Confident Carlos Correa Mashing with New Swing; Twins Hitting Coach Giddy with Excitement

carlos correa
Jordan Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

The Minnesota Twins are in Fort Myers and their first game of Spring Training game is Friday against the local Gophers club from back home. One week from today, they’ll play against the Pittsburgh Pirates in their first exhibition game vs MLB competition.

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And there are a couple of players on roster who are probably a little more ready to get after it than others. Byron Buxton, for example, is probably salivating over the idea of trotting back out to center field for the first time with a Twins uniform on since August 2022.

Carlos Correa, David Popkins VERY excited about swing changes

But another guy who is champing at the bit to prove a few things in 2024 is Carlos Correa, who had one of the worst statistical seasons of his Major League career in 2023. The 29-year-old made some changes to his swing over the offseason and early results are a smashing success.

Success breeds confidence and Correa’s self-esteem seems to be sky high, something reporters, teammates and coaches have noticed during the first few days of camp. But hitting coach David Popkins might be most giddy over what he’s seen early on in Fort Myers from the Twins’ $200 million shortstop.

“I haven’t really seen him hit balls like that in a long time. I don’t think I’ve ever seen him clear the batter’s eye. He hit one way over the batter’s eye.”

Twins hitting coach David Popkins said after watching Correa take batting practice on Friday (via Star Tribune)

2021 Carlos Correa? Like the same guy who drove in 92 runs and finished 5th in MVP voting? Yes, I am interested in that. Correa and the Twins are blaming his struggles last season on the plantar fasciitis in his right foot, something that bothered him for most of the summer.

Correa’s health is main reason for his confidence

Carlos Correa swing changes Minnesota Twins
Photo: Thomas Shea-USA TODAY Sports

It changed everything from his speed (hit into MLB high 30 double plays), to his range on defense, but especially, his swing and batting stance. Popkins told Bobby Nightengale Jr (Star Tribune) that Correa wasn’t using his back heel really at all, in his stance or swing, after his plantar pain kicked in: “Naturally, the body avoids pain, and it goes for self-preservation.”

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Twins manager Rocco Baldelli is trying to keep his excitement at a duller tone, though he too clearly sees a difference in the confidence and aura Correa is carrying around the facilities. Not only that, but he feels the excitement flowing from his hitting coach, too.

“[Correa and Popkins] are excited, I’m excited. We’ll get him on the field and work him in, but he should be ready to go. He looks really good physically, and he’s got that vibe right now that he’s in a good place.”

Twins manager Rocco Baldelli on Correa early at Spring Training (via Star Tribune)

Carlos Correa’s batting average last season (.230) was .42 points below his career average (.272), his OPS (.711) was .109 points below career average (.820) and his OPS+ dropped below average (94) for the first time since the shortened 2020 season.

Postseason momentum –> 2024 Minnesota Twins spring training

We saw that Correa still has ‘it’ in the postseason, though. After a couple weeks off prior to the MLB Playoffs, Correa was the Twins’ best all-around player during their two playoff series, going 9-for-22 (.409 BA) with 3 doubles, 4 RBI and a 1.038 OPS; not to mention some of the plays he made on defense.

If you’re more into historical context than you are spring training hype, it’s worth noting that every time Correa has had a down season during his career, which he has done a few times — 2018 (99 OPS+), 2020 (93 OPS+) — he has always bounced back with some of the best summers of his career — 2019 (137 OPS+), 2021 (131 OPS+).

Should that happen again in 2024, after a down 2023, and a few other things go right… anything is possible?

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