Invaluable Correa the favorite for top AL rookie

Young shortstop played beyond his years during Astros' postseason run

Invaluable Correa the favorite for top AL rookie

HOUSTON -- Anyone who hits third in the lineup for a postseason team is probably a special player. Think Prince Fielder of the Rangers, Jose Bautista of the Blue Jays, Lorenzo Cain of the Royals, Joey Votto of the Reds. That's pretty heady company.

Rookie shortstop Carlos Correa, who played most of this season at 20 years old, served in that role for the Astros, hitting third in the lineup for the second half of the season and the postseason. Correa stepped into the role in early July after George Springer went down, and the shortstop was a key offensive force on an Astros team that won the second American League Wild Card spot.

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Correa, who made his big league debut on June 8, is the favorite to win the AL Rookie of the Year Award -- as voted on by the Baseball Writers' Association of America -- and for good reason. He was not only the top rookie in the AL, but by the end of the season, was one of the best shortstops in baseball. The winner will be announced today at 5 p.m. CT on MLB Network, with additional coverage on MLB.com.

Correa was the youngest position player in the big leagues in 2015, hitting .279 with 22 home runs, 22 doubles, 68 RBIs, 14 stolen bases and an .857 OPS in only 99 games. Among AL rookies, he ranked first in homers, slugging percentage (.512) and OPS, while ranking second in RBIs and on-base percentage (.345) and third in batting average.

The moment was never too big for Correa. He handled himself on and off the field with the poise of a veteran, not someone who was in high school three years earlier. He emerged as a leader on an Astros team that won 86 games and played in some huge games down the stretch.

Correa set the franchise rookie record for homers and set the club record for homers by a shortstop in a single season. His 18 homers prior to his 21st birthday were the second most in Major League history, behind only Alex Rodriguez -- a player who he draws fair comparisons to. Correa's 4.1 wins above replacement (WAR) ranked as the second-highest total in big league history prior to an age-21 season.

AL Outstanding Rookie: Correa

From his June debut in Chicago through the end of the season, Correa led the Astros in homers, RBIs, extra-base hits, go-ahead RBIs, game-winning RBIs (eight) and slugging percentage, and he ranked second in hits (108) and steals (14) during that span. And he did it during a pennant race. Impressive.

And you want to talk about clutch? He hit .359 with 11 homers and a 1.097 OPS with two outs, ranking second in the AL in both batting average and OPS with two outs, trailing Cain and Mike Trout, respectively. Correa hit .395 with four homers, 19 RBIs and a 1.240 OPS in 44 plate appearances with runners in scoring position and two outs.

Defensively, Correa displayed terrific range for his athletic 6-foot-4 frame, and he showed off a strong arm. He routinely made highlight plays diving for balls in the hole or leaping high into the air to take away hits. He did it all while carrying the weight of being a No. 1 overall Draft pick and set himself up to be in the Most Valuable Player race for years to come.

As far as rookies go, there was no one in the AL who was more impactful than Correa.

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