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2017 Player Profiles: Carlos Correa

Carlos Correa took a step back this year after lighting the world on fire in 2015. What went wrong? What does 2017 hold for him?

Seattle Mariners v Houston Astros Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

Welcome! If you are reading this shortly after it is posted, you are probably a fantasy baseball nut like me, thinking ahead to ranking and evaluating players for the 2017 season, when the real baseball postseason is still in progress. Even if you are reading this in March as draft preparation, that’s ok. In fact, it is even encouraged!

Today, we turn our attention to Mr. Carlos Correa of Ponce, Puerto Rico. Did you know he had a 4.0 GPA, was class valedictorian, and scored 1560 on the SAT (the old scoring where 1600 was perfect) in high school? Who knew? He did all that while traveling all over Puerto Rico playing baseball and practicing hours each day. In 2015, all that hard work paid off with a stellar MLB debut. He hit 22 HR in just 432 PA, with an 0.857 OPS. Not too shabby for a short stop.

Consequently, he was drafted in the first or second round in most fantasy leagues in 2016. A power-hitting shortstop that can carry a decent batting average, a good OBP, oh and steal 14 bases in less than a full season is a very valuable asset. If you’re reading this, then you probably know what happened.

He put up a season that would have been amazing from a shortstop in most seasons. However, this year, 20 HR and an 0.811 OPS from a shortstop are just good, not great. Trevor Story hit 27 HR in 415 PA, Marcus Semien and Corey Seager both hit more than 25. Correa hit the same number of homers as Didi Gregorius and Freddy Galvis! How’s that for some context? He finished at #11 on the shortstop home run list and on the ESPN player rater for shortstops.

His batting average stayed about the same as 2015, his walk rate actually went up, increasing his OBP, and his strikeout rate just nudged up to league average. So nothing really hurt him there. His steal rate went down a little, but 13 steals is still pretty good.

Let’s take a look at some of his other stats:

LD% GB% FB% Hard% Pull% HR/FB% SwStr%
2015 22.40% 48.60% 29.10% 32.90% 35.50% 24.20% 8.40%
2016 22.40% 50.10% 27.40% 37.20% 39% 16.50% 10.30%

Avg Exit Velocity F-Strike% O-Contact% Z-Contact% Barrels/PA
2015 91.80 56.50% 70.30% 89.10% 5.80%
2016 90.80 59.90% 65% 84.30% 4.80%

Looking at the comparison between his 2015 and 2016 stats, you can see that he hit more ground balls (bad), fewer fly balls (bad), a lot more hard hits (good), and more pulled balls (good for power). His HR/FB rate came back down from a very high rate to something sustainable for someone with his power, so that was expected and he still has a good rate. It is not good that his swinging strike rate increased, but his overall strikeout rate was still just average, so I’m not worried. All of this is about a wash.

How about the second table? Well, his exit velocity and percentage of barrelled balls (balls that were struck square) did drop a little. However, even with the drop, he is still in the top 20% of hitters in baseball in both categories in 2016. He got behind in the count more with a higher first-pitch strike percentage, which may have hurt him. Also, his contact rates on pitches both inside and out of the zone dropped, which certainly didn’t help him.

Despite all these stats, some of which are pretty advanced (thanks Baseball Savant for Statcast data!), we still can’t find a smoking gun. Yes, his exit velocity’s small decline could signal a drop in his power, but it is a very small drop and still sits well above average. All his power-related stats declined this year significantly, yet none of the advanced stats show such a big drop.

This next table will hopefully solve the mystery.

vs LHP 0.73 0.149 0.278 16.10%
vs RHP 0.839 0.186 0.345 16.70%

That looks promising, right? As a right-handed hitter, he should do better against lefties than righties. That obviously didn’t happen in 2016. Across the board, he was worse against southpaws. Since we know that reverse platoon splits are extremely rare and require 1000s of PA to fully trust, we can be sure that he will do better against LHP in 2017. Look at the BABIP. He was quite unlucky. In 2015, his OPS against LHP was 0.899 and 0.836 against RHP. If you bump up his performance against LHP this year, suddenly his OPS could be 0.840 and his slugging (0.385 against LHP), could have been 0.470 instead of 0.451.

So there you go. A strange inability to hit lefties (partially due to very bad luck) and minor drops in exit velocity, contact rate, and fly ball rate combined to produce a down year for him.

Combine all this and I am very confident that 2017 will be a bounceback year for the young Astros shortstop. I foresee something between his 2015 and 2016. Let’s put some numbers to it: 0.275/0.360/0.480 with 25 HR, 78 R, 100 RBI, and 12 steals. That gets him back to elite shortstop company, but maybe not quite #1 at the position. Corey Seager, Jonathan Villar, and Manny Machado are tough competition. Tschus!