Who Am I?
Height: 5′ 6″
Bats right, throws right
How Did I Get Here?
Altuve was signed by the Astros as an international free agent in 2007, and debuted with the big club in 2011.
Altuve has easily the biggest bargain contract (for those eligible for arbitration) in the majors. It’s not even close. Altuve will earn $4.5M this season, and the Astros have team options for 2018 and 2019 at $6M and $6.5M, respectively. It’s such a no-brainer to exercise that option that FanGraphs ran a column examining how bad Altuve would have to be in 2017 for the Astros not to exercise his option. Their conclusion? It would take the worst season in major league history – not just offensively, but running and defensively as well.
That takes care of Altuve through 2019. However, he just switched agents to one Mr. Scott Boras. Let’s fast forward to the offices of Scott Boras in 2019:
Why Am I Here?
Altuve will play second base, likely bat third, and hopefully mount another serious challenge to Mike Trout as the American League’s Most Valuable Player.
Think back to when Altuve debuted, in 2011. Back then, he was a novelty act. “Oh, the Astros are bringing up a cute little midget at second? I wonder who will replace him when they’re actually competitive?”
Now look back at his vitals above. The height is no longer what jumps out to this writer. No, the amazing thing to see is this:
Yes, Jose Altuve is entering his age 27 season – the season when hitters supposedly reach their peak. And all he’s accomplished in his 5 full seasons is:
- 4 All Star appearances
- 3 Silver Sluggers (all ENTIRELY deserved)
- 3 seasons receiving MVP votes, peaking in a third place finish last season that might have turned into a win if the pitching staff had done its part to make the playoffs
- 3 seasons leading the league in hits
- Oh… and he’s a career .311 hitter.
What Are My Strengths?
Altuve started out with a plus hit tool, and has expanded that to being a complete player. His uncanny ability to make contact will always stand out, but at this point, his greatest strength is his willingness to work on individual facets of his game to make the move from good to great, and great to… who knows. Last year, it was improving his pitch selection; his previous career high was 40 walks, and that jumped to 60.
What Are My Weaknesses?
Honest to goodness, this isn’t a short joke, just a fact of life: Altuve is never going to have great range at second.
Loves to hit: The obvious answer is “everything”, and it’s really true – Altuve didn’t slug less than .382 against any pitch last year. But specifically, Altuve is a fastball hitter. In 2016, Altuve hit .374 and slugged .657 against the fastball; he recorded just 34 swings-and-misses in 865 fastballs he faced.
Hates to hit: Curveballs. Altuve hit only .220 against the curve in 2016… but then again, he slugged .439. Most hitters would put that on the plus side of the ledger. For Altuve, he probably programmed a pitching machine to throw him a thousand curveballs every day in the offseason.
What is my future with the Astros?
I cannot bring myself to envision Altuve leaving the Astros when his contract is up. This will be THE defining negotiation of the Crane/Luhnow tandem. Yes, Scott Boras is going to make us all cringe. Yes, the dollars will seem ungodly. But Crane and Luhnow will need to get the deal done. Why?
Because the bottom line is, Houston just saw its first player inducted to the Hall of Fame. A guy that plenty of people didn’t think could play second base, or turn in to the player he did… and a guy for whom, we now forget, it was a very open question whether he would remain in Houston as he was about to reach free agency.
And it may seem borderline sacrilege – hell, it may get me kicked out of bed tonight – but we may be watching a second baseman who’s even better.
What is my projected 2017 performance?
Who else would I remind you of?