Dollar a day: Jose Altuve

Five foot seven. 170 pounds. 21 years of age. Jose Altuve can barely drink legally—and can probably barely drink physically, too—yet has a chance to shine brightest on the Astros this summer.

Altuve is a speedster with a knack for doing what speedsters do, which is speeding towards second after making it to first. In other words, he has the potential to steal 25 or more bases as soon as this year. Well said, I know.

He ended 2010 with a below-league average showing in High-A, putting up a .276/.333/.457 triple-slash that had no one in the right mind even speculating about a September cup of tea, let alone a mid-season call-up. But then a well-rounded season split between High-A and Double-A produced video-game numbers:

A .389 batting average.
24 steals and 40 strikeouts.
A 1.017 OPS*.
10 home runs in 87 games*.

I starred the last two numbers because—and I repeat—Jose Altuve is 5-foot-7 and 170 pounds. In other words, he is supposed to be a slap hitter, pure and simple. A look at his 50 percent groundball rate will tell you he is, but his minor league power is ignorable. Just look at the projections for his power this year.

Bill James has him pinned for 10 homers. Steamer has him at nine. ZiPS projections have him at 10. Oliver—the best of all, I may add—has him at eight.

So, let me synthesize. I am telling you the very small kid man at second base, who will likely steal 25 bases and challenge for a .300 batting average, will actually clear the fences more than a few times. And yes, I am telling you he’s available for a dollar. Theft!

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  1. lisa gray said...

    He’s 5-5, not 5-7. They always add 2” to the written height of any ballplayer under 5-9. He’s a very good fielder, too, even though I know that fantasy ball players don’t care about that.

  2. JoeC said...

    I really don’t get why everyone is so high on this guy? .300 batting average? Why? He hit .276 in his time in the majors last year (and with a paltry .297 OBP!). Yes, only ~200 ABs, but still… just b/c he hit over .300 in the Minors doesn’t mean he’s gonna do it in the Majors.

    And the Astros are arguably the worst team in baseball, limiting his RBIs and Runs. I just don’t see much of a useful contribution from Mr. Altuve unless you’re absolutely desperate for Steals (I think 25 is reasonable).

  3. Nick Fleder said...

    Interesting, Lisa.

    Joe, he hit .360 or so in the minors. He hit .400 in Winter Ball.  .275 is above average and that was in his first big league go round (lest you forget he also skipped Triple-A). So I really like his upside in average.

    Plus, he has okay power at 2B (some think he’ll challenge for 10 dingers) and has the speed to go for 30 steals. That’s worth a buck.

  4. Nick Fleder said...

    I don’t know any fantasy leagues that counting CS as a category, and I would doubt the Astros give him the red light as they try to develop him into a big-time player. Part of that development would be growing him as a baserunner, and they can’t do that without running him wild.

    And the reason I illustrated his success in AA and in Winter Ball is because quite simply, he’s hit everywhere he’s been. He was an above average major league ballplayer at 21. For what he is, he’s well worth a $1 gamble.

  5. JoeC said...

    I can’t say I put much stock in “Winter Ball” numbers. And most of his minor league experience is at the A+ and below minor league level. I’m sure a lot of guys hit .300 or .400 at A ball (though, granted, he did hit .361 at Double A ball in 2011 in 144 ABs).

    You point out that he skipped Triple A, but I personally see that as a bad thing instead of a good thing. I think he probably needs a bit more seasoning. He especially could stand to work on his stolen base technique, as he stole 31 bases last year at all levels, but was caught 17 times.

  6. Bill said...

    The Orioles’ Korean scouts believe he is actually 5’9” and may grow a couple more.  Oh, and they think he throws 90 mph.

  7. JoeC said...

    Of course the point is not that Caught Stealing is a common fantasy category. The point is that he’s gonna get the brakes put on him if he doesn’t improve his SB percentage. You may think that a bad team like the Astros wouldn’t care about that sort of thing and is super-aggressive, but that’s not how teams do it. They still play baseball “by the book” and are not going to keep sending a guy who gets gunned down 35% of the time.

    All that said, I think he has value. I personally rank him as the 18th-best second baseman. I would be surprised if you can actually get him for $1 in most leagues.

    And honestly, I was reacting more to other articles on Altuve than yours. I saw one that said that Altuve would be a top 5 second baseman. C’mon now!

    Bigger sleeper than Jose Altuve? How about John Mayberry. He’s such a sleeper that he’s not even in the ESPN player database!

  8. JoeC said...

    Hmmm, well yeah, that was a FAIL! Mayberry *is* in the ESPN player database. Man, their app sure does make it difficult to search for players!

    But the prediction remains true: I think Mayberry will have a more impactful season and be a more valuable bat in fantasy than Altuve by a fairly significant margin.

  9. Nick Fleder said...

    Absolutely love Mayberry. Check out my other dollar a day on him. And agreed that Altuve is in the 15-20 range for 2B, but I like him to fill a MI spot.

  10. Joe said...

    “I don’t know any fantasy leagues that counting CS as a category”

    Plenty of deeper leagues play with CS incorporated somehow. Almost every points league has CS as a -1 or -2 (SB’s are usually +1 or +2 as well). Personally my points league is -2 for CS and +1 for SB, pretty harsh I know but we try and replicate real life as much as possible and CS are killers.

    And in my 5×5 category league we play with Net SB’s so a guy like Juan Pierre who got caught a ton even in his prime wasn’t as valuable.

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