Coming into the new season, players to watch for the Rangers to have great seasons included Joey Gallo, Elvis Andrus, Yu Darvish to name others. A name that could’ve been flirted with a breakout candidate but no real experience in the majors was Nomar Mazara.
After a stellar first week in which he batted .417, had a slugging percentage of .750, an OPS of 1.212, and collected 10 hits, Mazara earned the first AL Player of the Week honor of the season. Since his sizzling hot start to the season he has cooled down a little bit but still is second on the team in batting average at .259, second in on-base percentage at .310, tied for the team-lead for hits with 21, and leads the team with 17 RBIs (which is also tied for the American League lead for RBIs)and is currently on pace to hit over 100 RBIs.
Coming into the majors as one of the best hitting prospects over a year ago, being compared to the likes of Freddie Freeman with his prowess on the left side of the plate and his ability to spread hits all over the ballpark with his rare hitting power, he proceeded to hit 20 homers with a .266 batting average in just 145 games. He also garnered AL Rookie of the Month honors for both April and May and finished 5th in the voting for AL Rookie of the Year so coming into 2017 a lot was expected of Mazara amongst the Rangers organization and amongst their fanbase, but after such a hot start to the year, he is starting to gain national recognition (as evidenced by his AL Player of the Week award).
At just 21 years of age, the Dominican-born is yet to hit his prime and still has a ways to go in this league before he can affirm his status as a high-profile name in the sport. The Rangers are currently 9-11 and third in the AL West standings as the first 3 weeks have passed already in the season but a good way to become a household for Mazara is if the Rangers start to turn things around and kick it into gear and make the playoffs because performing well in October will always make someone turn into a household name, e.g. Reggie Jackson (Mr. October) and Derek Jeter.
After an incredible season last year that lead to unexpected playoff run the Houston Astros came into this season with very high hopes. A young team filled with incredible top to bottom talent and featuring former A.L batting title recipient Jose Altuve and newly crowned Rookie of the year Carlos Correa. The Astros were on top of the world going into April with Sports Illustrated magazine declaring the team as the future 2016 World Series winner (along with many other MLB experts). Everything was looking great until the actual season started. Through April the Astros saw many bright spots, seeing that Tyler White, Jose Altuve, and Colby Rasmus each won A.L player of the week. If you would have told anybody that that was going to be the case in April everybody would assume that the Astros would be at the top of league record wise but that was clearly not the case with the Astros recording a 8-18 record tying for worst in the American League. The Astros problems cannot be blamed on entirely one aspect (like pitching) but the blame should be spread to the entire team. Yes the pitching was bad. No our starter pitchers haven’t been playing like they have in the past. But the hitting has been inconsistent. The Astros have the worst Batting average in the MLB with runners in scoring position. Your not going to win many games while hitting like that especially when the pitching hasn’t been as good as expected. But the good thing is for the Astros is that it’s a new month and there’s a whole lot more baseball to play.
Last week, the Texas Rangers swept the Houston Astros and extended their Lone Star Series record to 12-4. Now, this outcome makes it seem like the Rangers are far superior to the Astros, and for many years that was the case. However, this young Houston team has been showing unwavering potential in recent years.
While the Astros have started off the season with an unimpressive start (a 6-15 record), there is still plenty of time for them to find their groove. What the Astros are currently lacking is experience, yet their roster is filled with plenty of promising talent. Last season alone, Dallas Keuchel received the Cy Young Award and Carlos Correa won Rookie of the Year. Case and point.
What used to be a cross-league rivalry became a division rivalry when the Astros joined the American League West division in 2013. Both of these Texas teams have made huge improvements in recent years, which is making this rivalry even hotter. Last year, both the Astros and the Rangers made it to the playoffs, with both teams making exits in the quarterfinals. At this point, fans are just dying to see an Astros-Rangers series in the semifinals. And this could be the year.
With one series down, what will the rest of 2016 bring for this budding rivalry?
21-year-old Carlos Correa has proven in his short time with the Astros that he is a force to be reckoned with. He failed to lose steam after being the draft’s first overall pick, the first Puerto Rican player to do so. Instead, he went on to be the first player in the American League to subsequently win Rookie of the Year. Even Adidas has noted Correa’s potential, having signed him for a major endorsement deal. Skeptics of the Astros can finally step back and realize that the Astros have been rebuilt.
Despite constantly being compared to Alex Rodriguez, it is interesting to look at Carlos Correa next to superstar Derek Jeter. Both Correa and Jeter were drafted straight out of high school at the young age of 17. Both players were recipients of the American League Rookie of the Year Award. The most frequently similarity noted, however, is that both Correa and Jeter are shortstops. Despite the numerous points of comparison, Carlos Correa is not the next Derek Jeter. Correa has indeed said, “I want to be like Derek Jeter…He’s awesome;” however, this statement cannot be taken out of context. When said, Correa was a 17-year-old boy, excited over being the first overall draft pick. Astros Manager A.J. Hinch seems to understand the importance of independence; he stated, “I just want him to be Carlos Correa. I just want him to be himself.”
One striking difference that allows Correa to show his originality is his presence on social media. Jeter actively ignored fan’s cries to interact on social media platforms; however, Correa, having grown up in the age of technology, can be followed on his accounts @TeamCJCorrea. On these platforms, Correa shares behind the scenes pictures, fan interactions, and game highlights. These posts help bring fans closer to Correa and allow them to feel as though they know him personally. The mix of video and photo content brings a great variety to Correa’s accounts.
Correa’s performance impresses Astros fans as well as critics game after game, and he continues to prove he’s not #1 on the field for nothing. Only time will tell what Carlos Correa has in store next.