The Z REPORT

Lance Zierlein: Will Carlos Correa ever become a superstar?

Carlos Correa has not quite become a superstar yet. Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

The baseball season lasts a long, long time. It’s not one big season, but rather, many smaller seasons with different narratives develop during those many seasons. Early in the season there were questions about what was wrong with the Astros offense. Then the narrative turned to the bullpen issues or non-issues depending on your vantage point. There was a time that we were talking about the Astros rotation being one of the most dominant in MLB history, but that has cooled off a little.  

We focus and then re-focus on a variety of topics because the baseball season lasts forever and we need different things to yap about to make it more interesting during the grind of summer. One of the most fluid topics you can debate with someone is what the Astros rotation would be in the playoffs “if the season ended today.” We have all done it. We have all argued about who the top four starters would be and what the bullpen set-up would look like.

We are now at that stage of the season before the trade deadline where all of the talk is about to revolve around which arms to target off of other rosters to become the next closer for the Astros. I’ve got Brad Hand from the Padres, but that’s not what I’m writing about today. I’m writing about Carlos Correa.

The best of the Astros

Jose Altuve is the Astros G.O.A.T and that isn’t up for debate. I’m not doing the Biggio vs. Altuve thing either. Not here and not now. In his relatively short Astros career, Alex Bregman has made a strong case for being the second best position player on this roster. We all know that Bregman’s legend as a clutch player continues to grow, but the first-time All-Star is also becoming very consistent. Take a look at his numbers over his last 162 games:

Games

Runs

Hits

2B

3B

HR

RBI

BA

OB%

SLG%

OPS

162

109

184

47

5

30

103

.297

.378

.535

.913

OK, Alex Bregman is good. REALLY GOOD. But this isn’t what my article is about or I would just drop the mic after that table I just put on you. And are you even arguing against Bregman being the second best position player on this team? George Springer is a good player who can carry you when he gets hot, but I don’t know that he’s THAT guy for an entire season. Which brings us to Carlos Correa.

Expectations for Correa

I brought up Carlos Correa on the radio and the fact that he hasn’t been able to ride a long-term hot streak this season and that I was a little surprised that Correa hasn’t made the move into superstar territory just yet. All of a sudden, the discussion turned to whether or not our expectations for Correa are too high.

I say no. Carlos Correa has superstar ability and a superstar future. I’m right, right? I mean, he looks the part….he’s got to be a future MVP candidate and best shortstop in the game, right?

Maybe not. For the record, I’m sticking with my assumptions that I’m right. He is a big guy with a sweet swing and the ability to drive the ball with power and his .941 OPS gave us some insight into what he’s capable of. Defensively, Correa is rangy with a cannon for a right arm. But are my expectations too high for him? Are yours? I’ve just always assumed he would become a 35-40 homer hitter and approach the 1.000 OPS mark.

I love Carlos Correa and that won’t change if he doesn’t become the MVP-caliber superstar that I’ve always expected him to be. But I’m going on record that my expectations aren’t changing for him. I still expect Carlos Correa to become the next, great shortstop and you should too.

 

Justin Verlander will get the Opening Day nod. Bob Levey/Getty Images

If you're not into basketball, or maybe just not into college basketball until March Madness gets here or the NBA until playoff time, man is this a sucky time of the sports year.

It will soon get better, with the Astros like all Major League teams having thrown open the doors to spring training. Less than six weeks away now to Opening Day, for the Astros that will be in St. Petersburg against the Rays. Barring a spring misfortune either way the Opening Day matchup will have American League Cy Young Award runner-up Justin Verlander pitching opposite AL Cy Young winner Blake Snell. In game two Gerrit Cole will certainly go for the Astros, you'd think the Rays counter with their 30 million dollar free agent addition, ex-Astro Charlie Morton.

The biggest roster issues for the Astros to decide in Florida, aren't very big. Who wins the job as fifth man in the starting rotation? Going in that's seemingly advantage Josh James with Framber Valdez and Brad Peacock as the alternatives. For now. Someone who is part of the Astros' rotation once the season gets here is a placeholder. Unless something goes wrong, super stud prospect Forrest Whitley arrives in the majors this year, though not until at least June. Barring a dire need, the Astros will keep Whitley in the minors long enough to push back his salary arbitration eligibility a year. The Astros also have a last spot or two in their bullpen to determine.

Among the non-pitchers, the single biggest story line should be Carlos Correa's back. Correa was simply a bad player while ailing the second half of last season. It would be a horrible thing if at 24 years old Correa has recurring back problems. If he does not one would presume he gets back on track toward superstardom. Jose Altuve should be fine coming off knee surgery, the same expected for Alex Bregman working back from elbow surgery.

As in life few things in baseball are guaranteed. But given good health and their seemingly weak AL West competition, as the Astros start spring training, they're close to a guarantee to end up in the postseason for the third year in a row.

Cougars keep rolling

It's 24-1 for the Houston Cougars after they ground down UConn in the second half Thursday night. Sunday they play at the joke that is Tulane (4-19, 0-11 in conference). When the new polls come out Monday UH will move up to at least number seven in the nation.The Coogs are clearly the biggest college hoops story in Texas this season, but props to Sam Houston State. The Bearkats enter the weekend as one of only four teams in Division One undefeated in conference play. The other three: Tennessee, Gonzaga, and…Wofford.

Texans miss out?

So when it comes to your sports teams, how flexible is your morality? The Texans could use an upgrade at running back. Lamar Miller had a decent 2018 season, though he faded down the stretch with four straight ineffective performances. Yes the Texans offensive line was terrible, but a better back than Miller would presumably have been more productive. If the Texans keep Lamar Miller for 2019 his salary is five and a half million dollars.

Until Monday, Kareem Hunt was available, for roughly 20 to 25 percent of Miller's salary. Then the Cleveland Browns signed him. As a rookie with the Chiefs in 2017 Hunt led the NFL in rushing. He was having another fantastic season in 2018, when a video surfaced of Hunt shoving and kicking a woman in a hotel last February. Turned out Hunt had lied to the Chiefs about the incident and they decided to release him. Hunt is currently on NFL suspension. He will come off though and the Browns will then add a sensational talent on the cheap. Hunt signed a one year deal reportedly for about one million dollars which actually will be a raise for him over what his original Kansas City contract would have paid.

So the Texans could have had Hunt for, say, a million and a half. They'd have added a running back more explosive than the Texans have ever had. And saved about four million dollars in the process by cutting Miller. Would you have signed Hunt? Or would no player guilty of such loser punk behavior ever have a place on your team?

There is no indication that the Texans showed interest. But don't go crazy proclaiming them paragons of integrity. In 2017 the Texans celebrated Brian Cushing's return from his second NFL suspension for testing positive for performance enhancing drugs. They recently hired Cushing as an assistant strength and conditioning coach. Morality judgments come on a sliding scale.

Buzzer Beaters

1. James Harden's ongoing streak of 30+ point games is astounding. The extreme ball domination also often makes the Rockets a tedious watch. 2. The Rockets hit the All Star Break one game closer to the draft lottery than to third place in the West. That is stunning, though there is virtually no way they miss the playoffs. Right? 3. NBA Valentine's Day shout-outs: Bronze-Kevin and Bob Love Silver-Roses: Jalen, Derrick, and Malik Gold-Valentines: Denzell and Darnell.

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