Carlos Correa already the AL’s best shortstop

In the first part of the 2015 season, up until early June, the crop of American League shortstops has been frustratingly bad. This is true to the point where a guy like Brad Miller could be considered a legitimate candidate to log some time at short in representing the AL in the All-Star Game. Then, on June 9th, that all changed as the shortstop position finally saw an elite talent rise to the Major League level and immediately take the league by storm.

Carlos Correa has represented more than just a breathe of fresh air for the shortstop position. For an upstart Houston Astros team, he immediately became a key contributor for a legitimate playoff contender upon reaching the big league level. He’s become so much of a contributor that he’s not only proven to be every bit the player that the ‘Stros had hoped he’d be, but he’s risen to the top of the shortstop crop in the American League, reigning supreme as the top player at the position.

This is an interesting declaration, given that Correa doesn’t even have enough plate appearances this season to qualify for the leaderboards. However, there is also plenty of legitimacy in declaring him so. It speaks not so much to the lack of depth in the position throughout the American League, but the level at which Carlos Correa has managed to perform at just a short time in the big leagues.

Going by WAR, Correa ranks second among AL shortstops, with a 2.7 figure. That trails Xander Bogaerts by 0.1 WAR, despite the fact that Correa is currently sporting about 200 less plate appearances. Read that line again. That’s absurd. In fact, with the exception of Bogaerts, and even that’s only true in some respects, Correa is doing nothing short of obliterating the rest of the competition at the position in the American League.

This is where Carlos Correa ranks among AL shortstops across his barely 200+ plate appearances at the big league level:

  • Home Runs: 14 – 1st
  • Batting Average: .290 – 3rd
  • On-Base Percentage: .344 – 2nd
  • Slugging: .560 – 1st
  • K%: 18.5% – 8th
  • BB%: 7.5% – 3rd
  • ISO: .271 – 1st
  • wRC+: 149 – 1st

For a rookie to simply burst on the scene like that is not completely unheard of. Kyle Schwarber is essentially doing it with the Chicago Cubs, though in a far smaller sample size. What Correa is doing goes beyond that, though. He has become an elite shortstop in every sense. His numbers are impressive, yes. But there isn’t any reason to believe that they’re going anywhere anytime soon, either.

Look at his spray chart, courtesy of Baseball Savant, which outlines his exit velocity:

That’s a lot of different shades of red. He’s making hard contact 34.1% of the time. That not only easily leads all AL shortstops, but would rank 17th in the American League overall if he had enough plate appearances to qualify. He’s sporting a 21.0% linedrive rate and a strong 82.0% contact rate. He’s also managed to stave off a typical rookie penchant for hacking at pitches outside of the zone, where he has a reasonable 32.6% swing rate. At some point, given his ability to make regular and hard contact, as well as a relatively low BABIP (.301), one has to wonder how his numbers could potentially be better than they currently are.

It’s not as if he’s a slouch on defense, either. FanGraphs has him at a Def rating of 3.7, which has him ninth among AL SS, but his three Defensive Runs Saved are the third most at the position and he’s already made 51 Out of Zone plays. This highlight video was made before Correa even logged a month’s worth of time at the big league level. He has a UZR per 150 of 8.2, which has him almost at the ‘Great’ level, in terms of fielding. That ranks seventh among shortstops with room to grow.

All of this culminates in what could be a relatively easy declaration that Carlos Correa is the best shortstop in the American League. There’s very little we can point to that he doesn’t do well. Not only is he maintaining a solid contact rate, but he’s making hard contact. In doing so, he’s demonstrated an outstanding ability to hit for extra bases, while bringing a quality approach to the mix. And he has the glove to back it all up. He’s a rookie that looks to be developed far beyond his years.

As such, there are no qualms here about declaring Carlos Correa to be the class of the shortstop position in the American League. Good luck catching up, everyone.

**Statistics via FanGraphs

Randy Holt is the managing editor for Statliners. You can follow him on Twitter @RandallPnkFloyd.