The Astros have held the first overall pick five times in franchise history. Unfortunately, they have struck out on arguably four of those opportunities.
The Astros rebuild from earlier this decade was often met with ridicule and questions. Some argued that the team didn’t need to be blown up and begged ownership to spend money on free agents. Others didn’t argue against the rebuild per se, but they definitely didn’t like the way it was carried out by the front office. And there were individuals who supported the front office’s rebuild, either wholeheartedly or with a touch of slight pessimism. You can put me, unashamedly I might add, in the wholehearted group.
At the center of the Astros rebuild was the first overall pick of the 2012 MLB draft, which turned into a young shortstop from Puerto Rico. His name is Carlos Correa. And he may very well become one of the greatest Astros in franchise history.
Of course, it is still too early to make such a bold proclamation. We simply do not know how Correa’s career will pan out over the long-term. We do not even know whether all of his seasons will be spent as an Astro. Every indicator is pointing up, though. But we do not have the benefit of a crystal ball. All I ask is that he doesn’t have the same fate befell him like Dickie Thon decades earlier.
All we can do at this time is look back upon Correa’s major league debut, which happened two years ago yesterday, and remind ourselves that the Astros got this one right.
Thanks to Baseball Reference, we can see how Correa performed on his major league debut against the Chicago White Sox.
6/8/15 Stat Line: 4 AB, 1 H, RBI, SO, .022 WPA
Unfortunately, the Astros lost to score 3-to-1 that day. They also lost the next two games against the White Sox. But this didn’t matter in the grand scheme as Correa was finally in the majors. The rebuild was one step closer to being a success.
In the two years that have followed since Correa’s debut, he has blossomed into one the game’s top stars. Between his AL Rookie of the Year in 2015 and his continued growth as a player in 2016, the future was bright heading into this season. His career up to this point has been a resounding success in terms of productivity.
If you scour the leaderboards across the reputable sites (Baseball-Reference, Fangraphs, etc.), you will notice that the Astros shortstop’s name appears quite high on various lists.
Fangraphs WAR from 2015-17: 10.7 WAR, 21st out of all qualified batters
Fangraphs wRC+ from 2015-17: 130 wRC+, 25th out of all qualified batters
Baseball-Reference WAR/pos from 2015-17: 12.7 WAR/pos, 15th out of all qualified batters
Baseball-Reference OPS+ from 2015-17: 132 OPS+, 25th out of all qualified batters with at least 300 plate appearances
If you drill down further by position, which would be shortstop in this instance, Correa rockets up the WAR leaderboards. Fangraphs WAR by position has him ranked fifth since his debut in 2015. Baseball-Reference WAR places Correa first amongst shortstops who have played at least 50% of their games at the position. Basically, Correa has been one of the more valuable players in baseball. When you consider that there are 750 active players in the majors today, then this is a noteworthy accomplishment.
The only area in his game where Correa may lack in any distinguishable manner is his defense. If you somewhat trust UZR or DRS, you will find Correa in the negative with -4 DRS and -9.8 UZR from his debut in 2015 through Thursday. This puts roughly in the middle of pack defensively at his position. But this doesn’t mean he can’t make some great plays in the field.
Sure, the play was from Spring Training, but you get the point. While Correa’s defense likley won’t win him any Gold Gloves anytime soon, he can still make defensive plays that will drop your jaw.
There is no doubt that the Astros chose wisely when Correa was made the first overall pick in 2012. His career up to this point has been a validation of sorts for the Astros. The plan is working and Correa is one of the faces for it. Let’s just hope that his career produces more of the fond memories we have developed in his first two years.
**Statistics courtesy of Fangraphs and Baseball-Reference**