Javier Báez and Carlos Correa are two premier young stars from Puerto Rico who played a role in a long-awaited championship for their respective teams, the Chicago Cubs (2016) and the Houston Astros (2017). If you were in charge of putting together an MLB roster, who would be your choice for starting shortstop? Let’s take a closer look at their numbers.
Age and Debut Date
MLB Debut: August 5, 2014 (21)
2020 will be El Mago’s age-27 season.
MLB Debut: June 8, 2015 (20)
2020 will be his age-25 season, so he is still technically ahead of his “prime years.”
Awards and Accolades
Báez: 2x All-Star (2018, 2019); 2nd in MVP voting (2018); 2016 NLCS MVP (shared w/Jon Lester); 1x Silver Slugger (2018); World Series champion (2016)
Correa: Rookie of the Year (2015); 1x All-Star (2017); World Series champion (2017)
Báez is the more decorated player.
Correa has a more patient batting eye, walking at above MLB average, leading to a better OPS+ and wRC+, while Báez is a infamously free swinger who has walked at well below the MLB average rate of 8.2% during his career. Both are sluggers who strike out at above-average percentages.
Báez had some poor years at the beginning of his career but has improved his production considerably since his age-25 season (2018). Correa’s offensive numbers are tainted by his involvement in the Houston Astros cheating scandal, which has called all Houston offensive statistics from 2017-2019 into question.
Báez: 13.9 (6 seasons)
Correa: 18.5 (5 seasons)
Correa is younger and provided more overall value as measured by WAR, but he is a cheater.
Báez is the more versatile player and has fielded every infield position during his MLB career, with the majority of his innings at shortstop and second base. He became the full-time shortstop for the Cubs in 2019.
While there was some talk about eventually moving Correa to 3rd base when he debuted, as he is on the larger side for a shortstop, he has not played any other position in MLB. Therefore, I will only use defensive stats at shortstop for my comparison.
Báez has fewer innings at shortstop since he was moved around quite a bit early in his career. He has fewer total Defensive Runs Saved (DRS), but he posted an outstanding 26 in 2019 since becoming a full-time shortstop, which account for nearly his entire career DRS. The most DRS Correa has ever recorded in a single season is 9 (2017). Meanwhile, his UZR/150 rates as below average. Báez also boasts a better Statcast Outs Above Average (OAA) rating at shortstop for the years statistics were compiled (2017-19).
Correa has been the more valuable player overall and is two years younger. However, his numbers are questionable thanks to his involvement in the Astros’ cheating scheme and may well drop off without the benefit of outside assistance. He has also missed significant time due to injury and has not logged over 500 plate appearances in a season since 2016.
Báez has the superior glove and has improved his offensive production over the last two seasons. I expect he will improve over his 2019 season, when he suffered a lingering heel injury that impacted his athleticism, as well as a season-ending thumb fracture.
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