Even Without Carlos Correa, the Houston Astros Will Be Just Fine
Not every MLB team can handle the sudden and lengthy departure of one of the game's best young players.
But the 2017 Houston Astros aren't every team.
Carlos Correa racked up his thumb earlier this week on a head-first slide into second base, the fourth player to suffer a slide-based injury this season. The Los Angeles Angels' Mike Trout recently returned from the exact same injury, suffered the exact same way, after missing over 7 weeks. Kris Bryant did the same thing, but it appears to be less serious. And Yankees top prospect Gleyber Torres is out for the year after a similar ill-advised move.
Kids, learn to slide feet-first, OK?
Correa is expected to miss 6-8 weeks, which would put him on course to return in time for the stretch run in mid-September. But Houston isn't stressing too much, as their 15.5 game lead in the American League West gives them a nice security blanket. But it's still a blow to the best team in the American League.
Carlos Correa is expected to be out 6-8 weeks.
He's 2nd on the Astros in WAR (4.8) and has been the best offensive SS this season. pic.twitter.com/2F28EUwU2W
â€” ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) July 18, 2017
Still, the Astros will likely not panic and rush into the trade market to deal for a replacement. There is so much talent in that organization that they can fill it from within with little to no problem.
Since the injury, they moved Marwin Gonzalez from the outfield to shortstop. Gonzalez is having an outstanding year at the dish, batting .309/.389/.573 in 282 plate appearances, with 17 home runs, 55 RBIs and 44 runs scored. He's posted a WAR of 2.1 -- that would be a career high -- and has a weighted on base average (wOBA) of .404 and a wRC+ of 159.
Among MLB players with at least 250 plate appearances this season, that wOBA is 8th-best in all of baseball, behind Joey Votto, Anthony Rendon, George Springer, Jose Altuve, Bryce Harper, Justin Turner, and Aaron Judge. His previous career high was .329, and his season totals over last year have seen a huge spike.
The increase in his walk rate is astonishing, as is his power output, and the only people who seem to be aware of his breakout season are Houston Astros fans and fantasy owners lucky enough to have snagged him late in the draft. He won't remain under the national radar for long: his versatility (he plays outfield, first base, third base and now shortstop) and his stick have turned him into a legitimate near-stud.
With Gonzalez moving to shortstop, the team is giving designated hitter Carlos Beltran more time in the field -- which couldn't have been an easy decision, considering that only days before, the team buried his iffy glove in a shallow grave.
Carlos Beltran hasn't played the outfield since May 16. The Astros are holding a funeral for his outfield glove. pic.twitter.com/H0ncP06YAp
â€” Jake Kaplan (@jakemkaplan) July 17, 2017
Offensively, it hasn't been a stellar year for Beltran -- in 334 plate appearances, he has slashed .230/.287/.410 with 12 homers, a wOBA of .297, a wRC+ of 85 and a WAR of -0.5 -- but the Astros have still managed to score (and score, and score without serious production from him.
Norichika Aoki, who's batting .270/.320/.346 with a wOBA of .290 and a wRC+ of 81, will also likely see time in left, and Houston called up shortstop prospect Colin Moran, who was batting .308/.373/.543 in AAA with 18 dingers and 63 RBIs in 79 games.
We're knotted at 1, thanks to this drive from the @FresnoGrizzlies' @morancolin92! @astros pic.twitter.com/7cnTJIB0Cl
â€” MLB Network (@MLBNetwork) July 13, 2017
This all isn't to say the Astros aren't going to miss Correa. But with so much talent already on the roster, and such a huge lead in the AL West, Houston can rely on the rest of their talented core to get them ready for the postseason.
For most teams (and fantasy owners), losing Carlos Correa would be a season-killer.
For the Astros, it's just a temporary minor annoyance.