2012 Projection: Can Jose Altuve Emerge As A Late Round Sleeper?

There was a bevy of young second baseman who burst onto the scene in 2011 from Jason Kipnis to Dustin Ackley to Jemile Weeks. However, one person who often goes unnoticed is the Houston Astros’ Jose Altuve. While his upside may not be quite as high as the others, overlooking him could be a detriment to your fantasy squad.

As many of the young Astros’ did in 2011, Altuve made the jump directly from Double-A and posted the following line:

221 At Bats
.276 Batting Average (61 Hits)
2 Home Runs
12 RBI
26 Runs
7 Stolen Bases
.297 On Base Percentage
.357 Slugging Percentage
.309 Batting Average on Balls in Play

Those numbers are not about to blow anyone away. However, realize that he is a 21-year old who never stepped foot on a Triple-A diamond. You also have to take into consideration that he spent 170 AB in the second spot in the lineup, just adding to the pressure on the rookie. When you put things in that perspective they don’t look quite as bad, do they? In fact, you have to be impressed with the numbers he was able to produce.

Prior to his recall Altuve had split time between Single-A and Double-A hitting .389 with 10 HR, 59 RBI, 59 R and 24 SB over 357 AB. Granted there was a little bit of luck involved (.438 BABIP at Single-A and .373 BABIP at Double-A), but what he has proven is that he has some speed and can make consistent contact.

Just look at his strikeout rate by level from 2011:

  • Single-A (213 AB) – 10.9%
  • Double-A (144 AB) – 9.2%
  • Majors (221 AB) – 12.4%

At his age, to be able to make that type of contact, you have to be impressed. With the speed that he’s shown and his ability to hit the ball with authority (20.4% line drive rate in the Majors), you also have to think that he can produce a much better BABIP. Suddenly, a .300+ average does not look like it is out of the question.

It’s possible that he develops a little bit more power as he matures and adds strength, but we shouldn’t look for any dramatic development in that regard in 2012. He did show in the lower levels that he could hit for a little pop and does call a hitter’s park home. That is going to help, but he’s not going to produce in the 20+ range. Figure he can hit around 10 HR, but not much more than that.

His makeup is perfect for the second spot in the order, with his ability to handle the bat and swipe some bags. However, especially in Houston’s lineup, that also works as a detriment. Just how many runs and RBI can we really expect from him? The RBI are going to be especially low, as it would be surprising to see him even surpass 50 on the season. The runs should be decent, thanks to his ability to get on base, but I wouldn’t go expecting him to surpass 90.

You put it all together and you get the following projection for 2012:

.288 (173-600), 9 HR, 45 RBI, 85 R, 25 SB, .323 BABIP, .329 OBP, .393 SLG

They aren’t blow away numbers by any means, but they are certainly usable as a middle infielder (especially when you figure to be able to grab him on draft day). I obviously wouldn’t invest too highly on him, because his upside isn’t there compared to other options, but he brings more than enough to the table to make him worth the pick in deeper formats.

What are your thoughts of Altuve? Do you think he could have value in 2012? Why or why not?

Make sure to check out all of our preliminary 2012 rankings:

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