José Carlos Altuve
- Bats Right, Throws Right
- Height 5' 6", Weight 170 lb.
Second baseman José Altuve, who stands only 5' 6", making him one of the shortest players in the 21st century, was signed by scout Wolfgang Ramos for the Houston Astros in 2006 and began his pro career with the VSL Astros the next summer.
He played in the Futures Game, then reached the majors with Houston in 2011. He was called up on July 20th, replacing Jeff Keppinger, who had been traded to the San Francisco Giants the previous day. In his first game that same day, he was Houston's starting second baseman against the Washington Nationals and went 1 for 5. On August 20th, he hit the first inside-the-park home run for the Astros since Adam Everett in 2003 when he led off the 1st inning against the Giants with a drive to deep left-center that allowed him to round the bases without even having to slide. It was his first major league homer, coming off Madison Bumgarner, and set his team off to a 7-5 win over the defending World Champions. For his rookie year, he hit .276/.297/.357 in 57 games.
Altuve had a very good second year for the Astros in 2012, as one of the few productive players on a rebuilding team that finished with the worst record in baseball. He was the team's lone representative to the All-Star Game and hit .290 with 34 doubles while scoring 80 runs. He improved his OBP to .340 and his slugging percentage to .399, giving him an OPS+ of 101. Just before the All-Star break in 2013, he was signed to a four-year contract with club options for two more years, confirming that he was one of the cornerstones on which the Astros intended to rebuild. However, his production went down over the previous season, as he finished at .283/.316/.363 with the Astros now playing in the American League. He led the league in caught stealing with 13, but stole 35 bases. Other positives were that his 177 hits and 52 RBI were both improvements over his first two seasons, but his OPS+ fell back to 89.
In 2014 he had a break-out season. In June, he stole multiple bases in four straight games, something no one had accomplished since Ray Chapman in 1917. On July 7th, he collected his 124th hit of the year to break the franchise mark for most hits before the All-Star break, breaking a mark set by Bob Watson with 5 games still to play before the midsummer classic. His excellent performance also meant that he was chosen as the Astros' representative at the 2014 All-Star Game, earning the honor for the second time in three years. He also had 39 stolen bases at that point, although that was still 9 behind Gerald Young's club mark for most before the break. On September 10th, he collected his 200th hit of the year, becoming only the second player in Astros history to do so, after Craig Biggio; he had a good shot of breaking Biggio's team record of 210 with three weeks still to go. He was leading the AL in hits, stolen bases and batting average at that point. He broke Biggio's mark on September 16th, when he collected hits #210 and 211; he was red hot at that point, having collected multiple hits in 6 consecutive games as he was trying to clinch the first batting title in team history. His 219th hit on September 21st gave him the most by a second baseman since Charlie Gehringer had 227 in 1936; Rod Carew's 218 in 1974 had been the most in the intervening period. By going 2-for-4 on the season's final day, September 28th, he became the first Astros player to win a batting title, finishing at .341 with 225 hits; the runner-up was Victor Martinez of the Detroit Tigers, at .335. He was originally not going to play on the final day, to protect a lead of .003 over Martinez, but insisted on being in the lineup and ended up increasing his margin of victory. His 47 doubles and 56 stolen bases also led the American League.
As spring training opened in 2015, a crew from MLB Productions was following José around in order to film a documentary feature about him, to be aired on the MLB Network early in the season. The documentary was a brainchild of Astros owner Jim Crane, who wanted to get his team some publicity while making the charismatic young player better known to fans. Footage had already been shot in Japan when Altuve took part in the 2014 Nichi-Bei Series the previous November and also in Altuve's native Venezuela over the winter. For his part, Altuve stated: "I feel like Brad Pitt, like a movie actor. This might be my start in Hollywood, don't you think?" He was again red hot in the season's first month, as he ended April with a string of eight consecutive multi-hit games during which he went 19 for 39 (.487). In the last of these, on April 30th, his third hit of the game drove in Marwin Gonzalez from second base to give Houston a walk-off, 3-2 win over the Seattle Mariners. One thing that was different, though, was that the Astros were on top of the AL West standings at that early point of the season, finishing the month with a record of 15-7, tied with the Kansas City Royals for best in the American League. He started May just where he had left off the previous month - with a ninth straight multi-hit game in a 4-3 win over Seattle. This tied the team record shared by Jesus Alou and Billy Hatcher. Altuve had another great month in August, as he reached base in every game and tied a club record held by Alou with 45 hits in the month. He hit .375 during the month, raising his average from .297 to .316. He finished the year at .313 in 154 games, leading the league with 200 hits and 38 stolen bases (but also 13 times caught stealing). The Astros made the postseason for the first time since moving to the AL and he went 1 for 4 with an RBI and a stolen base as they beat the New York Yankees in the Wild Card Game. However, the Kansas City Royals managed to muzzle him in the Division Series, limiting him to 3 hits in 22 at-bats (.136) with 2 runs and 1 RBI, while catcher Salvador Perez cut him down in his only stolen base attempt.
On June 25, 2016, he came very close to hitting for the cycle in a 13-5 win over the Royals. He had already hit a single, a double and a homer when he hit a ball to the wall in the 8th. He was going for the missing triple when, approaching second at full speed, his helmet fell off his head and into his feet, tripping him up and he landed on second base in a pratfall. He took it in stride as his teammates ribbed him from the dugout, and then he came in to score on a double by Carlos Correa. He was named the American League Player of the Month for June on the strength of batting .320 with 19 runs and 15 RBI in 26 games. He finished the first half of the season with 113 hits in 81 games, an Astros team record, and was leading the AL in both batting average and hits at that point. On August 16th, he notched his 1,000th career hit with a 9th-inning single against Seung-Hwan Oh of the St. Louis Cardinals, the first time he had faced Oh in his career, and the hit came on the first pitch Oh had thrown him, illustrating his aggressive and confident approach at the plate. He was the fastest to reach the milestone in team history, having needed only 786 games, and the 9th youngest to the mark in major league history. He won his second batting title that season, finishing at .338 and also led the league with 216 hits. He payed 161 games, scored 108 runs and hit 42 doubles and 24 homers and drove in 96 runs. All of these numbers, apart from the doubles total, were career highs to that point.
On May 17, 2017, he became the first player since 2005 to hit two doubles and two triples in the same game, a 3-0 win over the Florida Marlins. He finished the first half on a roll, getting three or more hits in five consecutive games, something that had not been done since George Brett in 1976. He was voted the starting second baseman on the American League team at the 2017 All-Star Game, one of three Astros players to be so honored. On July 23-24, he had back-to-back four-hit games as he extended his hitting streak to 16 games during which he was hitting an unbelievable .538. For the month of July he hit .485 and slugged .787 to be named the American League Player of the Month for the second time. He topped 200 hits for the 4th straight year and finished at .346 with 204 hits to lead the league in both categories. In Game 1 of the Division Series against the Boston Red Sox on October 5th, he became the 9th player in postseason history to have a three-homer game when he connected with three solo shots in an 8-2 Houston win. After defeating the Red Sox in four games, the Astros then went on to win the ALCS over the New York Yankees and the World Series over the Los Angeles Dodgers, both in 7 games, securing the first championship in franchise history. Altuve had 22 hits, including 7 homers, in 18 postseason games, scoring and driving in 14 runs as one of the key offensive contributors on the team. After the season, he was named the winner of the 2017 American League Most Valuable Player Award, outpointing Aaron Judge of the Yankees. He was also named Sports Illustrated's "Sportsperson of the Year", an award which recognizes sportsmanship, jointly with Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt; both were chosen for their contribution to relief efforts in Houston in the wake of Hurricane Harvey, in addition to their on-field excellence. At the end of the year, the Associated Press named him its Male Athlete of the Year.
On March 16, 2018, he signed a five-year contract extension with the Astros worth $151 million starting in 2020. It was in part compensation for having been a bargain all these years, as his salary was still only $6 million in his MVP season. From May 25-27, he collected hits in 10 consecutive at-bats, breaking his own club record of 8 set the previous season. He was again excellent in the first half, hitting .332 with 9 homers and 44 RBIs in 99 games and returning to the All-Star Game for the sixth time, but he had a poor second half marred by a leg injury. He played just 38 games in the final 2 1/2 months, and hit just .276, well below his customary production, to finish at .316 in 137 games. He did well in the Division Series, as the Astros swept the Cleveland Indians in three games, hitting .286 with a double and a homer, but he was visibly hobbled during the ALCS which Houston lost to the Boston Red Sox. He had to be moved to the DH spot after a couple of games to relieve the strain and went just 5 for 20 with a double. Two days later, he underwent surgery on his right knee.
After his disappointing 2018 seasons, Astros fans were anxious to see the old José back in 2019, and he did not disappoint them. He homered and hit a double in a 5-1 win over the Tampa Bay Rays on Opening Day, March 28th, but then went through a mini slump that saw his average fall to .174 after 6 games, and not hit another long ball until April 8th. However, when he found his power, he went on a binge, hitting 6 homers in the span of 5 games, becoming the first major leaguer to homer in five straight games that season. Meanwhile, the Astros were on a roll, as his power outburst coincided with an eight-game winning streak.
- 6-time All-Star (2012 & 2014-2018)
- 2017 AL MVP
- 2019 ALCS MVP
- AL Gold Glove Winner (2015)
- 5-time AL Silver Slugger Award Winner (2014-2018)
- 3-time AL Batting Average Leader (2014, 2016 & 2017)
- AL At-Bats Leader (2015)
- 4-time AL Hits Leader (2014-2017)
- 2-time AL Singles Leader (2014 & 2017)
- 2-time AL Stolen Bases Leader (2014 & 2015)
- 20-Home Run Seasons: 3 (2016, 2017 & 2019)
- 30-Home Run Seasons: 1 (2019)
- 100 Runs Scored Seasons: 2 (2016 & 2017)
- 200 Hits Seasons: 4 (2014-2017)
- 50 Stolen Bases Seasons: 1 (2014)
- Won one World Series with the Houston Astros in 2017
|Mike Trout||José Altuve||Mookie Betts|
- Mandy Bell: "Clinching heroics net Altuve ALCS MVP honors", mlb.com, October 20, 2019. 
- Alyson Footer: "Altuve approaching 1,000 hits at historic pace: All-Star second baseman can reach milestone faster than any other Astros player", mlb,com, August 15, 2016. 
- Adrian Garro: "Here's how Jose Altuve utilized his five tools -- and maybe a sixth -- to coast to the AL MVP Award", "Cut4", mlb.com, November 16, 2017. 
- Richard Justice: "Altuve beat big odds to get 1,000th hit at age 26", mlb.com, August 17, 2016. 
- Richard Justice: "Altuve scorching with season for the ages: Amid monster success, AL MVP Award candidate striving to improve", mlb.com, July 27, 2017. 
- Richard Justice: "No surprise as Altuve adds to greatness: Second baseman becomes 9th player with 3 homers in postseason contest", mlb.com, October 6, 2017. 
- Richard Justice: "Altuve: From $15K bonus to Astros icon", mlb.com, October 20, 2019. 
- Brian McTaggart: "Altuve achieves elite status with stellar 2016: Astros second baseman isn't satisfied after winning 2nd batting title", mlb.com, December 29, 2016. 
- Brian McTaggart: "Road warrior: Altuve hitting at historic pace: Astros star batting .433 away from home, highest since MLB integrated in '47", mlb.com, July 25, 2017. 
- Brian McTaggart: "November reign: Altuve wins AL MVP Award: Astros standout adds big honor to hardware-filled month", mlb.com, November 16, 2017. 
- Bob Nightengale: "'Everything that's right about the Astros': Great as ever, Jose Altuve wins AL pennant for Houston", USA Today, October 20, 2019. 
- Jose L. Ortiz: "How Astros' Jose Altuve turned himself into an MVP candidate", USA Today Sports, July 20, 2016. 
- Jose L. Ortiz: "Jose Altuve tops Aaron Judge for American League MVP Award", USA Today Sports, November 16, 2017. 
- Jorge L. Ortiz: "Jose Altuve cruising toward 200 more hits, but it's not that simple: 'Baseball is so hard'", USA Today Sports, May 10, 2018. 
- John Perrotto: "Novelty no more: Astros' Jose Altuve in the conversation as one of baseball's best", USA Today Sports, July 11, 2016. 
- Joe Posnanski: "Altuve putting up historic road numbers: Astros second baseman owns .418/.487/.685 slash line away from Minute Maid", mlb.com, August 25, 2017. 
- Joe Posnanski: "Audience will fall in love with Altuve: Astros' AL MVP candidate always smiling, bringing joy to fans", mlb.com, October 24, 2017. 
- Jordan Ray: "Altuve fastest in Astros history to 1,000 career hits", mlb.com, August 17, 2016. 
- Roger Schlueter: "The short of it: 10 amazing Altuve facts: Diminutive All-Star on early track to rank among all-time best second basemen", mlb.com, March 10, 2016.