You have to scroll all the way down to the 24th ranked shortstop, Eugenio Suarez, to find a hitter who recorded fewer at-bats than Carlos Correa did this season. And yet, Correa still managed to finish second in dollar value among all shortstops. He did it in just 387 at-bats and 432 plate appearances.
That suggests two things — that damn the shortstop crop was terribly weak this year (despite finishing second, Correa did earn just $10.10 in value) and damn that Correa kid is going to be awesome. Because he did that at the tender age of 20.
The craziest thing is that no one expected him to be up with the big boys so soon. In fact, on his player page, his ETA is indicated as being 2017. How often are players promoted two seasons earlier than projected?! Heading into the 2015 season, Correa had just completed High-A, displayed solid, albeit unspectacular, power, strong BABIP ability and a clear understanding of the strike zone with an excellent walk rate and reasonable strikeout rate.
So he opened the year in Double-A this season, where he made an absolute mockery of the pitching, as he posted a not-a-typo .515 wOBA and .342 ISO. Ummm yeah, I think it was time to challenge him with a move to Triple-A.
So the Astros did just that, but he found the higher level much more difficult. He posted a much less impressive .347 wOBA there, though it was more than respectable considering his age and how fast he had been moving through the system. Still, after just 113 plate appearances, it was a big surprise he was called up so quickly. Had Jed Lowrie not gotten injured, things likely would have been different. Correa may not have debuted until September for his cup of coffee.
But he did debut, and what a debut he had. His walk and strikeout rates regressed a bit and sat around where one might expect. That’s a good thing though because it proved that the youngster wasn’t overmatched. And his 8.4% SwStk% was meaningfully below the league average.
The biggest surprise was clearly his power. While he went on a power binge at Double-A, he was in the mid-to-high .100s for his ISO over the rest of his minor league career, and posted just a .173 mark at Triple-A. And yet, despite a future Game Power grade of 55, which equates to 19-22 homers, Correa posted a .233 ISO and 24.2% HR/FB rate and swatted 22 homers (the high end of that scouting grade range) in about two-thirds of a season. He also finished 54th (out of 333 who hit at least 30 flies + homers) in batted ball distance with a 294 foot average (this is using an updated list from what’s posted at Baseball Heat Maps), so his power was legit.
But possessing legit power doesn’t automatically support any HR/FB rate. And it would seem that even if he continued to hit baseballs that far, he would be quite unlikely to sustain a HR/FB rate in the mid-20% range. So that seems to be a bit of a fluke. And if you want to go a step further in forecasting him for 2016, you might also assume that there will be some growing pains, especially because he wasn’t projected for such massive power, and certainly not this quickly. So I will almost assuredly be projected a sub-20% HR/FB rate for next year.
Aside from the power, Correa brings a nice bonus of stolen bases. He somehow managed just one triple, even playing half his games in a park that boost triple totals. But he clearly has good speed, though I’d think around 20 swipes would be his ceiling.
Any projection system is going to expect some regression next year. But there does seem to be one avenue for upside — his BABIP. He posted just a .296 mark, but owned a solid batted ball distribution that featured grounders and line drives, while he went to all fields as evidenced by his batted ball direction rates. He has posted some sky high BABIP marks in the minors, so he’s shown that skill before. A jump in BABIP would offset some of the homers he loses and set a floor for his batting average.
So the bottom line on Correa is first and foremost to temper your expectations. It’s hard not to salivate over his skill set, but just remember that this is a 21-year-old and hitters don’t improve in a straight upward line. While I cannot predict the future, he seems a near lock to be overvalued in drafts next year, though of course there is that small possibility he earns his cost. But whatever he does in 2016 season shouldn’t overshadow the fact that we may be looking at a perennial all-star and annual first round pick.
Mike Podhorzer is the 2015 Fantasy Sports Writers Association Baseball Writer of the Year. He produces player projections using his own forecasting system and is the author of the eBook Projecting X 2.0: How to Forecast Baseball Player Performance, which teaches you how to project players yourself. His projections helped him win the inaugural 2013 Tout Wars mixed draft league. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikePodhorzer and contact him via email.