Feb 21, 2023; West Palm Beach, FL, USA; Houston Astros second baseman Jose Altuve (27) takes batting practice during a spring training workout at The Ballpark of the Palm Beaches Mandatory Credit: Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports
Welcome to Gallery Sports’ Houston Astros Spring Training player spotlight, Astros Player of the Day. We will look at a different Astros player each day throughout spring training.
Today’s Astros Player of the Day is second baseman Jose Altuve
Altuve started his 2022 season in a 5-for-35 rut. He collected his sixth hit on his 36th at bat by legging out an infield single to third base, only to pull up lame with a left hamstring strain. Between the injury and the bad start, it felt like 2022 could be a rough one for the Astros’ second baseman, but it turned out to be just the opposite.
He went hitless in his return after only missing 12 games but then hit safely in 7-of-8 on the way to his best season since his 2017 MVP campaign. Not only did Altuve bat .300 for the first time since 2018, but he also compiled a .900 OPS for the first time since his MVP season, an accomplishment that meant even more to him. Just as important, the 32-year-old did not miss back-to-back games again.
Altuve remains aggressive in the leadoff spot, a job he’s had since George Springer left for Toronto. He hit .324 with 13 home runs when swinging at the first pitch, but in 2022 he showed more patience than he ever has before. He swung at just 43.8% of the pitches he saw, matching the lowest number of his career, and he only offered at 31.4% of pitches that were thrown out of the strike zone, the fewest since 2012. This led to a career-high 10.9% walk rate and a fifth 100-run season.
One metric that fails to do Altuve justice is exit velocity. Balls he put into play averaged just 87 MPH off the bat, which put him in the fifth percentile of all hitters, per Baseball Savant, but when you’re a 5-foot-7 hitter with a strikeout rate barely above 14%, the ball isn’t always going to be hit hard, making the 28 home runs he hit in 2022 all the more amazing.
The Astros’ second baseman experienced one more career renaissance last season. He started stealing bases again. Altuve stole at least 30 bases during his first six full Major League seasons, but after swiping 17 in 2018, he combined to steal just 13 bags from 2019-2021. In 2022 he stole 18 bases while only being caught once, which showed how healthy he was despite the early season hamstring strain.
Altuve will celebrate his 33rd birthday on May 6, which means he’ll be 34 when the five-year, $145 million extension he signed after the 2017 season expires. He expressed a desire to finish his career with the team that signed him out of Venezuela when he was 16 during last year’s playoffs and reiterated that sentiment this spring.
Astros general manager Dana Brown said he has the same goal, and there’s no reason to think the two sides can’t come to an agreement on something. Altuve means too much to the Astros, and it’s hard to imagine there being a robust market for someone who will be just a few months shy of his 35th birthday upon hitting the market.