It's easy to think there should be some kind of moratorium on assessing a player's skill when they're just, on some level, trying to figure how to actually play professional ball. The culture shock alone in jumping from the Minors to The Show can be jarring; factor in how much better every single player is and you've almost always got the makings of a tough assignment. In the same way presidents are hesitant to assess their own first terms until after 100 days in office, maybe we should do the same with rookies, standing by until at least 100 games have passed to dive in on their present and future chances for success, lest the small-sample-size gods swing a disapproving glance toward us from on high.
You might think that and believe that, and then someone like Carlos Correa comes along and he makes you doubt everything you thought you thought. You wonder if maybe 56 games is enough to extrapolate some kind of understanding, some kind of direction as to this kid's future path. You make yourself give into this urge because Correa forces you to cave. He's only 20 years old, but he is not a star in the making. He's a star right now; America just doesn't realize it yet.
It's been a dazzling display from the get-go. Since Correa's callup on June 7, he's been a force of power and presence for the Astros, who've only played roughly .500 ball since Correa arrived. But imagine where Houston would be without his 14 home runs and 140 OPS+ since then. Among all players with at least 100 plate appearances since the All-Star Game, Correa ranks 12th in OPS (.975), better than Bryce Harper, Paul Goldschmidt and Jose Bautista. His defense at a demanding position is a few ticks above league average, and his 2.8 bWAR already ranks in the top 20 among rookie shortstops all-time. (Prorate it out to a full season and he'd smash the highest mark into a fine powder.) And even though he's played a fraction of the games, he already ranks fourth in fWAR among all MLB shortstops this season.
So sure, it's only been 56 games, but Correa, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2012 Draft, has been everything Astros fans could've hoped for and then a little extra. He should be a runaway winner as American League Rookie of the Year, and his trajectory, as such, shows little signs of abating.
His power shows very little patterning, as Correa hits almost equally well to all parts of the field, as displayed by Baseball Savant. Hits of all kinds are equally distributed, and his power shows a healthy tendency to go the other way at times.
In practice, Correa makes it look effortless. His first career homer was a violent and confident heave upward, an 83 mph slider that became a 107 mph rocket to left-center. His ninth homer was a weirdo chip shot to right that felt impossible until it landed beyond the wall. His 14th was a two-run, eighth-inning game-changer last week in Oakland. Even in a bubble, without all the metrics to show you his power and efficiency, you merely need to see his swing to understand the hype. (Caution: May cause shortness of breath.)
Correa's peripherals indicate it's not fluky or something that may subside dramatically. His .298 BABIP is only 17 points above his actual batting average, so a sudden and/or steep regression looks unlikely. His strikeout (19.3 percent) and walk (8.2 percent) rates are more than reasonable for a rookie who is already showing such power (.259 ISO), although the 2.35 SO/BB ratio shows his already-impressive plate discipline has room to improve.
For a while, it looked like maybe the Astros were going to bungle his development -- or blow this chance at completing a dream season -- by waiting too long. (Never mind that they very nearly didn't draft him at all.) But as this season heads for its dramatic third and final act, the Astros could not be asking for more from Correa at the plate or in the field, as he showed Wednesday in San Francisco.
It's hard to fathom that Houston's insanely improbable run to the playoffs may rest on the 6-foot-4 frame of a 20-year-old, but Correa appears more than ready to handle the burden.