The last image the Houston Astros left behind before hitting spring training is George Springer frozen in a head first slide for second base.
It remained fixed above general manager Jeff Luhnow and manager A.J. Hinch's heads as they talked on stage at the Astros annual media season preview luncheon. The photo first appeared on the mammoth screen as part of a montage of images of the Astros' 2014 season and it's unclear if ending the presentation frozen on Springer happened by chance or design.
Either way, it couldn't be more fitting.
For all the talk about the Astros being a revamped, more Major League club, for all of Luhnow's sudden fascination with power scarcity, for all of Jim Crane's bold predictions, it truly in many ways comes down to one man. In order for the Astros to have any chance to reach their lofty future visions, George Springer must be a dominant force.
And one of the Top 10 players in baseball before long.
In other words, Springer must avoid Bryce Harper Syndrome. Springer is clearly the Astros version of Harper — the uber talent whose performance can lift or deflate an entire team. But Springer cannot afford to miss chunks of seasons with frustrating injuries like Harper has.
George Springer simply doesn't have Bryce Harper's time. The Washington Nationals' would-be superstar is heading into his fourth Major League season, but he's still only 22. George Springer goes into his second season as a 25-year-old.
Springer cannot afford to put up another Harper-like season. String a few of those together and the Astros' future suddenly looks a whole lot cloudier.
Springer's already shown Harper level ability — and injury concerns. The Astros franchise cornerstone first hurt his leg in a scary base running incident on May 21 and more issues in the same leg sidelined him for good by July 19, ending his rookie season too soon.
He's back swinging at full strength heading into the Astros spring training opener this afternoon. He's back making Houston's clubhouse a much more fun-loving place with his frizzy, wild mohawk-like hair cut.
But Springer cannot afford to put up another Harper-like injury limited season. String a few of those together and the Astros' future suddenly looks a whole lot cloudier.
George Springer needs to make the most of his time.
The New Giancarlo Stanton?
In his first season in the bigs, Springer is well on his way to 35 home runs when the leg injuries hit. All he has to do to get there this season is likely stay on the field for 125-plus games. That's how talented the Astros' Bryce Harper is.
"When George Springer came up and basically hit 20 home runs in essentially half a season, I think we all could see a potential superstar arriving," Luhnow says.
Now Springer reboots, starting with the spring training opener this afternoon. Everyone expects him to pick right where he left off last season — and then some. It's assumed that Springer will have a monster 2015. That he'll be even better than the guy who hit those 20 bombs, dinged the Tampa Bay Rays' towering catwalk and came up big in important moments (see that bottom of the seventh, two-run blast that beat the Orioles 3-1).
"He's got a ton of potential in this league," new manager A.J. Hinch says. "He's an advanced player who can do a lot of different things in a lot of different ways.
"I think he can run a little bit more."
Yes, Springer only stole five bases in 78 games in the big leagues last season. This after he racked up 45 steals splitting time in Triple-A and Double-A 2013 and 32 steals in the minors in 2012. Hinch talks about his running there because he's asked about Springer's steal potential.
George Springer's power potential is ridiculous, his superstar quotient is immense.
Truth be told, the Astros manager could just as easily have been quizzed about George Springer's batting average. Springer batted .231 last year and no one thinks he's a .231 hitter.
This is what it's like to be George Springer. The most exciting player to watch at Minute Maid Park (with apologies to hitting wizard Jose Altuve) will also be the most dissected.
All Chris Carter and Luhnow's new power addition Evan Gattis have to do is hit a steady supply of home runs. Springer must do it all. In a near dominant way.
The Astros cannot afford to see him lose any more time. Springer ranked third overall in all of baseball with an average fly ball distance of 309.01 feet last season. That's ahead even of Giancarlo Stanton, the Marlins' $325 Million Man. Springer's power potential is ridiculous, his superstar quotient is immense.
Springer cannot wait until a playoff series three seasons into his career to truly start showing it like Harper though. These Astros need more certainty sooner.
For all the talk about the bullpen revamp and a true Major League lineup in Houston, the Astros are dependent on one star on the rise. They don't just need George Springer tomorrow. He must be there today.
Game after game after game. No Bryce Harper stutter starts allowed.