Heading into the season, Carlos Correa's focus at the plate has been pretty single-minded.
"The most important thing for me right now is pitch recognition," said the top overall pick in last year's Draft. "I'm working on my recognition and I'm working hard to do my best with that every day."
The 18-year-old shortstop got off to a good start Thursday, going 2-for-5 with three RBIs in his full-season debut as the Quad Cities River Bandits cruised to a 7-2 Opening Day victory over the Kane County Cougars.
The Astros' No. 2 prospect got his first Midwest League hit in the second inning, drilling a curveball from starter Pierce Johnson into left field for a two-run double.
"It gets you confident to be hitting good off-speed pitches," Correa said. "To get the double and the RBI was great."
The double capped a five-run inning for Quad Cities, which avenged last year's season-opening loss to the Cougars. Correa added an RBI single in the fourth, then struck out twice.
Correa signed quickly last summer after the Astros made him the first Puerto Rico native selected first overall in the First-Year Player Draft. He played 50 games between the Rookie-level Gulf Coast and Appalachian leagues.
Correa hit .258 in his professional debut with a .305 on-base percentage and .400 slugging percentage as he adjusted to life in the United States.
"In my offseason workouts, I was working on everything but obviously more specifically hitting-wise," he said. "I worked hard on that and am trying to improve. I went into Spring Training trying to get even better and worked hard every day, listening to the coaches."
Correa spent some time in Major League camp this spring, going 5-for-11 in four games. When the Astros returned to Houston to take on the Chicago Cubs at Minute Maid Park in its final spring tuneup, Correa went 3-for-4 with an RBI in front of the home fans.
"You learn a lot with the biggest players there," he said. "You're in the same clubhouse and dugout and you talk to them and to the new manager, Bo Porter, and he's a great manager. Being in the dugout and listening to him talk and asking him questions, it's great. You always want to learn and there's always something to learn."
After performing in a big league setting, Correa said he was able to head into his Quad Cities debut without nerves and is encouraged by his offseason progress and what it could mean down the road.
"I feel really good," he added. "Things went well in the offseason and in Spring Training. I'm here for my first full season and I'm just doing my best all the time, every time out."
Rio Ruiz, the Astros' 2012 fourth-round pick and the organization's eighth-ranked prospect, went 1-for-3 in his Midwest League debut.
Johnson (0-1), the Cubs No. 7 prospect and the 43rd overall pick in last year's Draft, lasted 2 1/3 innings for Kane County. He allowed five runs on six hits and a walk while striking out four.
Dan Vogelbach, the Cubs No. 11 prospect, went 2-for-4 in his full-season debut.