Carlos Correa Rumors
Is this the beginning of a new era for shortstops?
Four publications -- Baseball America, Baseball Prospectus (subscription required), Keith Law at ESPN (subscription required), and FanGraphs (compiled by yours truly) -- recently released their midseason Top 50 prospects lists. The rankings featured as many as eight elite shortstop prospects. That position is widely considered to be the most important (non-pitcher) spot on the baseball field and those potential star athletes are highly-sought-after commodities on the open market, through trades and via the draft.
Of those eight prospects featured on the four lists, five of the players are found in American League organizations, suggesting we may be soon entering another Era of the Shortstop, similar to what we experienced in the early 2000s with the likes of Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, Nomar Garciaparra, and Miguel Tejada in the AL.
Let's have a closer look at those eight shortstop prospects...
1. Xander Bogaerts, Red Sox: Bogaerts was the highest ranked shortstop on all four lists. Boston is clearly planning for the day that the Aruba native is ready to contribute at the big league level as they recently had him playing games at the hot corner -- an area of weakness for the playoff hungry club. However, the recent trade of Jose Iglesias, as well as the pending free agency of veteran Stephen Drew, should provide a clear path to the Major League shortstop job for Bogaerts, who has more than held his own at the Triple-A level.
2. Francisco Lindor, Indians: Just 19, Cleveland's top shortstop prospect earned a mid-season promotion from High-A to Double-A after a strong showing both in the field and at the plate. Veteran incumbent Asdrubal Cabrera's uninspired 2013 season could help convince the front office that his time with the organization is coming to an end. Lindor, who is only in his third professional season, could be ready for the Majors by the middle of 2014. He could develop into a perennial Gold Glove winner at shortstop.
3. Carlos Correa, Astros: The first overall pick in the 2012 amateur draft, Correa has produced above-average offensive numbers in Low-A ball despite being just 18 years of age. The Puerto Rico native has shown a natural hitting ability, but he has yet to tap into his raw power. There are concerns that he'll eventually outgrow shortstop, but he should have the offensive chops to be an above-average player at just about any position on the field.
4. Javier Baez, Cubs: Baez has arguably the best raw power out of any player on this list, and he already has 27 home runs in 98 games this year. Like Lindor (a fellow 2011 first-round draft pick), he's already reached Double-A. Unlike the Indians prospect, though, his offensive game is raw. He has a very aggressive approach at the plate, which has resulted in just 29 walks with 111 strikeouts in 391 at-bats. As is the case with Correa, there has been some talk of moving Baez to third base. However, with fellow prospect Mike Olt (recently acquired from the Rangers) -- a plus defender at the hot corner -- that move doesn't make a ton of sense now. He could also move out to right field, but the Cubs organization features a lot of depth in that area. If and when everything clicks for Baez, though, Chicago will certainly find a spot for him.
5. Addison Russell, Athletics: Russell, a 2012 first-rounder, burst onto the prospect landscape in a big way last season. His strong play earned him an aggressive assignment to High-A ball to open the 2013 season despite being just 19 years old. He struggled in the first two months of the season but has posted an OPS near 1.000 during the past two months. Russell probably won't be ready until 2015, so current big league shortstop Jed Lowrie likely has one more season of job security before he finds himself at another position or on another club.
6. Alen Hanson, Pirates: The emergence of Jordy Mercer has added some middle infield stability at the big league level for the Pirates but he's not likely to be the long-term answer at shortstop. Hanson, 20, is the best in-house option to eventually take over the position -- although his name has popped up more than a few times in recent trade rumors. After a strong showing in High-A ball, the Dominican native was recently promoted to Double-A. The switch-hitter has shown the ability to steal 20-30 bases with solid line-drive pop.
7. Raul Mondesi, Royals: Previously known as Adalberto Mondesi, this shortstop prospect is one of the youngest players in full-season ball, having just recently turned 18. His inexperience has shown in 2013, and he walked just four times in May and June. His raw ability is undeniable, though, and he's made adjustments with a strong month of July -- including 13 walks and his highest monthly OPS of the year at .817.
8. Corey Seager, Dodgers: Seager -- whose brother Kyle Seager plays for the Mariners -- is perhaps the most underrated shortstop on this list. The teenager has enjoyed his time in the Midwest League, and he's been on fire over the summer months with an OPS approaching 1.000. He's also slugged eight of his 11 home runs in June and July. Like Correa, Seager is expected to outgrow shortstop but he's shown enough skill at the position to suggest he may be able to stick there for a few more years. He's likely at least two seasons away from reaching Los Angeles.
If not for the hapless Miami Marlins, the Astros would be in line for the worst record in baseball for the third straight season. Clearly, it's been a rough stretch for the Houston fan base. The good news is that a strong group of reinforcements is on the way to The Show. The fans will have to take a leap of faith while the high-ceiling, minor-league talent rises to the surface.
The last two-plus years of mediocrity in Houston have allowed the organization to receive the first overall draft picks in both 2012 and 2013. An astute group of talent evaluators and baseball minds in the scouting department has helped to ensure the organization not only made the most of its first overall selections, but also made some clever trades for young talent while shedding players that did not figure into the rebuilding vision.
General Manager Jeff Luhnow has worked to ensure the club is pointed in the right direction as it moves to recapture some of the organization's past successes. But, truth be told, the club's front office and scouting department began to find its footing in 2010 -- almost two years before Luhnow was hired away from the St. Louis Cardinals to replace ousted GM Ed Wade.
From 2000 to 2009 the Astros' drafting efforts bordered on brutal -- especially when focusing on the club's first choice each season. Current Astros catcher Jason Castro (2008) stands out as the lone bright spot in an otherwise dreary decade. It certainly didn't help that the club's free agent exploits cost the scouting department three first round selections (2003, 2004, 2007) and resulted in the selection of forgettable prospects such as Robert Stiehl, Derick Grigsby, and Max Sapp.
As mentioned above, the 2010 season began the major shift for the Astros and the past five first round draft picks are among the 10 best prospects in the system. Let's have a closer look at them:
2010 -- Delino DeShields Jr., 2B, Georgia HS: Reds prospect Billy Hamilton received a ton of hype last year for breaking the century mark in steals, but DeShields also swiped more than 100 bags in a much quieter fashion. It's been a slower go for the 20-year-old Astros prospect in 2013 as he's managed just 15 steals in 24 attempts. He's holding his own at the plate with a .280 batting average but has yet to have a true breakout to solidify himself as one of the top prospects in the game.
2010 -- Mike Foltynewicz, RHP, Illinois HS: Foltynewicz flew under the radar for a few seasons but the hype is starting to build -- and it's easy to see why. The right-hander's velocity has crept up in the past year and he's been clocked as high as 98-100 mph in recent starts. Only 21, he opened the 2013 season in the offense-padding launching pad in Lancaster (High-A) and held his own before a promotion to Double-A in early May. Since that time, hitters have batted just .157 against him, and he has a 1.41 ERA in nine appearances. Brian T. Smith of the Houston Chronicle recently took a look at Foltynewicz and highlighted both his talent and his drive to succeed. "Everybody knows what kind of power and strength he's got... But the encouraging part is since he's been here we're starting to get better down location, OK, and his breaking stuff and changeup (are) really coming along really nice... you won't find much better talent than he's got."
2011 -- George Springer, CF, University of Connecticut: It took a couple of years but Springer has officially sprung. The young outfielder is tapping into his raw power on a more consistent basis (18 homers, .618 slugging percentage) while treading water with his contact rates. Springer still strikes out a lot (77 strikeouts in 61 games) but the tradeoff for the power output is worth it. He could be ready to patrol the outfield in Houston before the 2014 All-Star break. In another piece for the Chronicle, Smith featured Springer, and the prospect said he's not trying to put too much pressure on himself: "It's just kind of one of those things where I'm not too concerned about the results. I just try to go out and compete and play hard and develop as a player," Springer said. "It's one of those things where I was told to just let the results happen... For me, it's all about slowing myself down, having a lot of fun..."
2012 -- Carlos Correa, SS, Puerto Rico HS: One of the youngest hitters in A-ball at 18, Correa has started to heat up and has become more consistent while flashing the tools that caused him to go first overall in 2012. After hitting .221 in April, the young Puerto Rican's batting average is now up to .292, and he's walked 30 times in 50 games. Correa is still at least two years away from adding stability to the Astros' big league shortstop position but the wait could be well worth it. Brandon Simes of MiLB.com recently spoke to the young infielder and Correa gave his thoughts on what Mark Appel should look to do now that he's been drafted by the Astros. "Just focus on making the organization proud, keep working hard and try to get to the big leagues as fast as possible," Correa said. "I saw him getting called. I'm very excited to have him here with us in the organization. I'm looking forward to meeting him and being able to play together."
2013 -- Mark Appel, RHP, Stanford University: Appel is not property of the Astros just yet -- and something could still go terribly wrong -- but there is a very good chance that the college senior will eventually come to terms with his hometown club. After turning down the Pittsburgh Pirates as the eighth overall selection of the 2012 draft, the right-handed pitcher's gamble paid off as he has become an even better player, will earn a larger signing bonus, and appears ready to develop into one of the top pitching prospects in the game.
As the saying goes, things are always darkest before the dawn, and -- if the minor league system is any indication -- Houston fans are in for a bright future.
The 2013 Major League Baseball amateur draft will begin later today and the Houston Astros possess the first overall pick for the second year in a row. The draft acts as a cost-effective tool for clubs looking to stockpile young talent. Despite the thousands of hours logged by each club's scouting department while trying to determine the best amateur talents available, the draft remains a bit of a crapshoot and will be full of hits and misses -- although it may be years before most teams' outcomes are fully known.
Five players from the 2012 draft -- Kevin Gausman (fourth overall, Orioles), Michael Wacha (19th overall, Cardinals), Paco Rodriguez (second round, Dodgers), Alex Wood (second round, Braves) and Michael Roth (ninth round, Angels) -- have already made their debuts in The Show. Many others have seen their prospect values soar, while a select few have already taken steps backward. It's generally thought that the best talents of any given draft will be found in the first five to 10 picks but success is never a guarantee. Let's have a look at the early results from the first 10 picks of the 2012 draft and see if that belief has held true.
1. Carlos Correa, SS, Astros (Puerto Rico HS): It's been reported that Houston's front office went down to the wire before finally settling on Correa as the first overall pick. While speaking with "someone in the know" during the offseason, I was told that one of the things that made the young Puerto Rican attractive -- other than his obvious raw talents -- was that he will likely be ready to be an impact talent at the big league level when the rebuilding Astros are ready to legitimately compete in the American League West. Someone like Gausman, Mark Appel, or Mike Zunino are more likely to see their best seasons occur while the club is still finding its competitive footing. Still just 18, Correa has held his own in A-ball while showing the ability to hit for a solid average, an impressive understanding of the strike zone and good power.
2. Byron Buxton, OF, Twins (Georgia HS): Buxton, a toolsy Georgia native, has made Correa's 2013 numbers look pedestrian. The Twins prospect is currently hitting .348 with a 1.023 OPS and 26 stolen bases in 53 games. At just 19 years of age, the gifted centerfielder looks too advanced for Low-A ball. Robert Emrich of MiLB.com wrote a piece on Buxton last night after the prospect went 5-for-6 with two triples.
3. Mike Zunino, C, Mariners (University of Florida): Seattle fans were eager to see the catcher make the big league club out of Spring Training but the organization wisely played it safe and assigned him to Triple-A. After a quick start to the 2013 season, holes in Zunino's game were exposed and his batting average plummeted while his strikeout rate rose. Currently hitting just .228, he's still showing impressive power with 11 home runs in 43 games.
4. Kevin Gausman, RHP, Orioles (LSU): As mentioned above in the intro, Gausman has already reached the Majors -- no doubt a welcome sight for the O's after former top pitching prospect Dylan Bundy succumbed to an elbow injury. Gausman struck out 49 batters with just five walks in eight Double-A starts, though his Major League results have thus far been inconsistent (a 7.20 ERA through three starts).
5. Kyle Zimmer, RHP, Royals (University of San Francisco): Considered almost on par with Gausman from a talent perspective prior to the draft, Zimmer is currently stuck in High-A ball. He's flashed a heavy, powerful fastball and has struck out 65 batters in 52 innings of work but he's struggled with his command, resulting in seven home runs allowed and a 5.54 ERA.
6. Albert Almora, OF, Cubs (Florida HS): Considered a gifted fielder, it was said that Almora's defensive work in center field was almost MLB caliber at the time of the draft. The Florida native got a late start to the 2013 season thanks to a broken hamate bone but he's been on fire since being activated. He's hitting .429 with just six strikeouts in 12 games.
7. Max Fried, LHP, Padres (California HS): Fried got off to a quick start to the year and has shown glimpses of his immense talent but he's also displayed the need for improvements in a number of areas. He's allowed 13 runs in his last 13 1/3 innings of work. On the year, he's issued 22 walks in 44 innings and has struggled against right-handed hitters ( RHHs at .265 vs. LHHs batting .149).
8. Mark Appel, RHP, Pirates (Stanford): Appel was the lone 2012 first-rounder that did not come to terms with the club that selected him. He returned to Stanford for his senior year of college and has improved his draft stock; he's expected to be a top-three pick, going to either the Astros, Cubs or Rockies. That should land him a larger signing bonus than he would have been eligible for with the Pirates in 2012. Had Appel signed with Pittsburgh, he would have given the organization quite an impressive future rotation along with Gerrit Cole and Jameson Taillon. Tim Keown of ESPN.com recently wrote about Appel's decision to return to college and re-enter the draft in 2013.
9. Andrew Heaney, LHP, Marlins (Oklahoma State): Like Almora, Heaney was slowed by injury and did not make his first start of the year until late May. In total, he's made three starts and has an ERA below 2.00 with 18 strikeouts in just 12 1/3 innings. He joins Justin Nicolino, who was acquired from the Blue Jays in the offseason, as a pair of impressive left-handed pitching prospects that look close to ready for the challenge of Double-A.
10. David Dahl, OF, Rockies (Alabama HS): Dahl made a very positive impression during his 67-game pro debut in 2012 and, during the offseason, was touted as one of the steals of the draft as the 10th overall selection. However, some questionable decision making (which reportedly involved missing a flight) got him shipped out to extended Spring Training in April, despite originally earning a roster spot on the Low-A club to begin the season. Dahl has since regained his Low-A spot and produced solid-but-unspectacular results in his first 10 games; he was recently placed on the minor league disabled list.
Supplemental Round Picks of Note
The first round of the MLB amateur draft is not the only place to find high-ceiling talent. Quality prospects can be found littered throughout the 40 rounds. Below are some of the players that were taken in the supplemental first round -- picks mainly given as compensation for the loss of key free agents from the previous offseason. A number of the players selected in that round have looked impressive early in their careers and have performed well enough to suggest they should have been true first-round selections.
Jose Berrios, RHP, Twins: Berrios brings a much-needed power arm to the Twins organization. The Puerto Rico native has struck out 44 batters in 39 innings despite being one of the youngest pitchers in the Low-A Midwest League; Berrios just recently turned 19 years old.
Zach Eflin, RHP, Padres: Like his fellow Padres prospect Max Fried, Eflin was a promising prep arm acquired in the 2012 draft. Unlike his southpaw teammate, though, the right-hander has gotten stronger as the year has progressed and has been a little more consistent.
Daniel Robertson, SS, Athletics: Originally expected to move from shortstop to third base as a pro, Robertson's steady defensive play has convinced the organization to give him a longer look at his natural position. Despite missing much of the first month of the year while rehabbing an injury, the young hitter has shown flashes of above-average potential at the plate.
Kevin Plawecki, C, Mets: High draft picks from the college ranks typically skip over Low-A ball and begin their careers in High-A ball, but the Mets organization has been cautious with Plawecki -- possibly to give him an opportunity to polish his defense. The 22-year-old prospect is showing that his bat is more than ready for a promotion with a .341 batting average and 30 extra base hits. MLB.com's Teddy Cahill recently wrote a feature on Plawecki.
Joey Gallo, 3B, Rangers: After a much-hyped start to his pro career that saw him hit 22 home runs in his first 59 games, the left-handed hitter has come crashing back down to earth. He's slugged another 14 dingers this year but he's also struck out 89 times in 55 games, causing his batting average to dip to .210. He has a lot of adjustments to make to avoid becoming the next Russell Branyan.
Lance McCullers Jr., RHP, Astros: McCullers showed the raw potential to be a first round draft pick in the 2012 draft but questions about his delivery and potential move to the bullpen caused him to slip into the supplemental round. The young pitcher, though, has temporarily quieted his critics and overpowered the Midwest League with a 1.70 ERA and 51 strikeouts in 47 2/3 innings.
Eddie Butler, RHP, Rockies: As with McCullers, Butler was thought to be potentially headed for a pro career out of the bullpen. He's been exceptional as a starter, although the college product did begin the year in Low-A ball where he should have dominated the less-experienced competition. He was recently promoted to High-A ball and has a 3.71 ERA in his first three starts. David Lee of the Augusta Chronicle wrote about Butler's promotion.
5:41pm: Correa's bonus is worth $4.8MM, reports Jon Heyman of CBS Sports (Twitter link).
3:54pm: The deal is official, McTaggart tweets. Luhnow said it's a "monumental day" for the franchise.
THURSDAY, 3:30pm: Correa is in Houston and will sign shortly, Alyson Footer of the Astros reports (on Twitter). The Astros are announcing their deal with the top prospect today.
WEDNESDAY: The Astros have a verbal agreement to sign first overall selection Carlos Correa, according to owner Jim Crane, MLB.com's Brian McTaggart reports (on Twitter). GM Jeff Luhnow said earlier in the week that he expected to sign the Puerto Rican shortstop by Thursday.
Terms of the deal are not yet known but sources told Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com that it will likely be in the vicinity of $5MM. The Astros took signability into heavy consideration and reportedly didn't settle on selecting Correa until the eleventh hour. Pitcher Mark Appel, a Scott Boras client who fell to eighth overall, allegedly rejected a $6MM offer from Houston.
Crane says that the team's deal with Correa is structured in such a way that it will allow the club to also retain some of its favorite picks, according to Zachary Levine of the Houston Chronicle (via Twitter). The Astros will likely need to spend big in order to sign No. 41 pick Lance McCullers Jr., a right-hander who has committed to play for the University of Florida.
Earlier this evening, Astros GM Jeff Luhnow made it known that he expects to sign first-overall pick Carlos Correa this week. According to Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com, the deal will likely be in the vicinity of $5MM. Houston has until July 13th at 4pm CDT to sign the top pick, but it sounds as though they'll have it done with plenty of time left on the clock. Here's tonight's batch of draft news..
- Some executives (though, not Pirates execs) told Buster Olney of ESPN.com (via Twitter) that Mark Appel was drafted about where they had him on their boards, at No. 8. The right-hander was in the mix for the first-overall pick but appears to have priced himself out of consideration.
- Astros scouting director Bobby Heck said the team had a pool of five players they were considering with the top pick and did not decide on Correa until the afternoon of the draft, writes Conor Glassey of Baseball America. All things considered, Glassey writes that there were only a few surprises on the first day of the draft.
- Potential signability issues scared some teams off from outfielder Anthony Alford, but the Blue Jays pulled the trigger on taking him in the third-round anyway. Alford, who is committed to Southern Miss on a football scholarship, has been scouted by Toronto all season long, writes MLB.com's Chris Toman.
General Manager Jeff Luhnow said that the Astros expect to sign first-overall pick Carlos Correa by Thursday, according to Brian McTaggart of MLB.com (via Twitter). The high school shortstop was tabbed by Houston after the club also considered Stanford right-hander Mark Appel and other top prospects.
The deal is expected to be worth roughly $5MM, sources tell Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com. The Astros were considering a few other options very late in the game as one source told Heyman that the decision "came down to the last thirty seconds.''
Carlos Correa joined an exclusive club when the Astros selected him first overall in last night's draft. Some of the game’s best and most accomplished players -- Chipper Jones, Alex Rodriguez, Josh Hamilton, Adrian Gonzalez, Joe Mauer, Justin Upton, David Price, Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper, for example -- were the top selections in their respective drafts.
Correa also joined a smaller, less celebrated club when Bud Selig called his name. He’s now one of six first overall selections who hasn’t appeared in an MLB game. Here’s a list of the others:
- Gerrit Cole, Pirates (2011) - Cole, 21, has a 2.53 ERA with three times as many strikeouts as walks at Class A Bradenton this year. He's on the path to the Major Leagues.
- Tim Beckham, Rays (2008) - Beckham is now serving a 50-game suspension following a second violation of the minor league drug prevention and treatment program. The 22-year-old owns a .263/.330/.379 batting line in five minor league seasons.
- Matt Bush, Padres (2004) - Bush, who was selected as a shortstop, is now a pitcher in the Rays' organization. He's on the restricted list following an arrest for driving under the influence and leaving the scene of an accident.
- Brien Taylor, Yankees (1991) - Taylor was considered an elite pitching prospect, but he injured his shoulder in a physical altercation following the 1993 season and his pitching ability deteriorated. Yahoo’s Jeff Passan told the story in detail back in 2006.
- Steven Chilcott, Mets (1966) - The Mets selected Chilcott with the top pick in baseball's second ever draft, but the catcher never played above Triple-A in seven pro seasons.
The Astros have officially drafted high school shortstop Carlos Correa with the first overall selection in the 2012 draft. Stanford right-hander Mark Appel and others also appeared to be on Houston's radar, but the team's decision makers ultimately went with Correa, who becomes the first Puerto Rican to be selected first overall. Jim Bowden of ESPN and MLB Network Radio reports that new GM Jeff Luhnow called the Correa selection a last-minute decision (Twitter link).
This marks the first selection under Luhnow, who was hired after Jim Crane bought the club last offseason. Scouting director and assistant GM Bobby Heck joined the Astros as their director of amateur scouting following the 2007 season.
Gerrit Cole, Bryce Harper and Stephen Strasburg are the three most recent first overall selections. The group also includes current stars such as David Price, Justin Upton, Joe Mauer, Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Hamilton, Chipper Jones and Alex Rodriguez. The Astros have until July 13th at 4pm CDT to sign Correa.
The 2012 amateur draft kicks off soon, and yesterday we heard that the Astros are expected to select Stanford right-hander Mark Appel with the first overall pick. Here's the latest news on the event, starting with an update on the first overall selection...
- MLB.com's Jonathan Mayo has heard a lot of chatter about Puerto Rican shortstop Carlos Correa going first overall to the Astros (Twitter link). He feels it's posturing, however, and that Appel is still their selection.
- The Braves are likely to select a college player with their first round pick (No. 21), according to the sources of MLB.com's Mark Bowman (on Twitter). As Bowman notes, Mayo has Atlanta selecting Texas A&M outfielder Tyler Naquin.
- Though the Astros appear to have identified Appel as their top choice, they could move on to other options if the right-hander doesn’t show a willingness to sign at Houston’s price, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reports.
- WEEI.com's Alex Speier provided a breakdown of the new rules implemented by the new collective bargaining agreement, and also a primer on what the Red Sox may do.
- The Cardinals have five picks in the first and supplemental first round, and Rick Hummel of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch wrote about their possible plan of attack.
- The Phillies hope to land a college hitter who can reach the majors in short order with their first pick, writes David Murphy of The Philadelphia Daily News. They pick 40th overall after forfeiting their first rounder to sign Jonathan Papelbon.
- Nick Piecoro of The Arizona Republic tells us what to expect from the Diamondbacks on draft day. "The boring, standard answer is we’re going to pick the best player available," said scouting director Ray Montgomery.
- Nationals assistant general manager Roy Clark spoke to Adam Kilgore of The Washington Post about the difference between picking first overall (like the Nats did in 2009 and 2010) and picking in the middle of the first round (like they'll do this year).
- Curious about all the draft picks that changed hands via free agent compensation this year? The full draft order can be found at River Ave. Blues.