Photo: Perfect Game

Correa tops Lindor for AL RoY

Jeff Dahn

Published: Tuesday, November 17, 2015



Carlos Correa was born in late September 1994 in Ponce, Puerto Rico, about 10 months after Francisco Lindor was born in mid-November 1993 in Caguas, P.R., a little over 50 miles to the northeast of Ponce.

Correa chose to remain on the island and graduated from the Puerto Rico Baseball Academy High School while Lindor moved to the U.S. mainland and graduated from Montverde (Fla.) Academy. Despite Lindor’s move, the two will be forever linked not only by their Puerto Rican heritage but their rapid ascent from Perfect Game All-Americans to standout Major League Baseball rookies.

The Houston Astros’ Correa and the Cleveland Indians’ Lindor shared the baseball world’s spotlight Monday night as two of the three finalists for this year’s American League Jackie Robinson Rookie of the Year Award (the Minnesota Twins’ Miguel Sano was the third.)

In close balloting conducted by the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA), the 21-year-old Correa edged the 22-year-old Lindor, 124-109, in the final vote count – Correa received 17 first-place votes to Lindor’s 13 – with Sano finishing a distant third (20 points.)

“He’s a great player as well. He could have beaten any of us to win this award so I feel really honored to be able to win it,” Correa told MLB Network Monday night after being asked about Lindor. “He plays the game with passion and he’s a fellow Puerto Rican player. He’s bringing a lot of pride to the island here in Puerto Rico and he’ll be a great player for the years to come. I’m really proud of what he’s done this year.”

The naming of Correa as the American League RoY on the same night the Chicago Cubs’ Kris Bryant was named the National League RoY brings to 10 the number of Perfect Game alumni that have received the award in the last eight years.

The previous winners were Geovany Soto (NL, 2008); Chris Coghlan (NL, 2009); Buster Posey (NL, 2010); Jeremy Hellickson (AL, 2011); Bryce Harper (NL, 2012); Mike Trout (AL, 2012); Jose Fernandez (NL, 2013) and Wil Myers (AL, 2013). Correa (2011) and Bryant (2009) join Posey (2004), Hellickson (2004), Harper (2009) and Fernandez (2010) as former PG All-Americans.

The surprising Astros took over first place in the American League West on April 19 and didn’t call Correa up to the big leagues until seven weeks later. He made his debut on June 8 at the age of 20, and went 1-for-4 with an RBI against Chicago White Sox ace Chris Sale.

From there, the race was on and Correa never took his foot off the gas while the Astros advanced all the way to the AL Division Series before falling to the eventual World Champion Kansas City RoYals, three-games-to-two.

During the regular season, he moved into the 3-hole in the Astros’ batting order and wound up playing in 99 games and slashed .279/.345/.512 with 22 home runs, a triple and 22 doubles while driving in 68 runs and scoring 52; he was 14-for-18 in stolen bases.

“The last couple of months, obviously you’re hitting third for a team that was competing for first place,” Correa said Monday night. “There’s a lot of things going on a lot of emotion in the clubhouse when trying to win every game. But I tried to just go out and have fun every single time.

“I had a great team around me, guys … that taught me how to go about my business in the right way every single day. It was fun just to play with them and play around them with the fun team that is the Houston Astros.”

Correa’s career path has been an even one, even as it played out at the highest level of competition. He was at eight Perfect Game events between the summer of 2010 and January of 2012, including a breakout performance at the PG World Showcase in Fort Myers, Fla., in January 2011; he threw 94 mph across the infield and ran a 6.79-second 60-yard dash at the event.

Six months later Correa was back in Fort Myers for the 2011 PG National Showcase and then he was off to San Diego for the 2011 PG All-American Classic. He was named to the all-tournament team at the 2011 PG WWBA World Championship while playing for PRBAHS and then returned to the 2012 PG World Showcase where he set an all-time PG record with a 97 mph throw across the infield.

In early October 2014 Correa returned to Terry Park in Fort Myers to watch his younger brother Jean Carlos Correa Oppenheimer perform at the PG WWBA Underclass World Championship. The return to the scene of some his most memorable performances as a teenager – the place where he was “discovered” – took on special meaning.

“It’s emotional, man; it’s very emotional,” he told PG that October afternoon in 2014. “I was telling my parents that the first showcase I had here (2011 PG World) and the last showcase that I had here (2012 PG World) were the ones that made me, being here with the top players in Perfect Game. It’s emotional to be out here; I remember the home run I hit here a couple of months before the draft.

“It was crazy and my family was very happy and it just feels great to be back here and get the chance to watch my little brother go out and play.”

The Astros selected Correa No. 1 overall in the first round of the 2012 MLB First-Year Player Draft and he began his professional career that summer at the age of 17. He played all or parts of four minor league seasons – his 2014 season ended in late June when he broke his right leg sliding into a base while playing with Single-A Lancaster – slashing .313/.392/.491 in 282 games, with 28 home runs, 14 triples, 84 doubles, 199 RBI and 195 runs with 54 stolen bases. He soon found himself in the big leagues.

“This kid came into the big leagues with a great spotlight on him,” Astros manager A.J. Hinch was quoted as saying during October’s postseason. “Everyone knows who Correa is, No. 1 pick, expectations through the roof. And you wouldn’t expect anyone to live up to them, let alone exceed them the way he has. So he’s handled himself with a ton of poise, a ton of charisma.”

The career paths of Correa and Lindor have been eerily similar, separated by only by that one calendar year. Lindor was at 12 PG events between 2008 and 2010, including the 2010 PG National Showcase in St. Petersburg, Fla., and the 2010 PG All-American Classic in San Diego.

He won the Home Run Challenge at the Classic and was named the Most Valuable Player at the 2010 PG WWBA World Championship in Jupiter.

The Indians selected Lindor with the No. 8 overall pick of the 2010 MLB Amateur Draft and after 416 minor league games in all or parts of five minor league seasons, he made his big-league debut on June 14 – six days after Correa. Lindor also played in 99 games and posted a slash-line of .313/,353/.482 with 12 home runs, four triples, 22 doubles, 51 RBI, 50 runs and 12 stolen bases in 14 attempts.

“If you take his body of work, it’s kind of hard to find somebody who’s done better,” Indians’ manager Terry Francona told MLB.com recently. “I know the kid Correa has been really good, but Frankie’s been across the board:  defensively, offensively, on the bases, power. He’s done it all.”

Four native Puerto Ricans were on the East Team roster at this year’s PG All-American Classic in mid-August and all four were fully aware of the rookie seasons Correa and Lindor were enjoying. They were also unanimous is saying they had dreamed of being a part of the Classic ever since they watched on TV while Lindor performed in 2010 and Correa a year later.

 “(Correa is) like a role model now; Lindor, too,” standout shortstop Luis Curbelo told PG in August. “They’re so young, and right now they’re playing with a major league team and they’re just doing great. They always stay humble, and that’s the best part of it.

“I want to be able to keep doing the same thing they’re doing and keep representing the island the same way they have been doing, and be not just a great player but a great person at the same time.”

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