Baseball Twitter was all atwitter on Sunday night as news of Carlos Correa’s call-up broke. Questions about Correa’s fantasy value immediately popped up in my notifications. Given that I’m tasked with the shortstop beat here on Mondays, the prompt for today’s post was a no-doubter.
To determine Correa’s fantasy value, let’s first start by projecting his plate appearances. Steamer has him at 214 PA, but that will obviously get an update soon given today’s news. It’s probably safe to assume he’s going to play every day for now, but the eventual return of Jed Lowrie sometime around the All-Star break could complicate things. My guess is that Lowrie will work in frequently at third base and not cut into Correa at short much so long as Correa is producing. As for his spot in the batting order, it’s likely to be somewhere in the 5-7 range.
Assuming almost every day playing time and that spot in the order, something in the range of 350 PA seems reasonable to me. If he ends up hitting higher in the order and/or loses no playing time upon Lowrie’s return, Correa could end up near 375 PA or higher. But we’ll use 350 PA as our baseline for the purpose of this post. If you disagree with that too much, you can stop reading here.
Now let’s go back to the Steamer projections and project them out to 350 PA. With a few rounding adjustments, Steamer would project Correa to hit .249 with seven home runs, 11 steals, 36 runs and 34 RBI in 350 PA. If you run that projection along with the other rest-of-season shortstop projections through the z-score method, Correa ranks as the 15th best shortstop from here on out.
The next question is whether Steamer has Correa pegged correctly. Starting with the batting average projection of .249, Steamer may be a little light for my liking. First of all, Correa has displayed an excellent command of the strike zone throughout the minors, which is something we don’t often see from prospects getting the call. It’s much more common for us to be considering whether a prospect’s contact issues are prohibitive. That’s not the case with Correa who has had a strikeout rate under 20 percent at every stop in the minors outside of rookie ball.
But it’s not just that Correa makes contact frequently, it’s that he makes hard contact. Chris Mitchell touched on that a bit in his post on Correa from a month ago, and Correa’s line drive rate in the upper minors backs that up. In 240 PA at Double-A and Triple-A this year, Correa combined for a 26.4 percent line drive rate (h/t minorleaguecentral.com).
This is the main reason I disagree with Steamer on his batting average. I don’t necessarily disagree with the 18.8 percent strikeout rate they have Correa projected for, but I don’t know that I agree with a projected BABIP of .291. With his ability to make hard contact and his speed, I expect Correa’s BABIP to be north of .300 and his average closer to .260 at least.
As for the other often-used ratio category, OBP, I also think Steamer is a bit low there. Obviously I think his OBP will be higher if I think his average will be higher than projected, but I also think Steamer is undershooting his walk rate. Outside of rookie ball in 2012, Correa has had a double digit walk rate at each stop in the minors. Yet Steamer has his walk rate projected to be 6.5 percent. I don’t expect him to post a double digit walk rate immediately, but 6.5 percent is a full percentage point worse than league average. I think he can be at least league average in that respect right out of the gate.
Moving on to Correa’s steal total, I again think Steamer may be a little light. After struggling to steal bases efficiently in A-ball in 2013, Correa is 38-for-42 on stolen base attempts since the start of the 2014 season. With a projection of 11 steals in 350 PA, Correa is being projected to steal a base once every 31 trips to the plate. But in that stretch in the minors Correa was stealing a base once every 14 trips to the plate.
To be fair, he’s unlikely to be as efficient in the majors, and he won’t be getting on base as often and will thus have his opportunities to steal a base come less frequently. But the Astros are fourth in the league in steals, so I do believe they’ll let him run when the opportunity presents itself. For that reason, I like Correa to steal 14-15 bases.
As for his power, the projection of seven home runs seems about right on the money. The main problem with Correa’s power potential is that he doesn’t elevate all that much. Again according to minorleaguecentral.com, Correa’s fly ball rate collectively in the minors was 24.2 percent, and he did not deviate much from that average at any stop.
So let’s say Correa gets 350 PA, has Steamer’s projected strikeout rate of 18.8 percent and walks at a league average clip of 7.7 percent. If that’s the case, Correa should put 257 balls into play this year. If his minor league fly ball rate remains the same in the majors, Correa should hit 62 fly balls. Assuming Correa hits fly balls out of the park at the league average rate of 10.8 percent, he should hit 6.7 home runs. I’ll round up to seven and agree completely with the Steamer projection.
As for his run and RBI totals, I think he’s likely to drive in more runs than he’ll score, so I would adjust his RBI total up and runs down. But that should come out in the wash and not affect his R+RBI total.
To recap, I might adjust Correa’s line to the following: 350 PA, .260, 7 HR, 14 SB, 70 R+RBI. If we run that projection along with the other shortstop projections through the z-score method, Correa jumps to 12th among shortstops but is grouped very tightly with the shortstops ranked from 8-12. With very slight adjustments to the projection I just laid out, Correa could easily end up moving to eighth in those projected rankings.
Even as the 15th ranked shortstop, Correa is worth owning in shallow mixed leagues that use a middle infield spot. That conservative projection would make him borderline worthy of MI use, but there is obviously upside from there. He’s unlikely to pull a Joc Pederson and be monster from the get-go, but he does have the potential to be one of the ten best fantasy shortstops from here one out. If you’re wondering if you should add him, the answer is yes. Whoever you think the worst player on your roster is, the odds are good that he is worth dropping for Correa.