SECAUCUS, N.J. -- Carlos Correa's name was only starting to be heard in the last few hours before the draft as a possible No. 1 alternative to Mark Appel, the big Stanford right-handed ace seen as the safest pick going. But if Correa is a gamble, the scouts apparently are not aware of it.
"He's like A-Rod,'' one American League scout gushed about Correa, the 17-year-old shortstop with the huge bat tabbed by the Astros as the shocker of a No. 1 pick.
The admiration for Correa's talent is almost universal. And he doesn't seem to lack for confidence, either, though in a good way.
"There are people who say I'm going to be a third baseman. I will be a shortstop,'' Correa said flat out to the media after he was named No. 1.
No matter, scouts say Correa's bat is so good he could play at third base in the bigs. "He's a bat, a glove and an arm,'' one scout said, which is scout-speak for someone who can do it all, at least everything that's most important, anyway.
"I have the ability,'' Correa said. "I want to be one of the best.''
New Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow said the call to go with Correa over Appel and everyone else "came down to the last hour ... it was sort of a last-minute decision.''
Word was circulating that the Astros were first interested in Appel but concerned about his potential asking price. It's possible Correa fit better into their draft pool, which is about $11 million. But there is no disappointment in getting the multi-talented Correa, even if he is a few years away, as a teenager.
While Correa quite obviously has his heart set on shortstop, Luhnow said on MLB Network what everyone knows, that if the need arises Correa's bat will play at third base. Ultimately, the Astros went for one of two players with the highest ceiling (the other being Georgia prep center fielder Byron Buxton), and that's not a bad way for the Astros to go at this point. They need to go up, and have a long way to go.
The excitement over Correa was flowing all the way from Houston to Santa Isabel, P.R., Correa's hometown, which was celebrating the first No. 1 overall pick from Puerto Rico, a hotbed of baseball, especially a couple decades back when stars like Ivan Rodriguez, Carlos Beltran and Juan Gonzalez came up from the small island to become big league stars.
"I was speaking to Alex Cora on the phone, and Puerto Rico is very excited,'' said Pudge Rodriguez, who was here as a representative of the Texas Rangers.
Correa was Skype-ing to friends and family from the MLB Network, and no one could contain their glee at the surprise honor. That was especially true for Correa, who credited his father, also named Carlos Correa, for getting up with him daily at 5 a.m. to hit him grounders and throw BP to him.
Correa's dad is a construction worker, his mother a cashier. So even if he took a little less than Appel, he's going to be able to repay them for everything they have done.
"The first things I'm going to do is help out my family, all the debts,'' Correa said. "I just want to work hard. The real money is in the big leagues. I want to be in the Hall of Fame.''
That sounds like big talk, sure. But Correa seems to have a good head on his shoulders. He cited as the right role models, Rodriguez, and also Derek Jeter. "I always followed Derek Jeter, not only from inside the field but outside the field,'' Correa said.
Coincidentally, there's already a connection between Correa and Jeter. The last time the Astros had the No. 1 overall pick, exactly 20 years ago, they had the chance to select Jeter, a high school shortstop from Kalamazo, Mich. and they passed, taking college hitter Phil Nevin.
Astros scout Hal Newhouser was so upset he quit in disgust over the pick, which turned out to be as disastrous as Newshouser figured it would be. This one will work out better.
Look at it this way: Maybe the Astros made up for that horrendous choice 20 years later with another multi-talented high school shortstop.