A familiar last name stood out on the Astros’ lineup card in the second game of their Grapefruit League schedule Feb. 25 against the Mets: Correa.
No, the Astros hadn’t pulled off a blockbuster trade or obtained a time machine. Carlos Correa is still with the Twins, but his younger brother, J.C. Correa, very much remains an Astro. He’s in Minor League camp again this year and is among a handful of players who gets pulled over to the Major League side to occasionally appear in Grapefruit League games.
At 24 years old, you won’t find him on MLB Pipeline’s Top 30 Astros prospects list, but J.C. Correa is ready to make a name for himself. He spent last season at High-A Asheville and slashed .309/.364/.446 with eight homers and 64 RBIs in 404 at-bats, playing mostly at catcher – a position he added to his repertoire last year. He can also play second base and third base.
“This offseason, I put in a lot of work catching and trying to get better,” he said. “That’s what I’m working on mostly in the Minors, but I appreciate the Astros giving me the opportunity to play here with the big league guys and show I can play infield, too. I’m ready for the season."
The Astros believe Correa could hit well enough to eventually find a role on a big league roster. He has advanced strike zone judgment, walking more than he struck out last year. But identifying a defensive position has been a little more difficult. Correa made the move to catcher prior to last season to increase his versatility.
During the season, Correa routinely did early work at catcher with Asheville manager Nate Shaver and bullpen catcher/coach Rob Collison. Last offseason, he was mentored in framing and blocking by Jose Trevino, the Yankees’ All-Star catcher and 2022 American League Platinum Glove winner (Carlos Correa won the AL Platinum Glove in 2021).
“He [made] me feel like a brother to him since Day 1,” Correa said. “We got work in and I learned a lot. I was blessed to work with a guy like him.”
Correa admits the move to catcher was difficult at first.
“The first month was a little tough, getting [used] to a new position, the hardest position in baseball, actually,” he said. “But then I got extra work in with the manager every day and got better and by August and September, I felt I was a natural catcher back there.”
Carlos was the No. 1 overall pick by the Astros in 2012 out of high school and was in the Major Leagues at 20. J.C.’s path has been longer. He played four years at Lamar University, getting drafted -- but not signing -- by the Astros in 2019. Houston signed him as an undrafted free agent in 2020 and he didn’t appear in a professional game until 2021 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Obviously, I just keep grinding every day and working hard,” he said. “I’ll do anything to play at that level. I’ll just keep doing my thing. God has a plan and I know it’s taken me longer, but I’m a hard worker, I’m a grinder. That’s what I’ll do every day.”
And what kind of advice is his brother giving him?
“He tells me to have good plate appearances and don’t be nervous or anxious,” J.C. said. “I talked to him and I said, ‘I’m a little anxious,’ and he’s just like, ‘Be you, you’re a great hitter. Make the plays and you’ll be fine.’ He knows the talent I have and a lot of people don’t know that. I know my name isn’t out there, but hopefully, one day it is.”