After dominating in the minor leagues and skipping AAA completely, Jose Altuve quickly won over Astros fans with his all-out style of play. You can’t help but love a guy who makes it to the big leagues despite being shorter than the average 13 year-old girl. But Aluve’s early success has given way to struggles in September. The second baseman is 8 for 49 with only one walk this month. Altuve has seen a reduction in playing time recently and is currently nursing a sore elbow. I don’t know exactly how Altuve fits into the Astros plans for next season, but I have some ideas of my own.
With the season winding down the Astros coaches and front office now turn their attention towards next season. One question that needs to be answered- who will be the team’s starting second baseman in 2012. Altuve is only 21 years old. I think a season at AAA would be the best thing for Altuve in the long run. He should at least start the season in Oklahoma City and could be brought up if his level of play demands it. He hasn’t really done enough since his call-up to be considered a front-runner for the opening day starter’s job. A ratio of 26 strikeouts to only four walks would suggest Altuve needs to acquire a better understanding of the strike zone. That is something that needs to be worked on in the minors. No matter how promising their futures may appear, second year players don’t always live up to expectations. Just ask Chris Johnson and Brett Wallace. Even though Wallace got off to a hot start in April, he eventually slumped badly enough to be demoted to AAA. But Wallace continues to be an enigma, having raked at Oklahoma City only to fall flat again once being recalled. Wallace is now 0-fer his last 26 at-bats with the Astros and hasn’t had a big league hit since July 23.
This season the Astros made a $3 million mistake by signing Bill Hall to be the starter at 2B. The Astros brass cited a need for power at the position as their main reason for bringing in Hall- even though Jeff Keppinger was clearly a better all-around player. Well, we all know how that worked out. So if power is what the Astros want out of the 2B position, look no further than Matt Downs. At .280/.352/.513 Downs has been one of the most dependable bats on the team this year. Some may argue that Downs is best suited for a utility role. The Astros have hinted at such and are even toying with the idea of using Downs as a third catcher next season. I say- why not get one of your best hitters in the lineup on an every day basis? Let’s hope the Astros have learned from some of their mistakes that turned this season into nothing short of a train wreck.