The 4-hour trip to Princeton WV was one that I decided to make upon learning that I could see Adrian Houser, Lance McCullers, and perhaps even Joe Musgrove within a 24-hour Saturday-Sunday window. Ariel Ovando and Jean Batista would give me something to pay attention to when Greeneville batted. Before the bottom of the 6th on Saturday, I noticed Greeneville manager Omar Lopez discussing his lineup card with the home plate umpire. No pitching change had been made so I scanned the field and noticed that James Howick had been replaced at shortstop by someone wearing a #6 jersey with no nameplate above the number. As I considered who that newest addition to the Greeneville roster might be, I heard the stereotypical “Your attention, please. Now playing shortstop for Greeneville, # 6, Carlos Correa.” announcement prompting a sheepish “Oh, yeah … that guy.” reaction from me. Even an experienced scout isn’t going to be able to thoroughly breakdown the relative strengths and weaknesses of a lower-level minor-league position player by watching him for 12 innings over 2 games. That type of thing requires several hundred innings of observation and quite a bit of associated pitch and play event charting. Instead I am going to focus this post on what I saw and the things that you wouldn’t be able to see when you look up Correa’s boxscore or play-by-play recap just before you go to sleep or after you awake.
At the Plate
I didn’t chart pitches of his 2 plate appearances on Saturday night but I did do so on Sunday. Here’s a breakdown of Correa’s 6 plate appearances in varying measures of detail:
1. Saturday, 7th inning, bases empty, 0 outs, facing a RHP, 3 runs already in. On what was probably either a 2-0 or 1-1 pitch, Correa scalds a line drive that falls just to the right of short CF for a single.
2. Saturday, 9th inning, leading off against a different RHP. This was a long battle featuring upwards of 7 pitches and a few fouls back to the screen. He ultimately strikes out on what looks to be a breaking ball in the dirt.
3. Sunday, 1st inning, bases empty, 1 out, facing a tall LHP who is mostly throwing 89-92 mph fastballs and an occasional 79-82 mph slider or changeup. After taking 2 fastballs low for balls and fouling a fastball off into the firstbase stands between those balls, Correa hits a seeing-eye groundball up the middle that passes cleanly into centerfield for a single.
4. Sunday, 3rd inning, bases empty, 1 out, facing the same LHP. On a first pitch 93 mph fastball, Correa hits a slicing flyball into the RCF gap that just keeps carrying and carrying and to my surprise hits the fence halfway up on the fly and he pulls into second with a standup double.
5. Sunday, 5th inning, bases empty, 2 outs, facing the same LHP. After taking two offspeed offerings for balls, he looks at a fastball on the outside corner for a strike and fouls another one off to even the count before grounding out to the third baseman on another fastball.
6. Sunday, 8th inning, Greeneville trailing 1-0, leading off against a true sidearmer RHP. This set up as the most interesting plate appearance of the day given Correa’s righthandness and his probable lack of experience against this type of thrower. Furthermore, the splits show that the sidearmer, Alex Keudell, is eating up RHB as you might suspect (.212 AVG, .284 OBP, 10 K/9, 4 K/BB against them as of this post). Keudell throws mostly what looks like slider with a sharp late break at about 78 mph while occasionally mixing in an 85 mph fastball with lots of armside run (moves in on a RHB). Correa quickly falls in an 0-2 hole after looking at the first 2 pitches then takes two inside to even the count. Keudell then tries to sneak his first fastball of the PA by Correa who fouls it off at the plate. The next 2-2 offering is another inside slider that causes Correa to virtually jump out of the batter’s box for ball 3. The full-count delivery is the fastball again but Correa lays off the high pitch for a walk. All things considered this was a very good plate appearance against a tough pitcher for a RHB and especially so after falling into an 0-2 hole, not to mention the game state.
Correa saw 17 pitches on Sunday that break down into 8 balls, 3 strikes taken, 3 pitches fouled off, 1 groundball out, 1 groundball single, and 1 flyball double. Over the 2 games I saw a lot of positives: patience, few swings and misses, rallying back into counts, spoiling 2-strike deliveries, hard contact, opposite-field power, no signs of being physically overmatched. Taking all of that small sample into consideration makes me suspect that Correa will finish the Greeneville season well at the plate.
On the Bases
Baserunning is not an area that we think about when we ponder Correa’s future. Correa showed signs of a being an aggressive baserunner who puts himself in position to advance when opportunities present. He was very active when taking his primary leads off first and second jockeying at times to get even better separation from the bag, drawing the attention of the pitcher and forcing them to make throws over or step off accordingly. Once the pitch was thrown, he stretched that lead into a good secondary one, seeking advantages to aid in his quest for the next bag. Two episodes of Correa’s baserunning exploits caught my eye. After his no-out debut single on Saturday night, he advanced to second on a bunt and stretched his secondary lead still further when a pitch to the next hitter was blocked by the catcher who struggled to find the ball in front of him. As the catcher grabbed the ball, Correa was probably beyond a third of the way to third and in some definite risk of being caught in a rundown. The catcher chose to flip a throw behind Correa from his knee rather than charging Correa, and Correa smartly bolted for third when the catcher released the ball and he got into the third without the secondbaseman even bothering to attempt a throw. The advance, which officially gets scored as a steal of third, paid immediate dividends as the next batter lifted a flyball to leftfield allowing Correa to tag and score the go-ahead run (in the 7th inning). After the 1-out double on Sunday, the next batter hit a groundball in the 3B-SS hole. As the thirdbaseman cut across to field the ball in front of the shortstop, Correa held or slightly stretched his secondary lead sensing that the thirdbaseman wasn’t going to have much time to fool around with him if he intended to get the out at first, then dashed for third when the throw was made and made it there without the first baseman having a shot at him. It was the definitely the kind of advance that most professional baserunners do not attempt today. Overall, while we shouldn’t expect Correa to steal a ton of bases, do not be surprised if the combination of what look to be good baserunning instincts/habits and his young legs permit him to steal bases at a high success rate when situations call for them.
In the Field
In his 12 innings in the field, Correa factored into only 4 plays. He completed the turn of a 4-6-3 groundball double play in the 9th on Saturday and successfully completed three 6-3 groundball out plays on Sunday. He wasn’t challenged from the standpoint of having to range far to his left or right on any batted balls. At most he had to charge in a bit on the more slowly hit of the grounders though none of them would rate much more than average on a degree of difficulty scale. His arm strength appeared neither exceptional nor below average for a shortstop. He looks like a shortstop to the untrained eye, albeit a taller than average one- Correa having to move off of short seems like a very far off proposition if not utter nonsense given his current physique.