2015: The Year of Carlos Correa?


None of us are in much doubt about the rebuilding state of the Astros.  How could you be?  The team last finished above .500 in 2008 and the last back-to-back .500 seasons were 2005 and 2006.  The former, of course, saw the Astros reach the World Series where the Chicago White Sox ran out fairly convincing 4-0 winners (although it was a sweep, the Astros lost the games 5-3, 7-6, 7-5 in 14 innings, and 1-0) despite needing a Wild Card to reach the postseason.  The 2008 season suggests that the Astros haven’t necessarily been in rebuild mode ever since Wednesday, October 26, 2005, but even their 86-75 record was only good enough for 3rd in the NL Central that season.

2009 saw the team slump to 5th in the division before 2011 brought the organizations first 100+ loss season (previous low was 65-97 in 1965 and 1991), the first of three consecutive 100 loss seasons all overseen by new owner Jim Crane.  2011 was also the last time that the Astros attendance would be above 2 million for the season.  The Astros reaction to the 2011 season took many forms, but one notable change was the installation of Jeff Luhnow, the Saint Louis Cardinals Vice President of Scouting and Player Development, as Astros General Manager.

Luhnow arrived after the worst season in franchise history and oversaw an even worse season in 2012.  Then an even worse season in 2013.  He has done this in the name of ultimately improving the franchise through a process of bottoming out and accumulating young assets.  Many Astros fans are losing patience with the Luhnow “Lose-Now” experiment.

The one positive that came out of the disastrous 2011 season was the first pick in the 2012 MLB rookie draft.  The Astros used this to take Shortstop Carlos Correa from the Puerto Rico Baseball Academy and High School.  Correa is, by most people’s reckoning, our best prospect.  2012’s first overall pick is ranked by MLB.com as their second best prospect for the upcoming season, after Minnesota’s Byron Buxton who was also taken in 2012.

Here is a scouting video of Correa’s swing, published soon after he became an Astro.

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Here is one showing his fielding mechanics.

At 6’4″ and 205lbs, Correa has good size but size that ultimately might see him outgrow a position that is heavily dependent on agility.  The average height of an MLB player is only 6’1″ and, unsurprisingly, SS is the second – ahem – shortest, on average.  This is, of course, to ignore the success that men of around Correa’s size have enjoyed in the position.  Cal Ripken was almost identical to Correa in terms of size, although Correa is listed as being slightly taller and slightly heavier.  Hanley Ramirez (6’2″) is another fairly large man at shortstop.

Carlos Correa has played for the Gulf Coast Astros, the Greeneville Astros, the Quad Cities River Bandits and the Lancaster Jethawks, where the 62 games he appeared in prior to his injury saw him record 81 hits for an average of .325 and an OBP of .416.  He batted in 57 runs, on track for a career high (the previous season he recorded 86 RBI in 117 games in QC) and stole 20 bases.

Correa’s development was stunted somewhat by a broken fibula, suffered when sliding into third base during a Single-A game in June, but this injury is not expected to hinder him in the 2015 season.

Many Astros fans will be wondering when we might get to see Correa in action at Minute Maid Park.  We saw something of hard-throwing righty Mike Foltynewicz last season after he rose rapidly through the minor league system in the 2013 season before showing enough during 21 games in the 2014 season with Oklahoma City to earn a shot in the majors.  George Springer, meanwhile, was up and down the minor leagues, playing 13 games at OKC before he earned his call up.

We should perhaps expect for Correa to spend at least the 2015 season in the minor leagues, based on the data on other Astros prospects. Whether or not the Astros acquisition of Jed Lowrie, a fairly versatile infielder means that Correa is destined to remain in the minors for the entire season, or perhaps will be allowed to learn under Lowrie, remains to be seen.