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Carlos Correa is on the ascent

The Astros’ star shortstop is setting himself up for a massive payday.

MLB: Texas Rangers at Houston Astros Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

At this rate, Carlos Correa will easily eclipse the Astros reported extension offer last offseason. Like, it isn’t going to be close. While his first two months of the season were still well above average based on wRC+ — about 34 percent, give or take — the star shortstop has the appearance of a man on a mission. The month of June (17 games) has proven that much.

  • 7th in wRC+ (209)
  • T-4th in fWAR (1.0)
  • T-5th in home runs (4)
  • 17th in ISO (.327)

When healthy, there is little reason to doubt Correa’s abilities as a hitter and as a fielder. Only one qualified shortstop — Xander Bogaerts — is considered more valuable by fWAR. Depending how you view defensive metrics, one could argue that Fernando Tatis Jr. is also more valuable, but it is hard to dispute Correa’s place as one of the top five shortstops in baseball. We’ve all seen his heroics at the plate when it matters most. In fact, we were recently reminded following his game-tying two-out home run against the Ranger earlier this week. He also possesses a canon of an arm at shortstop that is difficult to find anywhere else. But, again, it all comes down to health.

One key reason, other than health, behind Correa’s ascent up the leaderboards is a renewed patience at the plate. For example, if the season concluded today, Correa’s 12.2 percent walk rate would be a new career-best by nearly a full percentage point. Plus, his strikeout rate of 16.1 percent would also represent a new career-best by multiple percentage points.

Why is that? Well, I think we can state Correa isn’t swinging as much as he used to at 41.7 percent. For context, his career swing rate is 43.7 percent. But there is more to this than meets the eye. In fact, Correa isn’t chasing pitches outside the strike zone as much as he used to. Take a look at the chart below that illustrates this point.

The most impressive part is that his contact rate of 79.4 percent this season is nearly a percentage point higher than his career average of 78.6 percent. So, in general, Correa has found a way to maximize his efficiency as a hitter by becoming more selective. By laying off pitches thrown outside the strike zone more. It is an interesting trend for a hitter like Correa, who has historically posted great numbers when his back wasn’t flaring up. This is a topic that I plan on revisiting as we get closer to second half of the season.

As I mentioned earlier, at this rate, Correa’s value is only rising as the season heats up. If he continues at this pace, it will easily justify why he didn’t he accept the Astros extension offer before Spring Training. Heck, he was right to turn it down in the first place. The question is whether this pace can continue and how does Houston’s front office/ownership address his impending free agency?