Is Carlos Correa Already Baseball’s Best Shortstop?

Why yes: performance. If you want to argue that Carlos Correa is already baseball’s best shortstop, you can simply point to his performance, and to the performances of the other shortstops. What could be easier? Correa, of course, hasn’t played a full 2015 season, but he has batted a couple hundred times, so let’s look at the numbers and keep them all above a common, 600-plate-appearance denominator. Do that and Correa comes out as a top-10 position player. The closest shortstop, by WAR, is Brandon Crawford, who trails by just about two wins. Whatever you think of the error bars in WAR, two wins per 600 plate appearances is a big margin. The argument, in other words, has decent support.

Why no: projections. Statistics reflect talent, but they can also mislead. It can be better to refer to the projections, as they can be a decent proxy for current estimated true talent. Projections don’t suffer from recency bias. They don’t suffer from hype, and they don’t suffer from any sort of overreactions. Looking at the shortstop depth-chart projections, and putting WAR over 600 plate appearances, Correa is basically tied with Crawford and Jhonny Peralta, a win behind Troy Tulowitzki. Some months ago, Tulowitzki was the unquestioned best shortstop in baseball. How much should we really reconsider, after part of one season?

If you choose to believe Tulowitzki remains the best shortstop, that’s fine. It’s totally justifiable, and Correa still doesn’t have an extended track record. Could have a slump just ahead of him. Could be a bad one. But as absurd as it might sound, Correa really does have an argument of his own. He’s been that good to date, and if you don’t believe he’s better than Tulowitzki yet, it seems only a matter of time until the trend lines intersect. One of them turns 31 in two months. One of them can finally buy his own drink in a month and a half.

We have a pretty good idea that Correa’s defense is there. He didn’t draw negative evaluations in the minors, he’s so far avoided weight gain, and the small-sample defensive numbers are positive. It’s harder to believe his instant-impact offense. In fact, the projections don’t believe it — though Correa’s sitting on a .381 wOBA, he’s projected the rest of the way at .319. It’s here I point out Correa doesn’t have any sort of unsustainable ball-in-play luck. The projections are just reluctant to see a 20-year-old as being an immediate terror.

Which, yeah, we should all be. This isn’t normal. That’s informing the projection. Also informing the projection: Correa didn’t exactly blaze through Triple-A. But he did destroy Double-A, after destroying High-A, and he’s also destroyed the majors. With every passing week, there are fewer and fewer doubts. The presence of Mike Trout and Bryce Harper makes us vulnerable to the overrating of youth. Yet Correa seems challenging to overrate.

For an idea of something that makes Correa special, consider the following video highlights.

Big home run! Pulled with authority.

Big home run! Pushed with authority.

Correa, so far, has had outstanding success to left field, and also outstanding success to right. Pulling the ball, he has a 228 wRC+. Going the other way, he has a 213 wRC+. These are based on pretty small samples, but they’re still promising, because Correa has demonstrated his ability to hit with power to all fields. That’s a difficult thing to fake. For the sake of perspective, here’s the list of hitters who, since 2010, have managed a 200 or better wRC+ to the pull side and the other way:

That’s it. And Correa doesn’t have Davis’ whiffing habit. Relaxing the standards, here’s the list of hitters at 150 or better:

Good hitters, almost every single one. Baker has a strange presence, but then he’s been heavily platooned, so this doesn’t reflect him as an everyday player. These players have proven more than Correa has. There’s a reason Correa isn’t included — he doesn’t have the track record yet, so we have to be gentle with his statistics. But this is why they’re so encouraging. He isn’t just feasting on balls he can pull. He’s showing both contact and plate coverage, and when you can do what Correa has already shown, you have to try really hard to be bad.

There’s this other interesting thing, too. Something that makes Correa look fairly unusual. Of his groundballs, he’s pulled 46% of them. He also has an ISO of .266. Here’s the relationship between those numbers, again since 2010:

iso-grounder-pulled

Tends to be, power hitters pull more of their grounders. This has something to do with the swing paths, and at the top of the pulled-grounder list, you find names like Chris Davis and Chris Carter and Mark Teixeira. At the bottom are Jean Segura, Ben Revere, Ichiro Suzuki, and Nori Aoki. One weird exception I’ve written about before is Corey Dickerson, who you see all by himself toward the upper left. There’s also Ryan Zimmerman, Prince Fielder, and Yasmani Grandal. There’s a small group of hitters who can hit for power without pulling too many grounders. Correa might belong in that group, depending on where his numbers go from here. This isn’t as amazing as the information above, but it’s weird, further evidence that Correa isn’t like most other players or prospects.

As you’d expect, as Correa has gone along in his rookie season, opponents have tried to make adjustments. They’ve seen what he’s done, and they’ve looked for his weaknesses. Correa has played in 50 games, so I split his season in 25-game halves. In the second half, he’s gone from seeing 50% fastballs to 60% fastballs. He’s gone from seeing nearly half of all pitches in the strike zone to something closer to 40%. And yet, power’s still been there. Correa has dropped his chase rate. His K-BB% has improved from 17% to 6%. His batting average has dropped, but he’s remained successful, and it could be that whole drop is simple luck. The approach is good. The authority is good.

It isn’t unprecedented for a rookie to have immediate big-league success. Following the initial adjustment, though, there are adjustments to adjustments, opponents learning what a player is all about. Sometimes, this can mean an extended slump, as we saw last year with Xander Bogaerts. We could still see that with Correa, who has an awful lot left to learn. But at least so far, Correa has survived the adjustments. He’s been able to adjust back. He’s been able to look like baseball’s best shortstop. Maybe he hasn’t yet earned that title. If not, it feels like a matter of time.

We hoped you liked reading Is Carlos Correa Already Baseball’s Best Shortstop? by Jeff Sullivan!

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Jeff made Lookout Landing a thing, but he does not still write there about the Mariners. He does write here, sometimes about the Mariners, but usually not.

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Chris
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Chris

It’s so weird to think that it was not long ago at all that there was a general thought that Houston had messed up big-time by passing on Buxton over Correa.

Ryan
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Ryan

Can’t find comment button. I would say Jose Iglesias is the best SS right now. Best fielding SS in the MLB. Best range. Best arm. And he’s batting .320

Jake
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Jake

jose iglesias is not a better fielder than andrelton simmons

Alcides Escobar
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Alcides Escobar

No respect…

Brendan Dillon
Guest
Brendan Dillon

Button up that shirt, your Tiger stripes are showing. You sound liek my grandfather, talking about BA. That .314ish BA has resulted in a whopping WAR of 2.0 over 96 games, versus Correa’s 2.7 in 51 games. Iglesias’ D is nice, but his walk rate is mediocre at best and he hits for less power than a wet paper sack. Iglesias is a good shortstop among the current batch… but largely because the current batch is mostly pretty weak.

Rick
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Rick

FTW–? Iglesias’ D is nice?! Sign my up!! Hot.

Jorge
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Jorge

Well it’s pretty obvious he is trolling you…don’t need to get all fired up

Jesus Rosado
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Jesus Rosado

Iglesias is not even top 3, best defensive and best Arm at SS is Simmons, Iglesias is batting .320 but has zero power he basically is a singles hitter the .avg stat doesn’t show how many extra bases a player has, even Correa has more RBI and Runs in half the games because the power difference is huge, Tulo is hands down the best SS in the MLB nobody except for Correa has his OFF/DEF combo, Correa in my mind is already the 2nd best SS in the Majors but I won’t be surprised if he is the best by next year, right now Tulo has the edge because of his track record.

Christian
Guest
Christian

Tulo is a beast. probably better today. hes also over a decade older than correa. being the massive Astros fan I am (as brutal as the past five years were) I sure hope he doesn’t get hurt. If he was in NY or Boston or LA he would be the next “face of baseball” the next Jeter with more power.

Christian
Guest
Christian

You are an idiot. average is a LARGELY over rated stat with the introduction of saber metrics the past years. ask josh Donaldson who is the best third basemen in the game ( usually top three in the WAR column)and he hardly hits over 250 seen Correa in person three times now. His talent isn’t the only thing that is just jaw dropping. To me its his presence. He cant even legally buy alcohol and he does things like its an expectation of himself.(arrogance and poise are a must for greatness(which are obviously a rare combo) in his first multi homer game, his first home run was a slider low and in that he was so fooled on when he made contact he had one hand on the bat, but he kept his weight back. one handed it over the left field fence.(incredible strength to keep his weight back and allow torque to remain in his swing) later in the game he drove a mid nineties fastball opposite field to the right of our bullpen. power to all fields. great range at short. can throw 100mph across the diamond. a swing anmiss rate of 8.3 is incredible. not to mention his incredible bat speed. like stated in the article above almost half the balls he puts in play are going over 100 mph….. insane. First at bat I ever saw of him, he hit a line drive 50ft over the 404 sign in left field. do the math on how far that ball would have gone. it left the yard in about 2 seconds. the kid never cracked a smile til he got to the dugout. He has it all, future gold glover, silver slugger, MVP, and this all can happen as soon as next year. if you take his number from this season (missing two months at the beginning of the year to to finances) hed hit over 285 over 40 homers and obviously over 100 rbis. please, when you have no idea what on earth your talking about don’t make comments. he will be the rookie of the year in the AL and the MVP next year.

Monstermash
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Monstermash

You don’t have to be a dick about it. Sheesh.

Salter1432
Member
Salter1432

Try proofreading

Christian
Guest
Christian

Right. The real mistake was the following draft taking appel. should have taken that other pitcher who was high nineties to triple digits. he was just out of highschool and not as polished of a pitcher. makes no sense since taking correa so young they obviously are chasing talent. u cant teach 100 mph to mark appel, but you can teach a change up and command to an 18 kid chunkin that kind of cheese