Through his first 40+ games with the Houston Astros, 20-year-old Carlos Correa is already compared to many other great shortstops of past and present. It’s what we as fans do — compare greatness with other greatness. The most common comparison made since Correa was taken first overall in the 2012 MLB Amateur Draft was to Alex Rodriguez. And then he made this dazzling play against the Royals à la Derek Jeter:
When comparing rookie seasons, though, there is one other dominant shortstop from that era who Correa most closely compares to: Nomar Garciaparra.
Garciaparra was a first-round pick of the Red Sox in 1994. He made his Major League debut in late August of 1996 at 22 years old, but maintained his rookie status going into the 1997 season. At 23 years old, Garciaparra put up dominant numbers in 1997, belting 30 home runs and batting .306 en route to an All-Star selection and a Rookie of the Year award.
In his first four seasons, Garciaparra averaged 28 home runs and 198 hits a year, including his 2000 campaign when he hit .372/.434/.599. Nomar seemed destined to go hand in hand with A-Rod and Jeter into the Hall of Fame, but a wrist injury suffered in 2001 and Achilles injury in 2004 derailed his career. Garciaparra still played 13 years before retiring in 2009 at 35 years old, but never returned to his early dominance.
Correa vs. Garciaparra
Carlos Correa’s path thus far has been a bit different than Garciaparra’s, of course. Garciaparra played college baseball at Georgia Tech and was drafted at age 20, Correa made his MLB debut at age 20.
Correa has been a dominant force since debuting in June and boosted the Astros into a serious contender. In just over 40 games, he has already cemented himself as one of the best shortstops in Major League Baseball and is a favorite to win AL Rookie of the Year. Here’s a look at how the two shortstops rookie seasons compare:
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Garciaparra played a full season of baseball so his numbers are certainly more flushed out than Correa’s, but their pace is very similar. Garciaparra hit 30 home runs over 684 at bats, which is a home run roughly every 23 ABs. Correa’s 9 home runs over 167 at bats is a little better at every 18.5 ABs.
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At 6’0″ and 165 lbs., Garciappara was much smaller than the 6’4″, 210 lbs. Correa, but the offensive approaches are very similar. Garciaparra was known for his ability to barrel up the ball consistently and Correa has a knack to do the same.
Garciaparra had all of the tools to be one of the greatest shortstops in MLB history, except for durability and longevity. Carlos Correa is special, but health is hard to predict and often requires quite a bit of luck. The one thing we can all be happy about, though, is Correa not stepping out of the box every pitch to readjust his batting gloves.