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Astros shortstop Carlos Correa turns in a month to remember

via Houston Chronicle

After an April in which he provided the Astros below-average production, shortstop Carlos Correa was arguably the best player in baseball in May.

In by far the best month of his budding career, Correa set personal bests for a single month in nearly all major offensive categories. Correa, 22, might be the front-runner for American League Player of the Month honors after Mike Trout’s May was cut short by a thumb injury.

Correa, Astros manager A.J. Hinch said, “is becoming a monster right in front our eyes.” He put together a torrid .386/.457/.673 batting line in May, the best batting average and on-base and slugging percentages he has recorded in a month since his June 2015 debut by a significant margin.

Among players with at least 90 plate appearances in May, Correa ranked second in the AL in OPS at 1.130 behind only Trout (1.280), whose injury limited him to 91 plate appearances compared to Correa’s 116. According to FanGraphs’ version of wins above replacement, Correa (1.9 WAR) was the most valuable player in the majors in May.

After a day off Thursday, the major league-leading Astros (38-16) open June with the opener in a three-game weekend series against the Texas Rangers on Friday night at Globe Life Park in Arlington. After their club record-matching 22-7 May, they lead their third-place intrastate rivals by 12 games in the AL West. A win Friday would put them 23 games over .500 for the first time since 2001.

In addition to his batting line, Correa set highs for a month in home runs (seven), RBIs (26) and total bases (68). His RBI total was four better than the next-best AL players, teammate Marwin Gonzalez (.382/.461/.737 in 89 plate appearances) among them. Correa’s eight doubles were tied for his second most in a month; he had nine in June 2015 and July 2016.

Locking in at the plate

When Correa is locked in, Hinch said, he’s as dangerous as any hitter in the game. Some hitters get hot because pitchers feed them good pitches to hit. The best put together stretches like Correa’s May because there isn’t a pitch they can’t get to.

“Correa is turning into that type of hitter where when he’s locked in he’s got a chance to cover any pitch, any location, any count,” Hinch said. “And we’re seeing how productive he can be when he does that.”

Dating to the offseason, Correa has worked to refine his swing path to the point that if he’s late on a pitch, he’s able to line it to right field, and if he’s early, he can hook it into left field. If he changed anything in his routine from April to May, he said, it was seeing more and faster pitches off the hitting machine.

Hinch said Correa has been better utilizing his lower half and that his bat angle and pitch selection have improved. He’s covering more pitches this season. In May, he didn’t miss many pitches to hit.

Correa also is hitting more balls in the air, a goal of his since the end of last season, when the Astros showed him data indicating that despite his decrease in overall production, he hit the ball harder than he did in 2015. This season, he has turned 36.2 percent of his balls in play into fly balls, compared to 27.4 percent last season and 29.1 percent in 2015, according to FanGraphs.

Likely All-Star Game bid

After Correa’s lackluster .233/.309/.349 April, his May improved his season line to .316/.390/.524 through 187 at-bats. The 2015 AL Rookie of the Year came into Thursday’s games ranked sixth in the AL in OPS (.914), .028 better than his counterpart with the Cleveland Indians, Francisco Lindor.

Correa should play in his first All-Star Game in July, though Lindor’s sizable lead in AL balloting (348,720 votes as of Wednesday’s update) makes it likely to be in a reserve role. Among all major league shortstops, only the Cincinnati Reds’ Zack Cozart (1.030) has a better OPS than Correa this season.

Exactly 300 games into his major league career, Correa has 325 hits and 51 home runs. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, he’s the second player in Astros history to have at least 300 hits and 50 home runs within his first 300 games, Lance Berkman being the other.

“I just try to stay consistent with my routine every single day and try to do what’s been working for me,” Correa said. “At the end of the day, this is a sport where you’re going to go through ups and downs. You’re trying to stay consistent through the ups. So right now, I’m just trying to stay consistent with my routine.”

 



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