By Rich Arleo
CBS Local Sports, in our 30 Players 30 Days spring training feature, profiles one young player from each Major League Baseball team leading up to opening day.
Carlos Correa, Shorstop, Houston Astros
2015 season (Minors): 53 G, 215 AB, .335 BA, 10 HR, 44 RBI, 18 SB, 1.007 OPS
2015 season (Majors): 99 G, 387 AB, .279 BA, 22 HR, 68 RBI, 14 SB, .857 OPS
Carlos Correa is in rarified air. Coming off one of the best rookie seasons by a shortstop ever, he has gone from a Minor Leaguer to possibly the best at his position in all of baseball in less than a year. Nobody is surprised by Correa performing at the level at which he did last year, but prospects living up to and exceeding their projections so quickly is not common, so when he joined the Astros in June and proceeded to facilitate their run to the postseason, most fans could only elicit one simple response — wow.
Correa was taken first overall by the Astros in 2012, and he dominated the Minor Leagues leading up to last year. But before the ‘15 season, Correa had never played above Class A, so not many expected to see Correa with the Astros. But he was destroying Minor League pitching, and with a young core performing well in Houston, Correa quickly rose through the ranks and was up with the Astros by June 8. He started out hot, with five homers and a .301 average in his first 19 games — and he never slowed down.
Across the board, Correa was one of the best shortstops in the game. At the position, he ranked first in homers, sixth in RBIs, seventh in stolen bases, first in slugging and fifth in on-base percentage while playing in just 99 games. His .233 ISO was first among shortstops by 28 points (the only at his position in the top 40 in baseball), but perhaps most impressive was his 9.3 walk rate, third at his position at just 21 years old.
There really aren’t many, if any, flaws to Correa’s game. He hits right-handers and left-handers almost equally and put up similar numbers on the road as he did at home. If you were going to find a room for improvement, it would be on the defensive end. He made 13 errors and had a -6 UZR (ultimate zone rating) at short, so as far as being a complete superstar, there is work to do. But on the offensive end, it’s incredible how advanced Correa appears.
This spring, he’s done nothing but get Astros fans, fantasy owners and baseball fans in general more excited, as he hit four homers while going 14-for-34 (.412) in his first 14 spring games. Correa is locked into the middle of a young, impressive lineup. With Jose Altuve setting the table as the leadoff hitter and fellow young star George Springer hitting No. 2, Correa’s RBI opportunities are going to be plentiful. He also has plenty of protection behind him with big bats Colby Rasmus and Carlos Gomez (and Evan Gattis eventually, once he recovers from sports hernia surgery), so there’s really no avoiding Correa for opposing pitchers.
At only 21 years old, Correa actually doesn’t even need to improve from last year in order to be the best offensive shortstop in baseball, but there is still plenty of room for improvement. The most optimistic projections have Correa as a 30-homer, 100-RBI threat, and while that’s not a given, it’s certainly in the realm of possibility. If Correa can stay healthy, there’s no reason he can’t repeat and improve on last year’s success with a 25-homer, 20-steal season, and that’s being conservative.
Rich Arleo is a freelance sports writer and editor who covers Major League Baseball and fantasy sports. You can follow him on Twitter, @Rarleo.