HOUSTON — The future has arrived for the Astros.
Carlos Correa, the 20-year-old shortstop who many consider the top prospect in all of baseball, is set to make his Major League debut on Monday when the Astros open a three-game series against the White Sox in Chicago.
The Astros announced Sunday they had selected the contract of Correa, who will be plugged into the starting lineup for manager A.J. Hinch against left-hander Chris Sale. He’ll be the youngest player in the Major Leagues and the youngest Astros player to make his debut since pitcher Jordan Lyles in 2011.
“Our team could use the spark right now,” general manager Jeff Luhnow said. “We haven’t been playing our best baseball over the past few days and hopefully Carlos can add something that’s been missing. We have to try and do everything we can to maintain our division lead and get this team to the postseason, and if calling up Carlos Correa helps us do that, that’s what we’re prepared for.”
The Astros have optioned right-handed pitcher Jake Buchanan to Triple-A Fresno. A subsequent move to the 40-man roster will be made prior to Monday’s game.
Correa, ranked the No. 2 prospect by MLB.com, was hitting .335 with 21 doubles, 10 home runs, 44 RBIs and 18 stolen bases in his 53 games combined for Fresno and Double-A Corpus Christi this season. Entering Sunday, Correa led all of Minor League baseball in extra-base hits (34) and in total bases (127), while sharing the Minor League lead in doubles (21) and ranking second in slugging (.596).
“You’ve been waiting for that call for a long time and it happens when you least expect it,” Correa told MLB.com. “The manager [Tony DeFrancesco] told me in the clubhouse, ‘You’re going to the big leagues,’ and it was a great moment for me and my family. I’m excited to be out there playing for the big league club.”
Correa said his parents and siblings will be at U.S. Cellular Field for his debut.
“I look forward to seeing them up there and playing with the Astros,” he said. “It’s all I’ve wanted since I got drafted. It’s the thing I’ve worked for three years since I got drafted, and it’s a great feeling to be able to join the team.”
He’ll join an Astros team that is coming off a three-game sweep in Toronto and has lost a season-high four games in a row, dropping its lead in the American League West to 3 1/2 games. The Astros are averaging 3.3 runs in their past 13 games, during which they’re 5-8.
“I think he’s one of the 25 best players in our organization right now,” Luhnow said. “We should have the 25 best players on the Major League roster so that we can give ourselves the best chance to win.”
Correa is the third member of the team’s 2012 Draft class — Luhnow’s first with the team — to reach the Majors this year, joining outfielder Preston Tucker and pitcher Lance McCullers Jr. All three could be in the lineup on Monday. He also becomes the latest big-time prospect to reach the Majors this season, joining, among others, the Cubs’ Kris Bryant and Addison Russell and the Rangers’ Joey Gallo.
Correa began his season at Corpus Christi before earning a May 11 promotion to Fresno, where he hit .276 with three homers and 12 RBIs in 24 games. He started for the Grizzlies on Sunday and hit a walk-off sacrifice fly in a 15-14 win over Reno.
“He went through a mini-slump at Triple-A, if you can call anything Carlos does a slump, and he’s really come out of it strong,” said Luhnow, who has been monitoring daily reports on Correa while in Houston preparing for the Draft.
The Astros have been using a platoon at shortstop of Marwin Gonzalez and Jonathan Villar since starter Jed Lowrie suffered a thumb injury April 27. He underwent surgery and is expected to be out until at least the All-Star break. Luhnow said he spoke with Lowrie on Sunday about the decision to summon Correa. One option for the Astros could be to move Lowrie to third base, where he could share at-bats with Luis Valbuena.
“It’s probably 33 games between now and the All-Star Game and you assume Jed’s going to be back after the All-Star break, so that gives us a good amount of time to see how Carlos is doing and we’ll determine at that point where everybody fits,” Luhnow said. “Jed’s a big part of this and will continue to be a part of his team.”