How Legit Is Carlos Correa?

Hearing Carlos Correa’s name can lead to polarizing reactions. If you’re one of the lucky few who managed to snatch him up in fantasy, then you celebrate every time he is mentioned. If you’re an Astros fan, I’d imagine you’d do the same, although being from New Jersey, I can’t say I actually know any Astros fans. However, if you’re not a part of one of those two groups, you’re probably asking “He can’t actually be this good, can he?”

Fortunately for me, I’m part of the group that owns him in fantasy. Because of this, I just want to enjoy the ride and not worry about whether it will end or not. With the fantasy trade deadline coming up though, it is something that I decided to look into. On a pace of 98 runs, 43 home runs, 115 RBIs, 17 steals, and a .297/.344/.573 slash line over a 162-game season, it’s hard to believe that he can keep that up.

First let’s take a look at the average. In 2014, at A+, Correa hit .325 with a .373 BABIP. You don’t expect a BABIP that high, but someone of his quality can certainly carry one over .320, so it’s at least not worrisome. This year, at AA, he actually improved on his average from a year ago, hitting .385 with a this time unsustainable .447 BABIP. He’s good, but not that good. This was evident upon his promotion to AAA, where he hit .276 with a .286 BABIP over 24 games. For someone only 20 years old and moving through the minors so fast, struggling (at least for his standard) was to be expected. In the majors though, he’s hitting a cool .297 with .312 BABIP, both seemingly in line with his career minor league numbers and looking like they will stay where they are.

Then there’s the OBP. Correa is reaching base at a .344 clip, which is actually lower than what he’s had at every level in the minors except for his 17-year-old debut season. His walk rate has decreased at each level, from 12.3% to 11.3% to 10.6% to the 6.7% it’s at right now. That’s concerning, but to be expected for such a young hitter moving up the ranks so quickly. His strikeout rate has also gone up to 19.1%, leaving his BB/K at an ugly .35. Without taking walks, it’ll be hard for Correa to continue getting on base at his current rate, but with the way he hits the ball and the lineup protection he has behind him, it’s hard to see his OBP dropping much below .340. Furthermore, if he keeps that high OBP and continues to bat in a top-4 spot (it’s hard to tell where he’ll bat in the lineup once George Springer returns from injury), his counting stats should have no problem continuing at their torrid pace as well.

It’s hard to believe anyone would have a question whether he could keep up his stolen-base production. He stole 18 bases earlier this year in the minors over 53 games while only being caught once. The year before that, he stole 20 bases in 62 games being caught 4 times. If anything, you’d expect Correa to actually have more stolen bases, but it’s hard to complain if he reaches the 15-steal mark.

The one thing that is probably the most in question is the power. His 24.5 HR/FB% would rank him 8th among qualified hitters, right below Mark Teixeira and above hitters like J.D. Martinez, Jose Abreu, Paul Goldschmidt, and Albert Pujols. Fortunately for Correa and his average, he sprays the ball around the field better than any of those players (even Martinez!), but that may not actually be helpful for his power as pulling the ball will generally produce more power. He also makes less hard contact than those above him on the HR/FB% leaderboard, which makes us question the number in the limited sample size we’ve seen.

In order to get a more accurate picture, I looked into the PITCHf/x data from baseball savant. Only 11 of Correa’s home runs were tracked this way, but that’ll have to do. According to the data, Correa actually had a higher average angle off the bat on his home runs, as well as a higher exit velocity (30.7 compared to 27.6 and 102.8 compared to 102.7). His batted ball distance, though, was shorter, calculating to 389 feet as opposed to the league average on home runs of 397.9 feet. While 10 feet is certainly meaningful, when combined with his better-than-average angle off the bat and exit velocity, it’s hard to credit too many of his home runs to luck. Even giving him 11 instead of 13 for the season, he’d still be on a 37 home run pace.

Getting away from the fancy numbers, the good news about all this is that Correa actually has an ISO that would be 6th best in the majors, due in large part to the 14 doubles he has collected alongside his 13 home runs. Correa’s power seems to be legit, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see him challenge for 30 home runs by the time the season is done.

After looking at the numbers, everything from Correa seems to check out, and it’s clear that he’s not just benefiting from luck. If he could achieve numbers even close to his pace, he already deserves to be called the best shortstop in the game. Over the past 10 years, the best offensive season by WAR for a shortstop came from Hanley Ramirez in 2008 when he had 125 runs, 33 home runs, 63 RBIs, 35 SBs, and a slash line of .301/.400/.540. Based on his prorated numbers, Correa could easily have that season next year, maybe with a few less stolen bases, a slightly lower OBP, and double the RBIs. Oh yeah, and he’s 20. Take that, Bryce Harper.

I tweet about disappointing sports teams @briansreiff

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Matt R
6 years ago

No way he’s challenging 30 HRs by the end of this season or has 126 RBIs next season, but yeah, the kid’s really good.

Neer Shah
6 years ago

Excellent post, Brian. Correa has been a marvel to watch for me in my first full season as an Astros fan.

6 years ago

Fewer stolen bases.