It may only be three and a half seasons long, but Jose Altuve has already had an excellent start to his career. Altuve, the Astros diminutive second baseman, has made two All-Star teams, and led the American League in hits, stolen bases and batting average this season. In leading the American League in hits, Altuve also broke Craig Biggio‘s team record, placing himself firmly in the history of the Astros. In those three and a half years, Altuve has already done more in his career than most major league players.
At this point, Altuve’s career may actually be on a historic arc. According to baseball-reference.com, the five players most similar to Altuve through age 24 are Billy Herman, Rod Carew, Fred Dunlap, Paul Molitor and Pete Rose. Three of these players, Herman, Carew and Molitor, are enshrined in Cooperstown. Rose would be, if he ever gets reinstated or could have kept away from gambling halls during his managerial career. Dunlap, a second baseman from the 1880’s and the early part of the 1890’s, actually held the record for highest OPS+ in a season, which was set in 1884, until Barry Bonds surpassed the mark in 2001.
While this is certainly excellent company that Jose Altuve is keeping at this point in his career, it is obviously far too early to state that he is on pace to be enshrined amongst the immortals of the game. What this list does bring to the forefront is how Altuve has become one of the better players in baseball, blending an ability to get timely hits and a level of speed that has been virtually unmatched for the past thirty years.
Even if Altuve does not reach those levels, the next five on the list of ten most comparable players are still a solid group. Woody English, Harvey Kuenn, Buddy Myer, Jack Doyle and Jose Lopez combined for 12 All-Star appearances. Kuenn and Myer each finished over 2000 hits in their careers, and Doyle, a turn of the century first baseman/outfielder, finished with just over 1800 hits and 500 stolen bases.
Entering his fourth year, Jose Altuve appears to have quite the future ahead of him. If this top ten list holds true, even the player that may have been the worst of the group, Jose Lopez, was a solid player. From 2006 through 2010, Lopez averaged a .269/.301/.403 batting line with 15 home runs. While that is not the level that Altuve has been accustomed to, those are still solid numbers from a second baseman.
Just based on how Jose Altuve has begun his career, he has a bright future ahead of him. If the projections are correct, and Altuve continues on his current path, he could even find himself enshrined among baseball’s immortals.