Fantasy Baseball

Doubling Down on Carlos Correa

When I wrote my piece on Trea Turner, I did not directly reference Carlos Correa, but he was very much on my mind.  This time last year the hype train was revving up for Correa following a 22 HR/14 SB, .279/.345/.512 performance in 99 games.  Correa was going as the 6th overall player off the board in drafts on average.  The fantasy community was buying into a great, but abbreviated sample size from one of the game’s top prospects.  Sound familiar.

Last year, Correa was still very good, but he was not otherworldly.  In 153 games, Correa hit 20 HR and stole 13 bases while triple-slashing .274/.361/.451.  In recent years, Correa’s season would have been sufficient to rank him among the game’s best shortstops, but with several breakouts among his brethren, the shortstop position became among the deeper positions in fantasy baseball.  Correa’s season put him ninth at the position and the 90th player overall.  A fair season, but a disappointment from the 6th overall pick.  If before the season began, I told you that Correa would play in 150 plus games and he would finish ninth at the position, you would dismiss me entirely.

While Correa could (and I would argue, should) be the cautionary tale for those going gaga over Trea Turner, Correa is going to be a borderline first or second round pick again this year.  Is he worth the price of admission?  Do you double down?  The answer may lie in last year’s numbers.

Last year, despite a declining home run rate, Correa actually made hard contact at a higher rate (37.2% compared to 32.9% in 2015).  Although Correa increased his hard contact rate, Correa still experienced a reduction in HR/FB rate from 24.2% down to 16.5%.  This helps explain the decline in power.  Now, that 24.2% from 2015 was sure to come down and last year’s HR/FB rate is a much more reasonable, but still healthy percentage.  That is part of the equation when it comes to Correa’s power simple regression, but there are also signs that there is more upside beyond last year’s number – one sign which I have already discussed would be growing hard contact rate.

In addition to keeping his hard contact rate high, Correa sports a very healthy, but not limiting pull percentage (39%).  If you hit ball hard and to the pull side, the power will come more easily.  However, to realize that power upside without the benefit of an unsustainable HR/FB rate, Correa will need to hit the ball in the air more often.  Correa has a GB/FB ratio of 1.76 over his young career.  This is disconcerting because when a player is pounding the ball into the dirt, they have no chance at a home run.

The hope here is that Correa can continue to evolve in his approach and hit a few more flyballs while keeping a slight slant towards the pull side.  With this change, the batting average change would be nill, but the power increase could be moderate to substantial.

The other element of Correa’s game, which was mildly disappointing was his running.  Correa stole only 13 bases last year compared to 14 steals in 2015 despite appearing in 54 less games.  Efficiency was not the issue as Correa was successful on 13 of 16 attempts and his baserunning, in general, was above average.  Correa also was not adversely affected by a lack of opportunities, in addition to playing in more games, Correa had a higher OBP last year (.361) than he did in 2015 (.345).  So what happened?

In June, Correa hurt his ankle and that coincided with a near-two moth stretch where Correa did not attempt a single steal.  In the two months preceding the injury, Correa attempted 11 steals.  If he had run at that pace all year, you are looking at 33 attempts with approximately 25 successful steals.  At 24 years of age, Correa is unlikely to stop running all together anytime soon, however, with a much improved lineup around him, I do think he will run a bit less.

Even with that caveat, you do not have to squint real hard to see how Correa could be .280 25/25 player in the middle of the best lineup this side of Chicago.  While I am one of Turner’s biggest detractors, I am also happy to be one of Correa’s biggest proponents.  I would be happy to expend one of the wheel picks at the turn of the first round, start of the second round on Carlos Correa.

Carlos Correa projection: 156 GP, 25 HR, 100 R, 95 RBI, 22 SB, .282/.365/.488

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