Believe the hype: Carlos Correa is already a superstar

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Carlos Correa is living up to the hype.

Called up on June 8–almost exactly three years after being drafted No. 1 overall by the Astros out of high school–the 20-year-old shortstop has played at an MVP level for two months despite being the youngest position player in the entire American League.

Correa homered Monday night for the fourth time in four games, giving him a total of 13 homers in 48 career games along with a .297 batting average, 14 doubles, 14 walks, five steals, and a .917 OPS. And he’s looked good defensively, too.

Here are the top OPS totals by shortstops this season:

CARLOS CORREA       .917
Troy Tulowitzki     .835
Brandon Crawford    .819
Jhonny Peralta      .804

And as impressive as it is to sit atop that list, it probably short-changes just how rare it is for a shortstop to be hitting this well while being this young. In the entire history of baseball here are the top OPS totals posted by 20-year-old shortstops with at least 150 plate appearances:

Alex Rodriguez     1.045     1996
CARLOS CORREA       .917     2015
Arky Vaughan        .787     1932
Jose Reyes          .769     2003
Jim Fregosi         .761     1962

I’m sure Correa will come back down to earth at some point or at least experience a slump, but for now he’s leading all MLB shortstops in OPS and the only 20-year-old shortstop in MLB history to out-hit him is Alex Rodriguez.

Everyone knew Correa was going to be good–he was a No. 1 pick and a consensus top-five prospect this season and last season–but for him to be this great this soon is a surprise. And really, that’s the story of the entire Astros team that sits atop the AL West at 60-47.

MLB Network airs segment listing “good” and “bad” $100 million-plus contracts

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On Wednesday evening, Charlie Marlow of KTVI FOX 2 News St. Louis posted a couple of screencaps from a segment MLB Network aired about $100 million-plus contracts that have been signed. The list of “bad” contracts, unsurprisingly, is lengthier than the list of “good” contracts.

As Mike Gianella of Baseball Prospectus pointed out, it is problematic for a network owned by Major League Baseball to air a segment criticizing its employees for making too much seemingly unearned money. There’s a very clear conflict of interest, so one is certainly not getting a fair view of the situation. MLB, of course, can do what it wants with its network, but it can also be criticized. MLB Network would never air a similar segment in which it listed baseball’s “good” and “bad” owners and how much money they’ve undeservedly taken. Nor would MLB Network ever run a segment naming the hundreds of players who are not yet eligible for arbitration whose salaries are decided for them by their teams, often making the major league minimum ($545,000) or just above it. Similarly, MLB Network would also never think of airing a segment in which the pay of minor league players, many of whom make under $10,000 annually, is highlighted.

We’re now past the halfway point in January and many free agents still remain unsigned. It’s unprecedented. A few weeks ago, I looked just at the last handful of years and found that, typically, six or seven of the top 10 free agents signed by the new year. We’re still at two of 10 — same as a few weeks ago — and that’s only if you consider Carlos Santana a top-10 free agent, which is debatable. It’s a complex issue, but part of it certainly is the ubiquity of analytics in front offices, creating homogeneity in thinking. A consequence of that is everyone now being aware that big free agent contracts haven’t panned out well; it’s a topic of conversation that everyone can have and understand now. Back in 2010, I upset a lot of people by suggesting that Ryan Howard’s five-year, $125 million contract with the Phillies wouldn’t pan out well. Those people mostly cited home runs and RBI and got mad when I cited WAR and wOBA and defensive metrics. Now, many of those same people are wary of signing free agent first baseman Eric Hosmer and they now cite WAR, wOBA, and the various defensive metrics.

The public’s hyper-sensitivity to the viability of long-term free agent contracts — thanks in part to segments like the aforementioned — is a really bad trend if you’re a player, agent, or just care about labor in general. The tables have become very much tilted in favor of ownership over labor over the last decade and a half. Nathaniel Grow of FanGraphs pointed out in March 2015 that the players’ share of total league revenues peaked in 2002 at 56 percent, but declined all the way to 38 percent in 2014. The current trend of teams signing their talented players to long-term contract extensions before or during their years of arbitration eligibility — before they have real leverage — as well as teams abstaining from signing free agents will only serve to send that percentage further down.

Craig has written at great length about the rather serious problem the MLBPA has on its hands. Solving this problem won’t be easy and may require the threat of a strike, or actually striking. As Craig mentioned, that would mean getting the players all on the same page on this issue, which would require some work. MLB hasn’t dealt with a strike since 1994 and it’s believed that it caused a serious decline in interest among fans, so it’s certainly something that would get the owners’ attention. The MLBPA may also need to consider replacing union head Tony Clark with someone with a serious labor background. Among the issues the union could focus on during negotiations for the next collective bargaining agreement: abolishing the draft and getting rid of the arbitration system. One thing is for sure: the players are not in a good spot now, especially when the league has its own network on which it propagandizes against them.