Q&A: Astros' Correa sets lofty goal

Houston's No. 1 prospect looking to start season at Double-A

Carlos Correa measured his skills against his Futures Game teammates. (Danny Wild/MLB.com)

By Danny Wild / MiLB.com | February 6, 2014 10:00 AM

Carlos Correa sounded like he was describing one of those custom create-a-players from a baseball video game, where you can max out all the skill levels at 99 and dominate on the field. Let's make this guy faster, stronger, quicker, smarter.

That, according to the top overall pick in the 2012 Draft, has been his offseason in a nutshell. Already one of the most talented and athletic players in the Minor Leagues, Correa did not sit back following an impressive 2013 season in which he hit .320 with nine homers, 33 doubles, 86 RBIs, 10 stolen bases and a .405 on-base percentage at Class A Quad Cities. A defensively gifted shortstop from Puerto Rico, he's been focused on showing the Astros he's ready to skip a level and go straight to Double-A.

And for a 19-year-old millionaire athlete, Correa hasn't been sucked in by the usual distractions -- he said the Minors have taught him about responsibility and professionalism, two traits he picked up from his boyhood idol, Derek Jeter.

"He takes care of business," Correa said, "so I try to be like him."

Correa grew up in the flood-prone town of Barrio Velazquez, where some homes lacked running water, electricity and phone service. He discovered baseball from his father and made a name for himself playing locally through high school. After receiving a .8 million signing bonus from the Astros in June 2012, he returned home like a rock star, with the entire community cheering his airport arrival.

So, as Jeter's career fades, Correa's is just beginning. We spoke with the Astros' top prospect about his journey from hometown hero to playing in Jeter's backyard in the All-Star Futures Game.

MiLB.com: So what have you been up to this offseason?

Carlos Correa: I've been working on a little of everything, mostly on my hitting and speed for my legs, to get more explosive and improve physically. I want to be a little stronger and I've put on a little weight; I'm about 210 now (up from 205). Just getting faster, improving on skills. My defense has been there, so I'm just sticking with it, working on hitting skills and strength overall and speed, agility.

MiLB.com: You'll be starting Spring Training at Major League camp, which speaks for itself when you're 19. I know you got in a few games last year, but how exciting will that be, to go from a summer in the Midwest League to facing big league pitchers?

Correa: It's really exciting to be there with big league guys, in that atmosphere, to play against that level with those players. It will be interesting to be out there and it'll be a new experience.

MiLB.com: You've had some time to reflect on your first full season in the Minors. What was it like at Quad Cities? Was it easier after getting that brief introduction in 2012 at Greeneville and in the Gulf Coast League?

Correa: After I had a good season, it gave me confidence and I'm now going into Spring Training with more confidence. I did pretty good, I'm just going to keep working hard and stick with the program and have a great season.

MiLB.com: What were some of the biggest things you learned or took away from 2013, on or off the field?

Correa: I learned a lot -- how to be professional, about getting to the ballpark first, working in the cage, sticking to the program in the gym, being the last guy after the game at the ballpark, to be dedicated to my season. I learned a lot about how to take care of business and work hard and smart, to be able to play every game without getting tired. That's the most I learned. And to stay out of trouble, to stay focused and have a great year.

MiLB.com: What's the biggest thing you need to work on this year, on the field?

Correa: Mostly to improve my speed. People think I'm an average runner and I want to play shortstop. I think I'll be able to stick there, so I'm working to be more athletic, faster, be more agile and not have to move to third.

MiLB.com: I'm sure you've been asked a lot about the Draft and being No. 1. Take me back to that day and the moment Bud Selig called your name -- how surreal must that feel, to be the top player, to get the big signing bonus, to be there with your family?

Correa: It was great. If we go back to the Draft, the first thing I did was I hugged my family. It was teamwork. My mom and dad helped me throughout my career and they keep helping me. But, I'm like, I can't believe it, I can't explain it. It's all because of my family -- that was the first thing I thought -- was to thank my family for all the work they did for me.

MiLB.com: And then they had a parade for you when you got back to Puerto Rico, right? What did that mean for you -- to be the first player from Puerto Rico to be a No. 1 overall pick?

Correa: It felt great. I thought it wouldn't be a big deal, but everyone was there, waiting for me at the airport. It was something huge, something I will always remember. It was one of the greatest days of my life. When I saw everyone at the airport screaming at me, wanting my autograph, it was a huge turning point.

MiLB.com: You had talked about going to college at the University of Miami, but I'm guessing that decision was a little easier to make when you're the No. 1 pick?

Correa: I wanted to study and go to college, but when they picked me first, I honestly decided to sign. I thought it would be a tough decision, but once I got drafted, it seemed pretty easy to make my decision. I was preparing myself to go to college before the Draft, my mindset was, "I can be a first-rounder now, but I can go to college and I can be a first-rounder again in three years." But I didn't have to think much about it -- I wanted to play professionally.

MiLB.com: Everyone knows you're a No. 1 overall pick and wants to meet you, I'm guessing. Has that been an adjustment?

Correa: Not really. When I got to the team, when I showed up, I met everybody and they knew what kind of person you are. At the end of the day, I was friends with everyone. I tried to create a good relationship with everyone on the team, and we won because everyone got along together. We had great chemistry with the team -- every day we showed up, we knew we'd win.

MiLB.com: How cool was it to win a championship your first full season?

Correa: It was really cool, a great experience. In my first full season, I was able to put up pretty good numbers and help them, so it was great. All of my teammates did a good job and every time we went out on the field, we were excited. You can feel that feeling in the clubhouse. It's a great feeling to be out there and know everyone wants to win it.

MiLB.com: You'll likely start the year at Class A Advanced Lancaster, although you recently said you'd prefer going straight to Double-A Corpus Christi. The California League is a hitter's paradise, so do you think a hot start there gets you to Double-A quickly, or have the Astros plotted out how they'd like you to develop?

Correa: They haven't talked to me directly, but my goal is to go out and make the Double-A team. They'll make the decision, but I've prepared myself and I want to show them how I have improved my skills, so I'll do my best. But that's my goal: Double-A.

MiLB.com: The Astros are in a rebuilding phase and you're one of the faces of that. Do you kind of feel eager to get up to Houston and show everyone what you can do?

Correa: Yeah, of course. I'm thinking, as a player, representing my organization, I want to make my team better and get to the big leagues. But I want to get there, make the team better and make the Astros a winning club, that's what I have on my mind now, to be able to win a championship with the Houston Astros.

MiLB.com: You spoke recently about playing winter ball in Puerto Rico last year, playing with guys like Carlos Beltran and Yadier Molina, two really professional, veteran hitters and respected Major Leaguers. What did you learn from them?

Correa: I learned a lot from Molina -- he was on the same team. In terms of hitting, he was telling me about the pitchers, recognizing the movements they make, recognizing pitches. And with defense, Yadi sees the whole game. Beltran, he was there a couple days, he talked to me about hitting, mechanics -- he always told me to work hard. He's a hard worker -- everyone knows that.

MiLB.com: What was it like to play in the Futures Game in New York last summer?

Correa: It was a great experience, especially to be able to be selected by the fans to go there -- I was very grateful for them to select me. To be with a lot of that group of talented players, just to see where you're at, what can I improve to be the best one out there. You see what they've got so you can work hard and improve.

MiLB.com: Favorite pre-game meal?

Correa: I don't have one, but I would say seafood, maybe salmon.

MiLB.com: Favorite player growing up?

Correa: Favorite player was Derek Jeter because he's always been great on the field. And even outside the field, he represents [the Yankees], he's the face of the franchise, he takes care of business, so I try to be like him.

MiLB.com: Best ballpark or town to visit in the Midwest League?

Correa: I'll stay with Quad Cities, Modern Woodmen Ballpark.

MiLB.com: Funniest memory from the 2013 season?

Correa: I think the funniest moment was when they called up a new guy and he struck out with men on the bases, he broke his bat with his leg! That was pretty funny, we all laughed, we'd never seen that before. To see that you're like, "Wow, that's pretty funny."

MiLB.com: If you weren't playing baseball, what kind of job would you like?

Correa: I always liked basketball a lot -- I couldn't play in high school because baseball got serious. But honestly, I wanted to be an accountant, like a CPA. I was good at math.

Danny Wild is an editor for MiLB.com. Follow his MLBlog, Minoring in Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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