Houston Astros 30 Players in 30 Days: Jose Altuve
Jose Altuve signed with the Houston Astros as a 17-year old in 2007 as an amateur free agent. Small in stature, the 5’6″ second baseman was an afterthought as a prospect, but all he did was hit at every level of minor-league ball. In 2011, the then 21 year old Altuve hit .408 in 52 games at high A-ball and .361 in 35 games at Double-A when the Astros decided they had seen enough and called him up to make his MLB debut. He debuted on July 20, 2011, and went 1-for-5 in his first game. Altuve would finish 2011 hitting .276 with a pair of home runs in 57 games. In 2012, people began to take notice as Altuve made his first career All-Star appearance and slashed .290/.340/.399 with seven home runs and 33 stolen bases in 147 games. After a down year by his standards in 2013,
He jumped into the elite category offensively in 2014, though, as he slashed .341/.377/.453 with 56 stolen bases (most in AL) and only 53 strikeouts en route to an AL batting title, All-Star game, and Silver Slugger award. Coming into 2015, big things were expected from Altuve and in the beginning it seemed he may be even better than he was in 2014.
Altuve began the season with only one hit in his first three games, but would only go hitless in one of the remaining April games. In his first 22 games, Altuve had a .367/.400/.500 line and a .382 average on balls put in play. From April 22 through May 1, he put together a streak of nine consecutive games with multiple hits. The magic would not last through May as he put together his worst month of the season, hitting only .231 over 28 games.
He began to turn things around in June and hit .280, but only drew four walks in 82 at-bats. He also battled through a hamstring injury for most of the month. At the All-Star break, he was slashing .293/.335/.412 – not quite his 2014 line – but had 25 stolen bases and already set a career-high with eight home runs. Altuve would get the start at second base in the All-Star game, but didn’t pick up a hit in his two at-bats.
He came out strong to start the second half with a seven-game hit streak. On July 23, the Astros and Boston Red Sox were in a back and forth game with the game tied in the bottom of the ninth. After a Colby Rasmus flyball, Altuve stepped up to the plate with a hit in his three previous at-bats and hit a walk-off home run that barely found its way into the Crawford Boxes.
More from Climbing Tal's Hill
- Just how much better is the Houston Astros playoff rotation than the rest?
- Houston Astros: A Lineup Change to Spark Offense
- Astros prospect Hunter Brown throws 6 shutout innings in debut
- Always faithful Astros World Series champion Josh Reddick defends the title
- Michael Conforto declines Astros’ 2-year, $30 million offer
August was his best statistical month offensively as he slashed .375/.411/.467 with a pair of home runs, eight stolen bases, and another walk-off hit. On August 16, the Astros and Detroit Tigers were tied 5-5 in the bottom of the ninth. Jake Marisnick hit a two-out triple to bring up Altuve at the top of the line-up. The Tigers would make a pitching change, but Altuve jumped on the first pitch he saw and hit a line-drive single into center field to score Marisnick. Altuve’s batting average rose 19 points over the course of the month.
From September through the end of the season, Altuve would hit four more home runs and record 39 hits in 30 games – the last of which put him right at 200 hits on the season. Altuve became the first player in Astros history with multiple 200 hit seasons (225 in 2014).
2015 line via Baseball Reference: .313/.353/.459*, 200 hits, 40 doubles, 15 home runs*, 66 RBIs*, 38 stolen bases. *career high
The accolades would pile up for Altuve in 2015. He again finished with the most hits in the American League, finished first in the AL in stolen bases, won his second consecutive Silver Slugger award, and took home his first Gold Glove award. After ranking as a below average defender in his first years in the league, Altuve finished first among second baseman in fielding percentage and total zone runs in 2015.
Altuve struggled in his first postseason experience. After finishing 1-for-3 with an RBI and 3-for-5 with an RBI in Game 1 of the ALDS, the second baseman would got hitless in his final four games with one walk and a run scored.
More Houston Astros Season Recaps:
- Vince Velasquez
- Tony Sipp
- Jonathan Villar
- Preston Tucker
- Mike Fiers
- Hank Conger
- Chad Qualls
- Jon Singleton
- Joe Thatcher
- Marwin Gonzalez
- Josh Fields
- Jake Marisnick
- Pat Neshek
- Jed Lowrie
- Luis Valbuena
- Scott Feldman
- Evan Gattis
- Will Harris
- Luke Gregerson
- Chris Carter
- Jason Castro
- Scott Kazmir
- Carlos Gomez
- Lance McCullers
- Colby Rasmus
- Collin McHugh
- George Springer
What to expect in 2016
Jose Altuve was recently ranked the best second baseman in baseball by Buster Olney and ESPN. His defensive improvement in 2015 is what has put him into the elite category of middle infielders.
8.6% of his hits went for extra bases in 2015, but his walk rate decreased while his strikeout percentage increased. His ground ball to fly ball ratio was a career low, mostly due to his power surge in 2015.
Altuve will turn 26 in in 2016 and it’s not crazy to think he may still have his best years ahead of him. Will he be the career-long franchise player at second base that Craig Biggio was? That remains to be determined because of the nature of the business these days, but there’s no doubt that he is the current face of the Houston Astros and a fan favorite.