Astros second baseman Jose Altuve is one of the smaller players in all of baseball, but sometimes, as the saying goes, looks can fool you. Altuve probably looks more like a horse jockey than a baseball player, but man can he hit. Altuve hit his way through High A and AA, as he had just 330 at bats in High A and 144 at bats in AA before getting the call to Houston for good in 2011. Altuve continued to hit in his first taste of the big leagues as he hit .276-.297-.357 in just over 200 plate appearances with the big league club in 2011.
Last season, he showed us that his hit tool was for real, hitting .290-.344-.399 with 7 HRs, 80 runs, 37 RBI and 33 stolen bases. The high batting average was a bit of a surprise, but his bat carried him to the big leagues fairly quickly, so it was not a shock. What shocked me was the 33 stolen bases in 44 attempts last season, even though he stole 42 bases back in 2010 in Low A. Prior to the 2012 season, I had predicted he would steal about 20 bases, certainly not 30+.
Altuve doesn't hit for much power, and may peak in the 10-12 HR range down the road, but he hits plenty of line drives hitting 34 doubles and 4 triples last season. He could stand to walk a bit more, and maybe that will come as he gains more experience, but he doesn't strike out that much either.
His 33 stolen bases led all qualified second baseman last season, two steals ahead of Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis, and 10 steals ahead of Rangers second baseman Ian Kinsler. His .290 batting average tied for 5th among all fantasy second baseman, ahead of the likes of Ian Kinsler, Ben Zobrist and Brandon Phillips. HIs 80 runs scored ranked 13th amongst all second baseman, which is saying something because the Astros scored just 583 runs last season, ranking last in baseball. The Astros are moving from the National League Central to the American League West in 2013, so their struggles to score runs will probably continue, but Altuve will continue to provide a very good batting average for fantasy owners. And because they will struggle to score runs, Altuve should continue to get the green light on the basepaths as well.
Fantasy owners looking for a middle infielder who won't hurt them in batting average, and one who can steal 30+ bases, have to look no further than Altuve on draft day. But owners may have to draft him early, as his current ADP, according to Mock Draft Central, is 73.46, good for sixth among all second baseman. I have to admit I was a bit shocked when I read that while writing this piece. His ADP is higher than the following second baseman: Brandon Phillips, Aaron Hill, and Chase Utley, all guys we ranked ahead of Altuve in our 2013 Consensus Second Base Rankings.
If he starts to show more power, he should break into the Top 5 fantasy second baseman in 2013.