Thursday, October 22, 2015

Exit Music (For A Player): Carlos Correa

Hey, the wounds are still fresh, so it seems like a fine time to do some evaluating. This is the Exit Music (For A Player) series. Check out other Exit Music (For A Player) posts here

Acquired: 1st Round pick (1st overall), 2012 draft

Age: 21. Correa won't be 22 until next September

Contract Status: It doesn't matter. Everything is awesome.


Correa came to the Astros in the legendary 2012 draft with the team's first of three #1 overall picks. By now the details of that draft are so well-known that the short version is this: Correa signed for far less money than slot, freeing up the Astros to also draft and sign Lance McCullers and Rio Ruiz (who was later traded in the Evan Gattis deal).

He started 2012 by playing in the GCL, putting up a .625 OPS in 39 games (163 PAs) - but as a 17-year old. Correa was sent to Greeneville in the Appalachian League, where in 41 PAs he hit .371/.450/.600. ranked him as their #30 prospect heading into 2013, BP had him at #26, and Baseball America ranked him #13.

Correa spent all of the 2013 season at Quad Cities, hitting .320/.405/.467 in 117 games with 33 doubles and nine home runs. He would also strike out 83 times in 519 plate appearances, drawing 58 walks. This time the prospect ranking machines would line up a little more closely: ranked Correa #8, Baseball America #7, and BP #5.

2014 came and saw Correa in an unfair environment in the moon surface that is Lancaster. He had played in just 62 games, hitting .325/.416/.510 and was on the verge of a promotion to Corpus when he tore up his ankle sliding into 3rd and costing him the rest of the 2014 season. Still, the promise was good enough to earn a #4 prospect ranking from Baseball America and #3s from both and BP heading into the 2015 season.

In 282 games in the minors (1262 Plate Appearances), Correa hit .313/.392/.491 with 211K:133BB.


This is when things got Stupid. Correa opened the season at Double-A Corpus and just went off. In 29 games (133 plate appearances), Correa hit .385/.459/.726 with 15 doubles, two triples, seven home runs. Finally the Texas League waved a white flag and the Astros sent him to Fresno where he struggled (though the "struggle" says more about how good he had been since the GCL than it does his actual performance), hitting .276/.345/.449.

Jed Lowrie's injury at the end of April should have opened the door for Correa but instead the Astros wanted to see how Marwin and Villar would do while Correa had a little more time to get some PAs in the high minors. The result? It didn't go well. From the time of Lowrie's injury to Correa's promotion, shortstops hit .227/.253/.340 with 31K:5BB.

So here comes Correa. There was much rejoicing. He opened his Major-League career with hits in nine of his first ten games and hit his first MLB homer in his 2nd game. The Astros scored four runs in Correa's first series in the Majors, against the White Sox. Correa drove in three of them.

And that pretty much set the tone for the rest of his rookie season. Correa hit .281/.346/.490 against righties, and .274/.343/.556 against lefties. He was much more comfortable at home (.319/.376/.573) than on the road (.243/.317/.455) but whatever, he was got better as the season went on: .820 OPS before the All-Star Break, .875 after.

Correa led all shortstops with a 133 wRC+, .233 ISO, led the league in shortstop SLG by 30 points (.512), homers (22), and was 5th among shortstops with a 3.3 WAR, mainly because FanGraphs' defensive data isn't sure what to do with the shifting the Astros employ (seriously, I asked).

Correa's 133 wRC+ was 2nd among rookies (just behind Kris Bryant's 136), his .512 SLG led all rookies, and his 22 homers were 4th among rookies - behind Bryant, Joc Pederson, and Justin Bour.

While it seemed like the Astros were just God-Awful w/RISP (news flash: it wasn't that bad), Correa was a beast with runners in scoring position. Check out OPS w/RISP, 2015 Astros, minimum 50 ABs:

Rasmus: (93 ABs): .922
Correa (102 ABs): .911
Altuve (111 ABs): .814
Lowrie (62 ABs): .811
Gattis (141 ABs): .802
Carter (97 ABs): .789
Conger (51PAs): .759
Valbuena (99 ABs): .720
Tucker (52 ABs): .690
Marwin (77 ABs): .689
Springer (82 ABs): .638
Marisnick (88 ABs): .630
Castro (71 ABs): .478

Had the Astros not imploded in Game 4 (a game that will haunt me all offseason and perhaps for years to come), everyone would still be talking about the day he had: 4x4 with a double, two homers, 4RBI...all after he got hit square on the elbow in his first PA. But the Astros did implode and now Correa's game is a footnote to a collapse.

Correa is exactly what you want to see from your defensively-solid shortstop, #3-hole hitter.  Oh yeah, Correa is 21 years old and barring something so typically Astros, we'll be watching him play for the next 20 years.

Franchise Marks:

How much time do you have?

*5th Rookie of the Month winner in franchise history (McHugh, Sept 2014; Springer, May 2014; Pence, May 2007; Oswalt, August 2001)
*Most homers (22) in a rookie season in franchise history
*3rd shortstop in franchise history to post a 3.0+ WAR season (Dickie Thon - twice - and Denis Menke).
*Most single-season homers by a shortstop in franchise history.
*Highest SLG by a shortstop in franchise history.


*Seriously? I just wrote hundreds of words about how a shortstop who just turned 21 is among the best players in the league, and is already the best shortstop in Astros history behind Dickie Thon (naturally). But okay, let's take this opportunity to talk about Alex Bregman. The Astros' first non-#1 overall pick in four years was the compensation pick for not signing Brady Aiken last summer, at 1-2. Bregman, a shortstop out of LSU, got 66 games in the minors before the end of the season, starting the year at Quad Cities. In 133 PAs, Bregman hit .259/.368/.330 with 13K:17BB and six of his 29 hits going for extra-bases (five doubles, one homer). Bregman then moved to Lancaster, where his numbers went up considerably: .319/.364/.475 in 178 PAs, with 15 of his 51 hits going for extra-bases (eight doubles, four triples, three homers). It'll be interesting to see if the Astros go ahead and bump him up to Corpus to start 2016. It's possible that Bregman could move to 3B, and see how it shakes out with Colin Moran in a little competition, but it's a rough time to be a young shortstop in the Astros organization. Of course, Bregman is older than Correa (by five-ish months), so it's easy to see why Bregman's name kept coming up in rumors for a potential deal for Kimbrel or Chapman.


Carlos Correa's first 35 games, in perspective (July 2015)
A short history of Texas League domination (May 2015)
1-1: Carlos Correa (June 2012)