
"That's exactly what I'm talking about," Armstrong said. "Talking with some of the scouts, like any player you hope to move up and get to the Major Leagues. That's the ultimate goal. They believe I can in Houston and so do I. I'm excited to get there and get my feet wet."
Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.