Player Profile: Jose Altuve

“It always impresses me when a person of small stature has command.” Ned Beatty

Altuve may jump into the fantasy top 5 at 2B

Altuve may jump into the fantasy top 5 at second base

Whether it is being on a team that was tied for 26th in runs scored out of 30 teams or just his height, it seems that too many people are writing off Jose Altuve for 2014. After surviving the dreaded sophomore slump, Altuve proved to be a valuable second baseman not only in baseball but for fantasy purposes as well. It will be pointed out that his runs scored decreased by 16 and every average in his slash line was lower as well. He walked less and struck out more with a drop in is HR/FB% too. It may be the last of the tough years though in Houston and while the pitching is suspect, there are seeds being planted that may reap rewards for the Astro offense moving forward. If that happens, it will have a direct effect on Altuve’s fantasy status also.

In regards to Jose Altuve, here are his last two seasons with some extra categories added:

Year

R

HR

RBI

SB

AVG/OBP/SLG

LD%

HR/FB%

O-Swing%

Z-Swing%

2012

80

7

37

33

290/340/399

20.2

  5.1

30.5

59.7

2013

64

5

52

35

283/316/363

22.6

  3.2

37.6

64.4

Altuve did seem to suffer a bit with his more aggressive approach at the plate in 2013. His O-swing% (Pitches swung at outside the strike zone) and his Z-Swing% (Pitches swung at inside the zone) both reflect that. On a team that has struggled to score runs, a natural tendency is to press and try to do too much in order to help the team. Altuve spent 85 games batting second in the order and can be adequate at that spot in the lineup. But the Astros leadoff hitters last year definitely put some pressure on Altuve to try and be on base. Thereby making him more aggressive when hitting:

Leadoff

G

AB

H

R

HR

RBI

AVG/OBP/SLG

Team

162

667

166

69

6

43

249/310/321

Altuve

33

138

45

15

1

14

326/376/399

What would the Astros team production have been at the leadoff spot if you took Altuve’s 33 game segment away? Simply put, abysmal. It is worth noting Altuve’s OBP spike when he hit leadoff. Against his 2013 season stats, his OBP rises 60 points when he hits first. So does his spot in the lineup affect his approach? Absolutely, when Altuve was miscast batting third his slash lines dropped to 241/264/314 in the 33 games he hit there. It remains to be seen if he can take the OBP from when he batted first and translate it to a season of hitting second but his first year in the majors suggests it is possible. Dexter Fowler hitting before him is an improvement over what Houston had ahead of him last year. His career lines of 276/365/423 should allow Altuve to return to a more patient approach and could even help him improve his RBI. The real bonus is that his averages in 2014 should be more in line with 2012 and not 2013 which will provide him with more chances to steal bases and score runs.

While power will not be the emphasis of Altuve’s game, it should be noted that he could make a run at double digit home runs. In the minors he hit 15 home runs across two levels in 2010 and 10 during 87 games prior to his promotion to Houston. Altuve did hit more fly balls in 2013 but it remains to be seen if that can translate to more home runs. That being said, his max is probably 10 but that boost in his counting stats only adds to his value going forward. Here is a look at his spray chart from 2013 thanks to BrooksBaseball.net, please note the number of doubles to left center that are further than his home runs:

 

So if his runs can recover with even a marginal improvement in the Astros offense, and yes hopefully George Springer is a part of that revival sooner rather than later. His RBI level from 2013 can be maintained especially with Fowler batting leadoff and his averages can rebound to the mid 280’s to low 290’s how is Altuve slipping in value? As of this writing he is going at pick 91.62 in NFBC drafts as the seventh second baseman selected. In the FSTA writers draft, Altuve was selected at pick 90 representing the 9th second baseman selected. As it stands, I have Altuve sixth in my rankings and his final standing will depend on how his home run increase compares to Jedd Gyorko’s batting average gains. For his value though, I think Altuve is a buy at the present cost and this year will give a stronger baseline in regards to his fantasy trajectory going forward. It is easy to forget he will only turn 24 in May of this season. Like the Astros, his value may be rising. Here are some projections from Fangraphs.com and CBS:

  • Altuve 2014 Steamer Projection – 85 R, 9 HR, 56 RBI, 31 SB 288/331/400
  • Altuve 2014 Oliver Projection – 73 R, 6 HR, 52 RBI, 31 SB 284/320/374
  • Altuve 2014 CBS Projection – 77 R, 9 HR, 58 RBI, 38 SB 287/325/401

A full season of Dexter Fowler and George Springer could go a long way towards boosting the Astros sagging offensive team totals while helping out Jose Altuve. Taking away his time batting third and using his third full season in the majors to improve his approach I am willing to invest in an improved Altuve. As the face of the Astros in the MLB campaign, what Altuve lacks in stature, he makes up for in command.

  • My Altuve Projection – 82 R, 8 HR, 56 RBI, 34 SB 287/328/403

If you enjoyed this and like the Astros, look for my preseason article as part of DavidGonos.com’s 30 teams in 30 days segment representing this great site, RotoAnalysis.com.

Greg Jewett is a staff writer for Roto Analysis and you can follow us on Twitter @RotoAnalysis and @gjewett9

Statistics courtesy of Fangraphs.com and Baseball-Reference.com and the spray chart by BrooksBaseball.net

Jose Altuve picture credit: http://ww3.hdnux.com/photos/13/65/56/3103638/18/960×595.jpg

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