Astros in Your Fantasy Baseball 2015 Part 4: Jose Altuve

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With all the moves the Astros have made recently, one person did not have to worry about being traded. That person is the current candidate for Face of the Astros Jose Altuve, who should be an early target in your 2015 fantasy baseball draft. It is no longer embarrassing to have a token Astro on your fantasy team.

Before the 2014 MLB season, Altuve was a middle tier 2nd baseman who appeared to be a one trick pony with 30+ steals a year. While his 2013 numbers were not terrible, he raised his entire game to a new level in 2014. Where does he rank in 2015? You will find out shortly.

Altuve has brought something back to the Astros that they have not had since Craig Biggio retired: a leader at the second base. While Altuve does not quite have the same amount of power that the newly elected Hall of Famer Craig Biggio possessed, his overall game makes Astros fans nostalgic to the days of Biggio and Jeff Bagwell.

Could Altuve and George Springer become the next great Astros duo? Biggio did start his major league career a couple of years before Bagwell, similar to Altuve and Springer. Altuve broke Biggio’s Houston Astros single season hits record in 2014.

What Happened In 2014 for Jose Altuve?

According the ESPN’s 2014 Player Rater, Altuve was tied with Dee Gordon for best overall 2nd baseman in 2014. Gordon always had potential, but broke out like Altuve in 2014 with his speed and decent average. Altuve finished ahead of Anthony Rendon, Robinson Cano, Jason Kipnis, and Ian Kinsler.

Here is a look at his fantasy relevant stats from 2013 and 2014 so we can look at his growth.

What exactly did Jose Altuve do differently in 2014 versus 2013? For starters he struck out 5.1% less in 2014, which represents a 40% decrease in strikeout percentage. The Astros second baseman increased his batting average by 58 points (20% increase), on-base percentage by 61 points (19% increase), slugging by 90 points (25% increase), and on-base plus slugging (OPS) increased by 152 points (22% increase).

Altuve’s steal total rose with his on-base percentage, increasing his steals by 21 between 2013 and 2014, from 35 to 56. That’s a 60% increase in steals in one year. His speed also kept him out of many double play balls and allowed him to score 33% more times in 2014.

For someone who doesn’t hit the long ball, he increased his slugging rate with a 25% increase by hitting 52% more doubles, 50% more triples, and 40% more home runs. Like Biggio in his time, Altuve hit quite a few doubles last year.

WAR 2013: +1.2

WAR 2014: +5.9

Jose Altuve increased his WAR value by an astounding 392% in between 2013 and 2014. In education lingo, that type of jump such as a change in the Vertical Score on the STAAR test would represent a growth of three years in a single year.
Congratulations to Jose Altuve, the statistics say that you had a great 2014.

Jose Altuve’s 2015 Fantasy Ranking

In the table above, most rankings show that not only is Jose Altuve one of the top two second basemen in baseball, but also he is expected to be drafted between the 2nd and 3rd round. Does that mean that someone won’t reach for him in the first round? I know someone in my ESPN Commish League who would probably take him number 1.

Robinson Cano‘s move to Safeco field killed his fantasy value. Even after a year where his power numbers dropped across the board, he’s still ranked as top 2nd baseman by most rankings. Altuve could be the most legit 2nd base player in fantasy baseball, but Cano still reigns with his name value.

There is still a hint of distrust of Astros players in fantasy, but Altuve is not someone you can risk the chance falling to the 4th round. Plus, Mr. Auto Pilot always takes best available.

Verdict: Tier 1 2nd base – Grab Altuve mid-late 2nd round or someone else will. 

Jose Altuve’s 2015 Projections

Most of these projections show a perceived regression in 2015, because his increased on-base percentage which was larger than his career average. The fantasy experts are expecting his OBP to decrease, and when that happens his opportunities to steal bases decreases as well.

Only Sporting News is projecting Jose Altuve to have a higher OBP, which is why his projected steals are higher through them. Baseball America showed the largest decrease in stolen bases, average, and OPS.

My 2015 projection based on Average Projections: 0.316/ 7 HR/ 54 RBI/ 43 SB

Will Altuve’s OBP hurt his Steals?                                     Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

What are Others Saying About Altuve

From USA Today 2nd Base Rankings:Jose Altuve Stands Tall “Even with Cano’s shaky power and Altuve’s likely regression in batting average and steals, they’re at the head of the class and belong in the second-round discussion.”

“Even with Cano’s shaky power and Altuve’s likely regression in batting average and steals, they’re at the head of the class and belong in the second-round discussion.”-.

From Fake Teams Early 2nd Base Rankings. “Astros second baseman Jose Altuve comes in at #2 in my 2015 second base rankings.  Altuve proved to be the best hitter in baseball this season, hitting .341-.377-.453 with 7 home runs, 85 runs scored, 59 RBI and an American League leading 56 stolen bases. Among all second baseman, he led all second baseman in batting average, ranked second in stolen bases behind Dodgers Dee Gordon, ranked fourth in runs scored behind Gordon, Ian Kinsler and Brian Dozier, and 10th in RBI. He is not a home run hitter, but he ranked in the top 10 among other second baseman in the other four categories in 2014, so he is pretty valuable and deserving of the top ranking.”

“He is not a home run hitter, but he ranked in the top 10 among other second baseman in the other four categories in 2014, so he is pretty valuable and deserving of the top ranking.”-

From Razz Ball Top 20 Second Basemen in 2015.”This is a new tier.  This tier goes here until Gordon.  I call this tier, “David, Goliath and Gordon.”  I’m not drafting anyone from this tier without them falling at least a round or two.  Without the help of a 17-foot ladder last year, who would’ve guessed Altuve would reach his ceiling?  His .360 BABIP alone calls for some regression. Let’s just grab a few examples of the last few years.

In 2010 Austin Jackson had a .396 BABIP and he hit .293, the next year .340 BABIP and he hit .249. In 2013 Mike Trout had a .376 BABIP and hit .323, and he followed that up with a .349 BABIP and .287 batting average. In 2011 Michael Bourn had a .369 BABIP and hit .294. He followed that with .349 BABIP and .274 batting average.  There’s hundreds of other examples.  I tried to limit my examples to guys that are fast like Shorty Rock Altuve.

Prior to last year, Altuve’s high was five feet, four inches– excuse me, his BABIP high was .321.  If he gets a .321 BABIP again, he’s not hitting .310 let alone his .341 from last year.  That’s about a $4 difference or around twenty spots in a draft.  He’s not hitting homers to propel his stats.  With Altuve, batting average propels his runs and RBIs.  Last year, he had 20 more RBIs and the most runs of his career even though he hit 2nd in 268 ABs.  If he hits .310, he’s going to lose at least ten runs and ten RBIs, likely more.  That’s another $2 in fantasy value and 12 spots.  Altuve’s now around a 4th rounder, and that’s assuming a .310 average, which would be his 2nd highest average by a lot (right now it’s .290).  Oh, and if he’s on base less, then he’s stealing less.  Or as Altuve will likely be saying this year, “But I regress…” 2015 Projections:  78/8/55/.306/39″

“Oh, and if he’s on base less, then he’s stealing less.  Or as Altuve will likely be saying this year, “But I regress…”-

In Conclusion

Sorry for the long clip from Grey’s article from Razz Ball, but he always offers humor that most people can’t. As someone who watched Altuve play last year, he was legit. He was hitting balls and strikes for base hits. He might regress this year, but he still is in the top-tier of second basemen. While Grey thinks that Altuve is a 4th rounder, most other rankings have him going in the 2nd or third round.

Does Altuve have some weaknesses in fantasy baseball? Yes if your league counts walks, he doesn’t walk as much as a man with his shortened strike zone should. He doesn’t hit many home runs, but he has some new and old teammates who do hit the big fly. George Springer, Chris Carter, and Evan Gattis will distract the pitchers to allow for more steals, and Altuve can trot home with the big fly.

I support Jose Altuve as 2nd-3rd round material. What about you?

What’s next in the series?

January 2nd, 2015 – Astros in your Fantasy Part 1: Astros Top 10 prospects

January 9th, 2015 – Astros in your Fantasy Part 2a: George Springer

January 16th, 2015 – Astros in your Fantasy Part 3: Evan Gattis

January 23rd, 2015 – Astros in your Fantasy Part 4: Jose Altuve

January 30th, 2015 – Astros in your Fantasy Part 5: Chris Carter

More from Climbing Tal's Hill

February 6th, 2015 – Astros in your Fantasy Part 6: Luke Gregerson

February 13th, 2015 – Astros in your Fantasy Part 7 : Dallas Keuchel

February 20th, 2015 – Astros in your Fantasy Part 8: Jed Lowrie and Luis Valbuena

February 27th, 2015 – Astros in your Fantasy Part 9: Colby Rasmus

March 6th, 2015 – Astros in your Fantasy Part 10: Starting Rotation

Next: How to Fix Astros Generation K: Part Duex?

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