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.

 

Most Popular

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome

Listen Live

ESPN Houston 97.5 FM
Good news for Jose Altuve. Photo by Harry How/Getty Images.

One never knows how things will play out but of the known General Manager candidates, Jim Crane nailed it in hiring Dana Brown out of the Atlanta Braves' organization where he was Vice President of Scouting. The 55-year-old Brown's scouting and development pedigree is stellar. The Braves have been a talent-producing machine in recent years. Obviously all the credit isn't Brown's but his four years with the Braves preceded by a productive pipeline he was part of in Toronto speak highly of him. Not that it was or should have been the guiding principle to Crane's decision-making, but the Astros now have the only African-American General Manager in Major League Baseball (Ken Williams is Executive Vice President of the Chicago White Sox).

Brad Ausmus is a super-smart guy, but if had he gotten the GM gig it would have been in large part because he was teammate besties with Jeff Bagwell. While “It's not what you know it's who you know” plays a role in many, many hires, it would have been a poor rationale for tabbing Ausmus. Maybe Ausmus would have done a great job. Maybe Brown does a lousy job. Brown was the much more strongly credentialed candidate. While Bagwell has moved way up Crane's confidante list, Brown played college baseball with Craig Biggio at Seton Hall.

Speaking of Halls…

If I could tell you as absolute fact that exactly two members of the 2023 Houston Astros will someday make the Baseball Hall of Fame, who are you picking? Jose Altuve isn’t a lock just yet but he is obvious pick number one. So for the second spot are you going with Alex Bregman or Yordan Alvarez? We’ll get back to this a couple of paragraphs down.

As was basically a given, former Astro (and Phillie, Met, Red Sox, and Brave) Billy Wagner was not elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame this week, but as I suggested last week the voting returns were very favorable toward Wagner making the Hall next year, or if not next year in his final year of eligibility on the Baseball Writers Association ballot for the Class of 2025. “Wags” in the Class of ’24 is looking good. Wagner jumped from 51 percent to 68 percent “put him in” votes. The only guy this year to get the necessary 75 percent for election is worthy third baseman Scott Rolen. Two years ago Rolen got 53 percent of the votes needed, last year 63 percent, before getting the call to Cooperstown with 76.5 percent this year. Wagner going from 51 to 68 to 75-plus looks likely. Of course it’s not as if Wagner can pad his case with a good 2023 season, but this is how the process works. The other ballot returnee well positioned to make it next year is former Colorado first baseman Todd Helton. Unlike this year there’s a sure-fire first time ballot guy going in next year. Third baseman Adrian Beltre will undoubtedly wear a Texas Rangers cap on his plaque.

As expected Carlos Beltran didn’t come close to election in his first year of eligibility, but drawing 46 percent of the votes sets him up well to eventually get the Cooperstown call. Beltran was a fabulous player and his Hall credentials are solid. However, no one reasonable would argue that Carlos Beltran was as good or better than Barry Bonds. In his first year of eligibility back in 2013 Bonds garnered 36 percent of the vote. There has been some turnover in the voter pool over the last decade, but it's clear that Beltran’s central role in the Astros’ sign stealing scheme was not held against him to the extent that PED use (actual and/or suspected) was held against Bonds and Roger Clemens. And Alex Rodriguez. And Sammy Sosa. And Manny Ramirez. And others. Foremost right now that’s encouraging for Beltran, but it’s also encouraging down the line for fellow Astros of 2017-18.

What does this mean for Jose Altuve?

If Jose Altuve retired today (perish the thought!) he’d have a good case for the Hall. He had superstar seasons in 2016, 2017, and 2022, and has five other seasons that while not in the realm of his three best certainly rate as excellent. If you judge a player by his five best seasons, there aren’t 10 second basemen in the history of the sport who’d rank ahead of Altuve. Among those who clearly would: Joe Morgan, Rogers Hornsby, Eddie Collins, and Nap Lajoie. Among those four only Morgan played more recently than 1937. Then there’s a group of arguable guys like Jackie Robinson, Ryne Sandberg, Roberto Alomar, and yes Craig Biggio. Altuve has had the prime of a Hall of Famer. What sort of final numbers will he accrue? In late May or early June he should reach the 2000 hit plateau. How many more prime years does Altuve have left before inevitable decline? His career batting average is .307. Four years ago it was .316. Will Altuve retire a .300 hitter?

Bregman or Alvarez? Bregman gets extra points for being an everyday third baseman as opposed to a left fielder-designated hitter, but by age alone Yordan is the better play. Bregman turns 29 on opening day this year. Yordan doesn’t turn 26 until late June. When Bregman was 25 (2019 season) he put up a season more valuable than Alvarez’s tremendous 2022. In the three years since Bregman hasn’t approached that level, though his big second half last season could be a springboard back to that stratosphere. Yordan is in that stratosphere and figures to stay there for a while if his health holds up.

Can't get enough Astros coverage?

Stone Cold ‘Stros is the weekly Astro-centric podcast I am part of alongside Brandon Strange and Josh Jordan. On our regular schedule it airs live at 3PM Monday on the SportsMapHouston YouTube channel, is available there for playback at any point, and also becomes available in podcast form at outlets galore. Such as:

Apple Podcasts

AudioBoom

Google Podcasts

iHeart

RSS

Spotify

Stitcher

YouTube

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome