For Houston Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow, the clock really began ticking on his tenure as architect for the next era of Astros baseball with the first pick in the 2012 entry draft. In a draft class headlined by pitcher Mark Appel (who would eventually go back to school for his senior year and become an Astro the following season) and outfielder Byron Buxton, Luhnow executed the somewhat calculated risk to draft 17 year old Puerto Rican shortstop Carlos Correa.
Correa accepted a contract slightly below the slotted amount for the top overall pick, which allowed the Astros to have extra bonus money to draft and sign Lance McCullers with the 41st pick overall. Drafting Correa certainly wasn't a reach, but it was a slight risk. Now, three years later, the risk has paid off in spades, as Correa is one of the brightest young stars in all of baseball, 21 years old with playoff success under his belt.
On Monday, the baseball writers gave their validation to Correa's outstanding rookie year, naming him the 2015 American League Rookie of the Year. Correa edged out Indians shortstop Francisco Lindor in what amounted to a de facto two man race. Correa received 17 first-place votes and 13 second-place votes, for a total of 124 points. He was followed by Lindor, with 13 firsts, 14 seconds and two thirds for a total of 109 points. Minnesota Twins designated hitter Miguel Sano finished third with 20 points.
"It's an unbelievable feeling," Correa said via conference call from his home in Puerto Rico, where he was with family and friends when he got the news. "It really means a lot not only for [my family], but me as well."
Correa actually began the 2015 season at Double A, where he destroyed minor league pitching for a couple months, just as he'd done from about the time the Astros selected him with the top pick in 2012. On June 8, the Astros called him up from the minor leagues, and he was immediately slotted as the starting shortstop for the big league club, where he led the Astros through a magical summer that ended with an American League wild card slot for the 2015 postseason. It was the Astros first playoff appearance since 2005.
On the season, Correa hit 279 with 22 home runs (tops among AL rookies), 68 RBIs and 14 steals. Throughout the season, he was the youngest position player in the majors, as he didn't turn 21 until September.
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Correa already has had to overcome his fair share of adversity in his professional career, having suffered a broken ankle in 2014 while playing for the Astros affiliate in Lancaster. In fact, the plate in his leg still causes him pain from time to time. Correa is just the second Astro to win Rookie of the Year honors (Jeff Bagwell, 1991) and the first since the team moved to the American League two seasons ago.
As the Astros go forward, Correa will be the biggest cornerstone of a roster and minor league system full of several other possible cornerstones. The next step for the Astros will almost assuredly be to make an attempt to lock down Correa long-term and buy out his arbitration-eligible years, a tactic the team has attempted with other future (and now current) stars, some successfully so (Jose Altuve) and some not so much (Jonathan Singleton).
For now, Luhnow can take solace that any risk in 2012 was well worth it. He nailed that draft. Carlos Correa is a star.
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