Return of Jose Altuve Gives Hope For a Full-Strength Astros Lineup

Oakland Athletics v Houston Astros
Oakland Athletics v Houston Astros / Bob Levey/GettyImages

Look out, MLB. Jose Altuve is back and the Astros are surging. Winners of nine of the last 10, Houston finally has their dynamite leadoff hitter atop the lineup.

The Astros are 2-0 since Altuve returned. Altuve picked up his first hit since coming off of the IL last night, legging out a double into shallow left center. He went on to score on a sacrifice fly from Yordan Alvarez.

With Altuve and Chas McCormick both back healthy, the Astros lineup is beginning to take shape. Yes, they are still missing Michael Brantley, but could the lineup they are sending out today be their full strength lineup this season.

Altuve leads off and plays second, with third baseman Alex Bregman offering protection behind him. The best hitter in baseball, Yordan Alvarez, plays DH and bats third. The struggling José Abreu is back in the cleanup spot while Kyle Tucker bats fifth. Jeremy Peña remains in the sixth hole. Jake Meyers and Chas McCormick have been battling for reps in center field this year, but both will play today.

Meyers bats seventh in center and McCormick will patrol left while batting eighth. Martín Maldonado rounds out the lineup and bats ninth.

Barring a deadline acquisition, this is likely the Astros best lineup, though the order could afford to be tweaked.

As has been well documented, José Abreu has struggled mightily. No big leaguer has more at-bats without a home run than the first baseman. His inadequacies at the plate are creating a cavernous hole in the center of the Astros lineup.

Dusty Baker just shared that Houston has to get Abreu going, and the only way to do that is by playing him. Sure, continue playing him, but let him figure it out at the bottom of the order. As wild as this is to say, Maldy is a more qualified cleanup hitter than Abreu. Maldy carries a higher OPS, OPS+, WRC+, and has a higher OPS with runners in scoring position. Abreu can't continue to bat fourth.

With Yainer Diaz continuing to get reps at first base, maybe he finds himself playing there at some point this season with more consistency, though it is unlikely as Dusty Baker has proven reluctant to play the Astros top prospect. His counting numbers aren't great, but he's been wildly unlucky, posting an unsustainably low .268 BABIP. His .481 xSLG is 157 points higher than Abreu's.

Corey Julks got off to a quick start, but has quickly fallen back to earth. Julks is in the first percentile in xwOBA and the rest of his Statcast page isn't much better. Without Brantley in the lineup, Houston's best lineup includes both Meyers and McCormick over Julks.

Until we see Uncle Mike back in the lineup, or Houston lands another bat, the lineup they send out this afternoon is likely their best option that Dusty Baker would realistically send out moving forward.