Thursday, May 28, 2015

State of the Astros: Second Base

Over the next several days/couple weeks, I'd like to take a position-by-position look at the Astros, getting a quick overview of the current starters, backups, and minor league players who could contribute this season.


Starter - Jose Altuve

At this point in his career Altuve has a pretty good track record of the type of player he is and he's living up to that so far this season, though with a few small tweaks. Last season Altuve solidified himself as a hitting machine by setting the Astros record for hits in a season (225) on his way to being the first Astro to lead the league in batting average. A small recent slump has seen his average dip below .300, but upticks in walk rate and a bit of an increase in pop have him still among the top five offensive second basemen in the American League. The projections expect him to be more or less the same player for the rest of the season, right in line with his career averages. All he does is hit and all he'll continue to do is hit. He should check in around 4 WAR on the year and his team-friendly contract means he'll continue to be an extremely valuable part of the club for the foreseeable future.

Reasonable end of season projection ranges

AVG - .290-.310
OBP - .340-.350
SLG - .400-.430

Backup

We'll probably see a combination of Marwin Gonzalez and Jonathan Villar here for the few days off Altuve takes, though a Carlos Correa call-up could make things interesting, possibly seeing one of those two leave the team and/or Luis Valbuena or Jed Lowrie take over as a super-utility type. Given that Altuve only missed four games last year and just one so far this year we probably don't need to spend much time thinking about that, though.

Prospect - Tony Kemp

You could almost call Kemp "Jose Altuve, Jr." as he's another short second baseman whose contact ability and speed lead the way, though Kemp seems to be a little more selective at the plate. Chances are you won't see him jumping to make contact on a fastball over his head. He's been given a little time in the outfield in Corpus this year, though, to try to get him out from under Altuve's shadow and clear a path for him to to majors. Beyond Kemp the Astros have a number of decent shortstop prospects, any one or two of which could slide to second depending on the organization's needs, as we'll see in my next post.

Summary

As long as Altuve is in Houston we shouldn't have to worry about the second base situation. He's one of the premier players in the league at this position and he's still just 25 years old. I'd say the grade here is a solid A for Altuve.

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