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Historic rookie seasons by Francisco Lindor and Carlos Correa

Cleveland's Francisco Lindor and Houston's Carlos Correa have already cemented themselves as two of the game's best shortstops. But just how good were their rookie seasons in a historical context?

Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

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:

Player Year WAR OPS+
Albert Pujols 2001 6.6 157
Tom Brunansky 1982 5.6 129
Joe Morgan 1965 5.6 131
Hal Trosky 1934 5.5 150
Stan Musial 1942 5.3 151
Willie Randolph 1976 5.0 103
Del Ennis 1946 4.8 144
Cal Ripken Jr. 1982 4.7 115
Greg Gross 1974 4.7 122
Francisco Lindor 2015 4.6 122
Joe DiMaggio 1936 4.6 128
Richie Ashburn 1948 4.5 123
Lou Whitaker 1978 3.8 101
Richie Hebner 1969 3.8 127
Joe Medwick 1933 3.8 130
Darrell Porter 1973 3.6 133
Curt Blefary 1965 3.6 139

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:

Player Games WAR/G
Francisco Lindor 99 0.0465
Tom Brunansky 127 0.0441
Albert Pujols 161 0.0410
Willie Randolph 125 0.0400
Richie Ashburn 117 0.0385
Stan Musial 140 0.0379
Hal Trosky 154 0.0357
Joe Morgan 157 0.0357
Del Ennis 141 0.0340
Joe DiMaggio 138 0.0333
Darrell Porter 117 0.0308
Greg Gross 156 0.0301
Richie Hebner 129 0.0295
Cal Ripken Jr. 160 0.0294
Lou Whitaker 139 0.0273
Joe Medwick 148 0.0257
Curt Blefary 144 0.0250

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:

Player Year WAR OPS+
Mike Trout 2012 10.8 168
Ted Williams 1939 6.7 160
Vada Pinson 1959 6.5 129
Frank Robinson 1956 6.5 143
Jason Heyward 2010 6.4 131
Johnny Bench 1968 5.0 116
Roberto Alomar 1988 4.3 105
Carlos Correa 2015 4.1 132
Willie Mays 1951 3.9 120
Arky Vaughan 1932 3.8 114

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:

Player Games WAR/G
Mike Trout 139 0.0777
Jason Heyward 142 0.0451
Ted Williams 149 0.0450
Frank Robinson 152 0.0428
Vada Pinson 154 0.0422
Carlos Correa 99 0.0414
Johnny Bench 154 0.0325
Willie Mays 121 0.0322
Roberto Alomar 143 0.0301
Arky Vaughan 129 0.0295

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.