When it comes to similarities between the pair of American League Rookie of the Year frontrunners, Cleveland’s Francisco Lindor and Houston’s Carlos Correa, one could tick off more than a few boxes. Both, of course, play the same position, were drafted in the first round, have similar triple-slash lines – Lindor finished the year with a .313/.353/.482 mark through 99 games and Correa batted a .279/.345/.512 through his first 99 games – and, of course, they share the same position.
But perhaps the most intriguing connection – one in which ties the rookies to two Hall of Famers – between the 21-year-old Lindor and the 20-year-old Correa is the rarefied company each is keeping following their dominant rookie performances.
Consider the following:
Using Baseball Reference’s Play Index, only one other 21-year-old shortstop since the start 1920 has appeared in at least 80 games during his rookie season while accruing at least 3.5 wins above replacement and an OPS+ above 100: 'Iron Man' Cal Ripken Jr.
And once again, using BR’s Play Index, only one other 20-year-old shortstop since 1920 has appeared in 80 games during his rookie season while totaling at least 3.5 wins above replacement and an OPS+ above 100: Hall of Famer Arky Vaughan.
Interesting enough, but let’s expand the criteria in each situation a bit; let’s look at rookies at any position.
In Lindor’s case there have been 16 other 21-year-olds. But it’s not the fact it remains a rather exclusive club, but look at where the budding superstar’s WAR total ranks all time among 21-year-old rookies:
|Cal Ripken Jr.||1982||4.7||115|
Tenth out of 16 – obviously impressive enough, but let’s delve a little deeper. Let’s look at the above group’s average WAR per game:
|Cal Ripken Jr.||160||0.0294|
Lindor, in fact, has averaged the most wins above replacement last season than any other 21-year-old rookie with at least 80 games played, 100 OPS+, and 3.5 WAR since 1920. Now let’s apply the same for Correa. First, Correa’s place in history based solely on his WAR total:
That’s some pretty hefty company to keep. But it should be pointed out Correa posted a higher OPS+ and WAR total than one of the game’s greatest – if not greatest – all-around players, Willie Mays. And now where Houston’s budding superstar ranks on a WAR/Game basis:
Sixth best of all-time, topping four of the game’s best players in Bench, Mays, Alomar, and Vaughan. So, regardless of which player wins the AL Rookie of the Year – and let’s be honest, it’s clearly a two-man race – the young shortstops are clearly starting their careers off on the right path.
Joe Werner is a contributor to Beyond the Box Score. All statistics courtesy of FanGraphs and Baseball-Reference. For more analysis check out Joe Werner's site: ProspectDigest.com. You can follow him on Twitter at @JoltinJoey.