Junior Jr.? Correa marked for greatness

Talented shortstop already appears well on his way to an amazing career

January 16th, 2016

Nolan Ryan described newly elected Hall of Famer Ken Griffey Jr. as "the most complete player I have seen in a long time."

Ryan, however, thinks baseball may have gotten a glimpse of a player with a similar type of long-term potential last year in Carlos Correa. The budding star shortstop made his big league debut on June 8 at the age of 20, and he quickly became a fixture in the middle of the Astros' infield and lineup, helping a team that had lost 416 games the four previous seasons to claim an American League Wild Card spot.

"When [Griffey] came up, you thought he was a Hall of Fame-caliber player," Ryan said. "When you see somebody that age have such an impact on the game, like [Griffey] did, it comes down to a matter of something not derailing his career. That kind of player doesn't come along very often.

 "Correa is one of those young players who is really special. It is a matter of him staying away from that crippling injury. It is very unique at his age to have his skills for the game and the leadership qualities to become the face of an organization."

Correa is one of 20 players who have started at shortstop for the Astros over the past five seasons, matching the Dodgers for the most in the big leagues, according to Stats Inc. No player has started more games at short for the Astros during that time than Marwin Gonzalez, who's made 181 since breaking into the big leagues with Houston in 2012.

Correa, who was the first player selected in the 2012 Draft, appeared in 99 games with the Astros after being called up, hit .279 with 22 home runs and 68 RBIs in 387 at-bats and nabbed the AL Rookie of the Year Award.

Padres fill void

In signing free-agent shortstop Alexei Ramirez to a one-year contract, the Padres were hoping to find some stability in the middle infield while they wait for the development of Javier Guerra, the No. 3-ranked prospect in their system who has yet to play above the Class A level.

It's not just that the Padres have used 18 players at shortstop in the past five years -- which equals the fifth-highest total among Major League teams -- but they have also had a player start 100 or more games there in a season only twice in the past five years, and not at all in the past three, according to Stats Inc.

Jason Bartlett made 136 starts at shortstop with San Diego in 2011, and Everth Cabrera started 104 games at short in '12. Alexi Amarista led the Padres with 79 starts at shortstop last year. Clint Barmes made 51 starts there, followed by Jedd Gyorko (28) and Will Middlebrooks (four).

Cabrera's 291 starts at shortstop led San Diego over the past five seasons. The only other players with a combined 100 or more starts at short for the club in that span were Amarista (166) and Bartlett (162).

Only 14 of the 220 Major League players who have started a game at shortstop in the past five years have averaged 100 or more starts per year, led by Alcides Escobar (777 starts), Ramirez (776), Elvis Andrus (748), Ian Desmond (739) and Erick Aybar (725).

Around the horn

Among other infielders, there have been only 12 players who have averaged 100 or more starts over the past five years at third base, 12 at second base and 11 at first base. There have also been just eight at catcher.

None of the 321 players to start a big league game at third base in the past five years has started at least 700 games in that time. Three of the 286 players who have started at game at second base have made at least 700 starts: Robinson Cano (751), Ian Kinsler (723) and Brandon Phillips (705). Three of the 315 players to start at first base have made at least 700 starts: Adrian Gonzalez (739), Freddie Freeman (711) and Eric Hosmer (700). Yadier Molina's 629 starts are the most among the 184 catchers who have started a game behind the plate since the start of the 2011 season.

There were 43 outfielders who started at least 100 games during that time frame, including six who started more than 700 games: Andrew McCutchen (760), Adam Jones (749), Justin Upton (742), Jay Bruce (738), Alex Gordon (716) and Nick Markakis (713).

Happy anniversary

• 43 years ago Monday, Hall of Famer Orlando Cepeda inked a deal with the Boston Red Sox, becoming the first player signed specifically to be a designated hitter.

• 32 years ago Wednesday, the Chicago White Sox selected Hall of Fame pitcher Tom Seaver off the Mets' roster. New York had left Seaver unprotected, thinking no team would select the 39-year-old pitcher. Seaver went on to win 15 games in 1984, and 16 more in '85, including his 300th career win on Aug. 4, 1985.