By David Heck, Special to CBS Local Sports
CBS Local Sports will be profiling one young player from each Major League Baseball team every day for the next 30 days as part of our “30 Players 30 Days” spring training feature.
Jose Altuve, Second baseman, Houston Astros
2011 season: 57 G, 221 AB, .276 AVG, 26 R, 2 HR, 7 SB, .654 OPS
Jose Altuve isn’t a traditional baseball player. His body isn’t what you would expect from someone in the Major Leagues, and neither is his skillset. He stands at just 5-foot-7 and his listed weight is under 170 pounds. He’s not a speed demon, and he doesn’t have a whole lot of power to speak of. And yet, he has a chance to be a good player for the Astros over the next few years.
The word “scrappy” is probably overused, but it applies to Altuve. Despite his physical limitations, he’s found a way to get it done throughout his professional career. He owns a .327 lifetime average in the minors, and last year, he was hitting .389 through 87 games before he got called up to the big leagues. He’s never been one to take a walk, but when you can hit for average like that, it’s not a terrible shortcoming.
He’s showed the ability to steal bases throughout his career, though at the highest level, he will have to be more of a player who reads pitchers and picks his spots. He also displayed surprising power down on the farm, racking up double-digit homers the past two seasons, but that will likely translate to doubles power in the Majors. That’s still fine for a second baseman – Altuve can be a strong offensive player at the position without ever being a home-run hitter.
After reaching the bigs, Altuve didn’t put up fantastic numbers, but the Astros were also very aggressive in promoting him – the 21-year-old had played in just 35 games at Double-A before getting the call. Altuve had to learn on the fly against the most difficult competition possible, and he will have to continue to do so this year. Still, he can be a .300 hitter with a handful of steals this season, which makes him one of the better candidates to hit at the top of the Astros’ order. It wouldn’t be wise to bet on much power, but that should come as he matures. If all goes according to plan, Altuve could develop into one of the league’s better infielders and could be a fixture in Houston’s lineup for years.
Next up on March 27: St. Louis Cardinals