Top prospect Correa leaves mark with excellent spring

Talented shortstop sent down, feels 'really close' to reaching Majors

Top prospect Correa leaves mark with excellent spring

KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- For the second year in a row, shortstop Carlos Correa made the long walk from the Major League clubhouse to the players' parking lot while carrying his equipment after being reassigned Sunday. It's a sight we might never see again.

Correa, the Astros' top prospect, will finish the spring in Minor League camp in advance of beginning the season at Double-A Corpus Christi, but his performance in front of the Major League staff has only bolstered the belief he's bound for stardom.

Correa was one of eight players the Astros sent from camp Sunday, leaving them with 32 players on their roster a week shy of Opening Day. He's unlikely to reach the Majors this year, but there's no reason to believe he won't battle for a roster spot next spring.

"I feel like I can taste it," Correa said. "I feel really close. I feel like I had a great camp. I felt like I learned a lot this year.

"I got better out there on the field. It's about improving every single day and keep working hard to be ready to play at this level every single day."

Correa hit .341 with two homers and five RBIs this spring, and he was terrific on defense. The Astros signed Jed Lowrie to play shortstop for the next couple of years. Correa, though, is one of the most dynamic young players in the game and shouldn't need much time in the Minors.

Correa's solo jack

"For him, it's just a matter of being exposed to pitching at the upper levels of the Minors and getting a little more experience under his belt," general manager Jeff Luhnow said. "There's nothing specific you can point to. Defensively, he's made some outstanding plays this spring, and offensively for a young player for him to hit for power, to hit for average, he's a special player. It's a matter of getting more experience and preparing himself for life in the big leagues, because he'll be here soon enough."

The Astros selected Correa with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2012 First-Year Player Draft. Prior to breaking his ankle while sliding into third base last July in Class A Advanced Lancaster, he was hitting .325 with six homers and 57 RBIs in 62 games, with an on-base percentage of .416 and an OPS of .926.

"I want to improve on every aspect of my game, try to take it to the next level every time and focus on the job I have to do out there on the field," Correa said.

When asked if he anticipates a jump in competition at Double-A, Correa spoke with confidence.

"I was playing here in big league camp and I faced pitchers like [Jordan] Zimmermann, [Mat] Latos and all those guys, and I did pretty well," he said. "It's baseball, man. You get better every single level you go up. I'll probably be facing the same guys I faced last year in Lancaster and just have to go out there and play baseball."

Astros manager A.J. Hinch said Correa showed maturity beyond his years, and Hinch was impressed by his openness to learn.

"He has no ego, he has a real hunger to be a good Major League player, and his time is not right now," Hinch said. "But when it comes, I think the baseball world will know, and we'll welcome him with open arms."

Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Tag's Lines. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.