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Tender trio: Correa, Lindor, Seager paving way

MLB.com @RichardJustice

If we're really lucky, we'll be debating the greatness of this era of young shortstops for the next decade. Sometimes, we just get lucky that way.

Besides, what else are baseball fans supposed to feel when they channel surf through a baseball evening and catch glimpses of the Astros' Carlos Correa, the Indians' Francisco Lindor and the Dodgers' Corey Seager?

If we're really lucky, we'll be debating the greatness of this era of young shortstops for the next decade. Sometimes, we just get lucky that way.

Besides, what else are baseball fans supposed to feel when they channel surf through a baseball evening and catch glimpses of the Astros' Carlos Correa, the Indians' Francisco Lindor and the Dodgers' Corey Seager?

Surely, this was what it was like in New York to watch three future Hall of Famers -- Willie Mays of the Giants, Mickey Mantle of the Yankees and Duke Snider of the Dodgers -- play center field in the 1950s.

This is as good as it gets. If you watch just one of these shortstops for a stretch of games, you'll be convinced he's the best in the business. You're blown away by -- not just the things that can be weighed and measured, but by the energy and competitive fire.

Perhaps most of all, there's the sheer joy all of them bring to the park every single day.

"Why not?" Lindor asked one day last season. "We are doing the thing we love. This is a dream come true."

MLB Network's coverage of this offseason has included a Top 10 Right Now series ranking the best players at each position. Last week, they had the top three shortstops lined up in this order: Correa, Seager and Lindor. Programming note: This week, it'll be the left fielders and catching getting this treatment.

Video: Corey Seager is the No. 2 shortstop right now

Here's one of the cool things about the shortstops: These three are just getting started with their careers. Lindor is 24, Seager and Correa are 23. They were highly touted prospects, and so far, they have lived up to every expectation.

Correa and Lindor arrived six days apart in June 2015. Seager joined the Dodgers on Sept. 3. All have been fixtures ever since, and what's especially impressive -- what will fuel the debate -- is how similar their numbers are:

Games: Correa (361); Seager (329); Lindor (416)
Homers: Correa (66); Seager (52) Lindor (60)
OPS: Correa (.863); Seager (.876); Lindor (.823)
OPS+: Correa (138); Seager (133); Lindor (114)

Seager has made the playoffs three times, Correa and Lindor twice apiece. Between the three of them, they've made five All-Star appearances and won two Rookie of the Year Awards.

Correa won the American League Rookie of the Year Award in 2015, with Lindor finishing second. Seager won the National League Rookie of the Year Award the following season.

Seager and Lindor's defensive metrics are slightly better than Correa's. But Correa's offensive numbers are better across the board, despite missing six weeks with a thumb injury in 2017. These are fine lines. Fans in Cleveland, Houston and Los Angeles are convinced their guy will define the position for the foreseeable future.

Video: Francisco Lindor is excited for the 2018 season

Here's another cool thing: these three pay attention to one another. They are engaged with -- and motivated by -- one another.

One of the things veteran players advised Cal Ripken to do when he was moved from third base to shortstop by the Orioles in 1981 was to watch baseball's top shortstops. In his case, that was Ozzie Smith, Alan Trammell, Robin Yount, etc.

"You can pick up things they do that you might be able to incorporate in your own game," Ripken said. "But back then, the highlights weren't as available as they are now."

Now, when Seager makes a jaw-dropping play -- say, a sliding stop and a laser throw across the diamond -- Correa and Lindor will have it on their phones almost instantly.

"Absolutely, I'm paying attention," Correa said. "You can pick up a lot by watching great players like those guys."

Correa says it's not just these three. All appreciate that Andrelton Simmons of the Angels might be the best defensive shortstop of this generation. They admire how Zack Cozart played the position in Cincinnati before signing with the Halos this offseason and preparing to move to third base.

But in terms of youth and talent and bursting upon the scene with an immediate impact, Lindor, Correa and Seager are unique.

Oh, and they're keeping an eye on one other guy.

Manny Machado, who has won two Gold Gloves playing third for the Orioles in the past six seasons, would like to move back to his natural position. Yeah, you guessed it -- shortstop.

Machado has played third base at such a high level that it's tough to imagine him being any better at short. But the Orioles might accommodate him this season, and one of his priorities in free agency next offseason will be the opportunity to play shortstop full-time.

Machado is only 25. He'll have some competition.

Richard Justice has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2011. Read his columns and follow him on Twitter at @RichardJustice.