Oh, the rankings list! If ever you want to get an opinion to spark debate and and cause consternation among sports fans, then all you need to do is rank players in a list format. No matter where a player is ranked, there will be angst and the gnashing of teeth as fans scream that one player was slighted while another player is vastly overrated.
It would appear as though Jose Altuve is in that former category, at least according to one list. Grantland.com has come out with it’s annual Trade Value post, where it ranks the most valuable trade chips from 50 down to the most valuable. This year, Altuve was ranked as the 46th most valuable trade piece, ranking behind players like Manny Machado and Carlos Gomez.
That ranking certainly seems low. Altuve, at age 24, posted a .341/.377/.453 batting line, leading the American League in batting average, stolen bases (56) and hits (225). He made his second All-Star game, won a Silver Slugger award and was named the best player in Venezuela. Oh, and since contracts matter in this ranking, Altuve happens to be signed through 2017 for a total of $10.5 Million, and has two team options worth a total of $12.5 Million. $23 Million for five more years of Altuve? I’ll sign up for that!
So, why is Jose Altuve ranked this low? Because, according to talent evaluators that Jonah Keri spoke with, no one is quite sure what to make of the diminutive second baseman. Yes, he racked up a great deal of hits, but for someone who is 5’6″ in a pair of platform boots, Altuve only walked in only 5.1% of his plate appearances, despite having a strike zone slightly larger than Eddie Gaedel‘s. His defense is considered below average, despite how close to the ground Altuve is. In fact, one talent evaluator called Altuve “jeff Keppinger with wheels.” This is not a good thing.
The problem with Altuve is, there really is not a similar player to compare him to. He does not walk much, but he also does not strike out. Altuve is a doubles machine, but was the beneficiary of a .360 batting average on balls in play, an increase of 44 percentage points. Yet, his line drive rate was identical to 2013, when he produced a .283/.316/.363 batting line.
If one truly does want to attempt to draw a comparison to Jose Altuve and other players, then Baseball-Reference.com has that already handled. Through age 24, Altuve is considered comparable to players such as Hall of Famers Billy Herman, Rod Carew and Paul Molitor. That is certainly some excellent company.
Even if one is not sure of what to make of Jose Altuve, his track record, youth and affordable contract would seem to indicate that he is better than the 46th most valuable trade chip. Altuve certainly appears to be an undervalued asset.