PITTSBURGH – As USA Today wrote last month, Carlos Correa is 21 years old and already perhaps the best shortstop in all of baseball.
Correa entered 2015 without a single game above Class A ball on his professional resume, then played his way to the big leagues by early June and hit .279/.345/.512 with 22 home runs, 68 RBI and a 133 wRC+ in 99 regular-season games for the Houston Astros.
Moreover, Correa is just one of four shortstops in Major League history to have ever produced at least an .850 OPS in at least 250 at-bats at age 21 or younger (Hall of Famer Rogers Hornsby, Hall of Famer Arky Vaughn, and Alex Rodriguez are the three others).
Blake Rutherford is 18 years old and a projected Top-10 pick in the upcoming 2016 MLB Draft. Committed to UCLA since he was in ninth grade, Rutherford is considered one of the top-10 high school prospects for the 2016 Major League draft.
As the scouting report for Rutherford notes, the left-handed-hitting outfielder from the Southern California high school ranks can do just about everything on a baseball field, and has the chance to be an above-average hitter with above-average raw power. Even though he will turn 19 on May 2, he has been a known quantity for a while, playing for USA Baseball’s 18U team for two summers in a row, but no one has grown tired of his all-around tool package.
Today we compare and contrast the swings of each of these two players – one, an established superstar at the age of 21, the other a budding superstar of 18 looking to make his imprint on the game over the next few years.
As we take an initial look at each player’s set position in the video above, Rutherford’s hands are a little bit higher than his shoulder/elbow line where as Correa holds his hands slightly underneath his shoulder/elbow line, with the lead arm and bottom hand resting underneath the shoulder/elbow line as well.
When Rutherford makes his initial stride and move toward the ball, he must bring his hands way down in order to get them in line with his shoulders in a leverage position due to the fact that he starts with his hands so high. As the hands drop, he stabilizes his front leg as it braces against the ground.
As Correa begins his stride, his hands go in the opposite direction with the top hand and bottom hand above his top shoulder and back elbow.
While we have two players who at this point look similar, they each have a very different swing mechanic in order to reach this point (illustrated in the video below).
Rutherford is dropping his hands down, where Correa is lifting his hands up. This enables Correa to create dynamic stretch and separation from the proximal (big muscles) of his body to the distal (small muscles) of his hands and his arms.
Correa’s arms and his hands are moving the bat barrel upward toward the pitcher, his trunk is rotating backwards toward the catcher while his trunk rotates toward the ball. Furthermore, his front hip externally rotates his front leg toward the ball, as his back leg internally rotates toward the ball creating a dynamic move and separation. His hands are moving up and back, while his pelvis and his hips are rotating his body toward the baseball.
This is not what we see with Rutherford’s swing.
When Rutherford plants his front foot his front knee is still pointing forward, his toe on his front foot has not opened, and his back knee has kicked in a bit but has not started rotation. When all that starts to take place, his hands are dropping with his swing which is not the type of separation seen among the best players at the highest level.
While Rutherford and Correa’s front elbows are both down – a common element amongst most high-level hitters – Rutherford’s elbow stays in that downward position as he approaches and then makes contact (seen in the video below).
In stark contrast, when we look at Correa, his front arm is rotating up as he approaches the ball. The difference here is the barrel path Rutherford creates is very flat, which undercuts the baseball. Correa’s path, on the other hand, is going to be a positive approach angle to impact.
As the sequence continues in the video below (click on microphone on bottom left of video for volume), we can see how Rutherford is undercutting the ball, slicing underneath it as he makes contact swinging slightly underneath the path of the ball and popping it up to the opposite field.
When Correa makes contact, his mechanics have allowed him to square up the ball with a positive approach angle and solid energy transfer from bat to ball which creates the desirable launch angle and ball speed for a home run.
- Rutherford is dropping his hands at the outset of the swing
- Rutherford’s lead elbow never rotates up during the swing
- This doesn’t allow for a dynamic separation
- It creates a steep swing that, at times, will not be on-path with the pitch
- Correa is lifting his hands up at the outset of the swing
- This enables Correa to create dynamic stretch and separation from the proximal (big muscles) of his body to the distal (small muscles) of his hands and his arms.
- Correa’s front hip externally rotates his front leg toward the ball, as his back leg internally rotates toward the ball creating a dynamic move and separation.
- Correa’s front elbow is pointing up at impact creating a bat path that is going to be a positive approach angle to impact.
- Click here to listen to Coach Jeff Leach’s full analysis
Special thanks to Coach Jeff Leach for the in-depth analysis of Blake Rutherford and Carlos Correa’s swing