They should almost start calling it the Year of the Debut. Hugely hyped prospects in big markets are tearing up the league, like Kris Bryant in Chicago, Noah Syndergaard in New York, Joc Pederson in Los Angeles and Matt Duffy in San Francisco. And the most recent one who is rapidly climbing the Rookie of the Year polls in popularity and tangible stats, is Carlos Correa in Houston.
Correa, before his sensational debut, may have been best known as the guy taken before Byron Buxton. See, Buxton was the clear number one overall in terms of talent in their draft years, but the Astros organization, led by Jeff Lunhow, decided to draft Correa instead. Doing so, they saved bonus money on their first slot, which allowed them to sign later picks with above slot money, and helped them land guys such as Lance McCullers and Rio Ruiz.
Yet Correa has done everything to establish himself as his own man. I’ve written earlier this season that he could be a great Super Two deadline pickup (shameless self hat tip), and he’s done nothing but mash since getting his first cup of coffee. As goes with any sport, no matter the position, age, step of the rebuild cycle – talent will play. The Astros had to do some minor position juggling to fit Correa, and even were a little hesitant putting him at short because of his large frame, but everything around him has turned to gold.
Rookies are expected to come in and have some mild hot streaks, mixed with stretches of “figuring it out” – a pleasant term for slumps. But a 153 wRC+ so far has been the best for a rookie, and by virtue of a weighted stat, 53% better than major league average. Even though Correa has only played in half the games of qualified hitters, if he kept his mark up he would fit right with Buster Posey, Mark Teixeira and Adrian Gonzalez. And he’s not being bolstered by some seeing eye singles, Correa has been putting some serious hurt on balls in Minute Maid. His .276 Isolated Power (ISO) is easily elite, right with JD Martinez, Nelson Cruz and Home Run Derby champ Todd Frazier.
For any rookie to have this strength is unreal, but the fact that it comes from a kid who can’t even (legally) buy a beer in the States (20 years old) makes his numbers enter face-melting territory. His massive 6′-4″, 210 pound frame still has room to grow and add even more power as he develops.
Check out where he’s been raking this season:
And you probably thought it wouldn’t get better. He doesn’t only feature pull side power, and he’s not someone just shooting balls the other way to pad his power numbers; Correa uses the entire diamond when he makes contact, and he makes contact hard. In graphical form, the average exit velocity of balls hit off of Correa’s bat this season, compared with the major league average:
Well there’s the slump I was looking for. A measly two-week span where he put one slightly below average and one poor mark. Then he was back to his elite self.
So he uses the entire field and he hits the ball harder than you can imagine, let’s see how he uses the strike zone.
All over the zone, and a couple almost into his own batter’s box. Plate coverage is something to look for when trying to gauge a hot rookie’s sustainability. A cautious tale remains with Wil Myers, who had a torrid rookie campaign, but could only hit balls elevated or on the inner third. Once the rest of the league found out, he floundered. Although a recent example and hard to apply to everyone due to his somewhat unique mechanics, it maintains that one of the most important aspects of a hitter is being able to crush certain areas of the zone, and at least cover the rest. Otherwise he opens himself up to strikeout after strikeout after strikeout…
And just gushing over his hitting doesn’t do Carlos Correa as a baseball player true justice. Because even though there was (and still is) warranted concern over his true fielding ability as a shortstop thanks to a mammoth frame, he’s been excellent since his debut. His UZR/150 of 9.6 is awesome for such a defensively demanding position, and he’s shown no signs of slowing down.
He’s not quite making every web gem every game, but the beauty of his skillset is that he doesn’t have to. He has the bat to carry even a terrible defender, any positive contribution he can bring with the glove is pure gravy. And he’s been having a decent amount of extra gravy each meal it appears.
It’s not too often you see a rookie come around with the results that Correa has brought so far. He’s a powerful hitter who still makes enough contact to keep a high average. He fields well at a demanding position, and even still manages to run well on the bases. There’s nothing Correa has done to show he’s going to slow down anytime soon, so don’t miss out on one of the most exciting young players to enter the game in the past decade.
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