Springer was seen as a top-five overall pick entering the calendar year, but some difficulties at the plate sent him down draft boards throughout the spring as others rose. Still, the New Britain, Conn., native has undeniable skills. Seen as one of the draft's top outfielders, Springer has a strong arm and good speed, stealing a team-high 31 bases in 38 attempts for UConn this season.
He also has the potential to provide strong power at the plate, leading the Huskies with 12 homers and 78 RBIs in 2011. Though he struggled somewhat at the plate early in the spring, Springer still hit .350 with a .628 slugging percentage and was named the Big East Player of the Year.
Springer broke UConn records in 2010 with 60 walks and 84 runs.
"We're very pleased," Houston scouting director Bobby Heck said of Springer in a team release. "Throughout the year, he was a priority guy for us. He's very athletic, he's strong, he's big and we think he has a chance to steal bases and hit home runs. As for his makeup, our reports say he's off the charts, intelligence, solid family background, good teammate, good academics and the great combination of speed and power."
Springer's Huskies are still playing in the NCAA Tournament; they defeated Clemson on Monday night to advance to next weekend's Super Regionals, a best-of-three series against South Carolina. If UConn wins that series, they will advance to the College World Series, beginning June 18.
"We're excited for several reasons," Houston General Manager Ed Wade said. "He was our top-rated pick left on our board when it was our turn to pick, so we're happy we got him. Obviously, first-round picks are important, but our philosophy is that every pick us huge for us. Creating depth in our system is critical to what we are trying to do here."
With the selection of Springer, Houston has chosen a position player with its first draft pick in each of the last eight years.
The last two college players drafted by the Astros in the first round - Mike Kvasnicka (33rd pick, 2010) and Jason Castro (10th pick, 2008) - made their professional debuts with the Tri-City ValleyCats in the summer after they were drafted.