Houston Astros shortstop Carlos Correa made his major league debut this week. The highly touted rookie managed one hit in his first career game against Chicago White Sox ace Chris Sale, homered in his second and through three games was hitting .333.
I am not naive enough to believe this small sample is enough to crown him the next Derek Jeter. However, he certainly has the potential to join the former New York Yankees captain among the all-time great shortstops.
After an impressive high school career at the Puerto Rico Baseball Academy, Correa was selected number one overall by Houston in the 2012 MLB Draft. He then cruised through the Houston farm system, hitting .313 in almost three seasons. In addition, Correa also has tremendous defensive upside. Playing what is considered a premium position, Correa has been called an excellent defensive shortstop.
By the way, Correa is only 20 years old. Not only is he the youngest player on an active roster, but he is also a part of an important shift in baseball.
In 2002, the average age of an MLB baseball player was a little over 29 years old, and as recently as 2012 the average was down to 28 years old. Moreover, according to Beyond the Box Score, those currently leading the league in the triple-crown statistics — home runs, runs batted in and batting average — are an average of 26.8 years old compared to the average age of 30.1 years old in 2002.
This youth movement has many different causes. First, teams are signing more international free agents. This means players are entering the farm system at a much younger age, sometimes as young as 16 years old. Furthermore, players are no longer able to prolong their careers with steroids.
Additionally, major league teams have finally invested in developing their draft picks. Through advanced techniques like sabermetrics, scouts know the worth and potential of young players and are now taking the time to properly develop them.
These youthful players are not only making major league rosters, they are contributing almost immediately and are among the most productive players in the league.
Take Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper and Angels outfielder Mike Trout. Both are household names. Both earned Rookie of the Year honors in 2012. They’ve been selected to the All-Star game multiple times, and neither has celebrated his 24th birthday yet.
This is encouraging for a league that has been desperate for attention.
Amid an excitement-crazed society, baseball has seemingly been left behind. Fans want action — like a LeBron James game-winning jumper as time expires or a Malcolm Butler interception on the goal line in the final minute of the Super Bowl. They want the fast-paced contact that basketball, football and hockey each provide.
Needless to say, these fans are not enthused by a 162-game season that is comprised of games that consistently last upwards of three hours and where the only physical contact is in the infrequent, ill-advised brawl. Sure, baseball has made strides to make it more appealing, including the addition of a wild card in each league and the expansion of video replay. However, these are futile attempts that have been met with much criticism. Critics question whether these changes uphold the integrity of the game. Some even suggest that they further damn the sport.
But Trout, Harper and Correa, among others, have the potential to revitalize baseball. These players bring natural excitement to the game; they show that the game can be youthful. And, perhaps most importantly, they are a part of the demographic that baseball is so desperately trying to reach.
Last year’s All-Star Game, in which Trout was named Most Valuable Player, was the most viewed All-Star Game since 2010 and was the most watched program among those aged 18-49, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Harper’s personal Instagram account has almost twice as many followers as the Nationals’ account does.
Finally, Correa’s jersey has been highest-selling jersey in MLB since his debut.
Fans notice these players. They are not only among the league’s most talented players, but they are also relatable. I am personally a part of the demographic that baseball is struggling to reach. And seeing Correa, who is exactly one month younger than me, take the field intrigues me.
But these players are more than just the date on their birth certificate. Each is talented and deserves to be in the majors. Youth may not an immediate solution to baseball’s issues, but I know I’ll be watching the exciting talent.
Carolyn Maguire is a rising senior in the College. The Wind-Up appears every Saturday.