Carlos Correa, shown wearing his Puerto Rico Baseball Academy uniform… (Associated Press / Puerto…)
The MLB draft started with a surprise and a bit of history Monday when the Houston Astros selected 17-year-old shortstop Carlos Correa as the top overall pick.
Correa pulled a small Puerto Rican flag out of his pocket as he approached the podium and waved it at the cheering crowd to share his moment with the folks back home. He's the first-ever No. 1 overall pick to come from Puerto Rico, which has produced such baseball greats as Roberto Clemente, Ivan Rodriguez, Carlos Beltran and Carlos Delgado.
“This means a lot,” said Correa, a Santa Isabel native who starred at the Puerto Rico Baseball Academy. “We've got a lot of good players there.”
Before Correa, Ramon Castro had been the highest-drafted player out of Puerto Rico, picked at No. 17 by the Astros in 1994.
Many analysts had projected Stanford pitcher Mark Appel as the top overall pick in this year's draft. But after Houston passed on the right-hander, several other teams did as well -- including Baltimore, Kansas City and San Diego, all of whom selected pitchers (the Padres took Harvard-Westlake's Max Fried).
Appel ended up going eighth overall to the Pittsburgh Pirates, who took UCLA right-hander Gerrit Cole with the top overall pick last year.
“I was very surprised,” Correa said of hearing his name called first at the draft site at MLB Network studios in Secaucus, N.J. “I was like, 'Is it a dream or is it true?'"
According to Astros General Manager Jeff Luhnow, the team didn't decide on Correa until about an hour before the start of the draft. But Luhnow seems more than satisfied with the pick, saying the 6-foot-4, 190-pound player “has a chance to be a star” who could hit 20-30 home runs as a big league shortstop or third baseman.
The last time the Astros had the top pick was in 1992, when they picked Phil Nevin over a shortstop who went on to become Correa's idol: New York Yankees legend Derek Jeter.
“I have read about that,” Correa said. “I want to be like him. He's awesome.”
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