Results tagged ‘ Jose Altuve ’
Altuve-mania is sweeping the greater Houston area, and it’s becoming exceedingly clear that your second baseman is going to find himself in Kansas City in about a month.
No, no, no…the Astros didn’t make another trade with the Royals. Rather, Kansas City is the site of the 2012 All-Star Game, and Jose Altuve, who’s maintained an average well over .300 the entire season, arguably is the leading candidate to represent the Astros this year.
Don’t count out Jed Lowrie, either, who as of Sunday is leading all big league shortstops with 12 home runs and should be in any conversation at this point about the Astros and the All-Star Game. It would be nice to see both Lowrie and Altuve — with his .326 batting average, 17 doubles, three triples and 22 RBIs — head to Kansas City.
I have no idea how many Altuves it takes to get from Houston to Kansas City, but I’m pretty sure of one thing: every time someone mentions his height (or lack thereof) Altuve gets a hit.
Athletes from the other Houston sports teams are jumping on the Altuve bandwagon, too. On Sunday, Texans defensive end J.J. Watt tweeted: “Hey Houston, @JoseAltuve27 hit a HR & stole home today and is hitting .326 on the year. Get your votes in, make him an All-Star #TeamHouston”
…and you can also Tweet the Vote here, using a slew of hashtags that identifies the Astros and your favorite players.
In addition to signing their first-round pick in less than 72 hours, the Astros have been busy working on signing as many of the remaining 40 players they selected during the Draft last week.
So far, they’ve inked 18, including their third-rounder (RHP Brady Rodgers) and their fifth-rounder (OF Andrew Aplin).
The full up-to-date list, as of Sunday night:
1 SS Carlos Correa
3 RHP Brady Rodgers
5 OF Andrew Aplin
9 RHP Daniel Minor
12 OF Terrell Joyce
13 LHP Brian Holmes
14 IF Joseph Sclafani
15 RHP Erick Gonzalez
16 OF Daniel Gulbransen
17 RHP Aaron West
18 C Richard Gingras
19 IF Austin Elkins
28 IF Angel Ibanez
29 RHP Christian Garcia
30 RHP John Neely
31 C M.P. Cokinos
34 RHP Jordan Jankowski
37 RHP Michael Dimock
(Update: the Astros signed three more: LHP Joseph Bircher (10th round), RHP Travis Ballew (23rd round), 1B Michael
Martinez (36th round).
Speaking of the Draft, it wasn’t at all surprising when the announcement regarding the Player To Be Named in the trade with the Royals from a few months ago came down this weekend.
The Astros traded Jason Bourgeois and Humberto Quintero to Kansas City during Spring Training for left-hander Kevin Chapman and that always-mysterious Player to Be Named, who was to be named, well, later. Much, much later.
We now know that player is 20-year-old outfielder D’Andre Toney. He was drafted by the Royals in 2011, and because a player has to be in the system for a full year before the team who drafted him can trade him, the Toney transaction couldn’t happen until the 2012 Draft was complete.
Hence, the timing.
Jeff Luhnow hinted in March the PTBNL was the cornerstone of the trade, and if early returns are any indication, it appears the Astros acquired a speedy outfielder with offensive potential. Last year while in Rookie Ball, he hit .340 with 12 doubles, five triples, five home runs and 29 RBIs and a .432 on-base percentage.
In trading two bench players, the Astros acquired a young lefty pitching prospect and outfielder, moving the organization forward as it continues to build the farm system and plan for the future. Looks promising.
(Chapman, by the way, has a 3-2 record with a 2.30 ERA with 31 strikeouts in 27 1/3 innings in 24 appearances for Double-A Corpus Christi this season and was named the club’s Pitcher of the Month in April.)
When you have to deal with pranks from your teammates practically on a daily basis, you’re going to go in one of two directions: you’re either going to get tired of the jokes, or you’re going to laugh along with everyone else.
Fortunately, Jose Altuve, who also answers to “Mighty Mouse,” “Little Man” and “Toovie,” can find find humor in the joke, even if he’s the constant subject of the ribbing.
At some point in his professional career, Altuve’s height was recorded as five feet, seven inches. That was eventually deemed inaccurate. The second baseman, 22, is all of five feet, five inches, making him one of the youngest, and the shortest, players in the big leagues.
He’s also maintaining a better-than-.300 batting average, is the early favorite to represent the Astros at the All-Star Game and is proving to be a very sound defensive player. In other words, life is good for the diminutive Altuve, even when his teammates purposely raise their hands above their heads during post-win high-fives so that he has to jump up.
Altuve’s height and baseball acumen have made him a fan favorite in Houston. One fan has gone as far as to create a new measuring system, “How Many Altuves?” In this blog, Bryan Trostel offers a simple metric converter that will convert feet into Altuves.
For example, if it’s 300 feet from your front door to the mailbox, exactly how many Altuves would that be?
Give it a try. You’ll wonder how you ever lived without it.
Congrats to Double-A Corpus Christi first baseman Jon Singleton, who was named Texas League Player of the Week. He hit four homers in six games and finished the week with 12 hits in 24 at-bats with a double, eight runs scored and 12 RBIs.
Singleton had at least one hit in all six games he played, including four multi-hit games. For the season, he ranks first in the Texas League in runs scored with 35, third in RBI with 35, third in OBP at .418 and third in OPS at .981. He is tied for fourth in average at .317.
In 47 games this year, Singleton has nine homers, 10 doubles and a pair of triples.
Taking early batting practice is pretty standard when a team is on the road, but normally, only a handful of players are present for the drill. Early BP, during which a team reserves the field prior to the home team taking it over for their daily practice, is normally designed for bench players looking to get some extra swings in, or regular players trying to work through some soreness or a slump, or young players looking for some extra time in the cage.
According to manager Brad Mills, attendance was a lot higher for early BP on Friday in Pittsburgh, enough for three hitting groups. That can partly be attributed to the weather — it was one of those picture-perfect sunny days, around 70 degrees with no humidity. Pittsburgh isn’t exactly a destination spot for ballplayers (although I’ve always said it’s a very underrated city, and great for baseball), so most were probably ready to head to the ballpark early, anyway. Players also like to get some extra swings in after an offday, which could also explain the crowd this time.
One of the participants was J.D. Martinez, who you’ve probably noticed was dropped in the order a few days ago and then omitted from the lineup more recently. Martinez carried an 0-for-21 streak to Pittsburgh and wasn’t in the starting lineup for Friday’s opener.
Mills said reinserting Martinez into the lineup is “coming up pretty quick,” after he gives the outfielder a chance to clear his head.
“I think he’s getting to where he needs to be,” Mills said.
Meanwhile, Mills tried something new with the lineup, sliding Jose Altuve into the three-hole for the first time and moving Jed Lowrie back up to two.
Until Friday, there were four players who had batted third this season: Martinez (23 games), Lowrie (five games), Travis Buck (two games) and Brian Bogusevic (one game).
“There are a lot of things I like about it,” Mills said of the Lowrie-Altuve tandem. “I talked to Jed and Altuve about it and they were all in.”
Mills also hinted he may keep them there for the remainder of this series.
Brett Myers refers to the bullpen corps as “The Regulators” and often heaps praise on his ‘pen mates after the Astros nail down close wins. How do I know this? Why, I follow Myers on Twitter, of course.
Myers, who goes by the Twitter handle @TheOutlaw39, is one of several players who signed up at some point this season. Another newcomer is reliever Wilton Lopez, who can be found in Twitterland at @lopezwilton59.
Altuve will sign autographs (free of charge) at the Team Store at Minute Maid Park on Saturday, May 19 from 1 to 2 p.m. CT. Autographs are not guaranteed, so the Astros encourage you get there early. We will send out several reminders leading up to the event.
An Astros player will sign autographs at no charge on Saturday per month at the Team Store throughout the season.
Finally, we went with a smile-and-be-happy theme to today’s photo album. Batting practice, at beautiful PNC Park:
I fully admit it. Exactly one year ago, I had no idea who Jose Altuve was.
Other than a couple of mentions by friends who follow the Minor League system pretty closely — “Seriously, there’s this little guy, an infielder, who’s playing Single-A and hitting like .400,” they’d tell me — Altuve’s meteoric ascent through the Astros’ Minor League system in 2011 barely grabbed my attention. There was all of that excitement on the Major League level to worry about, after all.
But the more I heard about Altuve, the more I learned about him, and the more I started paying attention. It became pretty obvious, fairly quickly, this was a kid not to be ignored. Altuve was intriguing not only because he seemed to reach base every at-bat, but because of how tall he was — or, more accurately, wasn’t. Altuve was listed at 5-foot-7. He’s really 5-foot-5.
Understandably, really short guys hitting for a really high average creates quite a spectacle.
Altuve was promoted to Corpus in the middle of the season, and I took a drive down to meet him and some other top prospects. One of the first things I said to Altuve was, “Let’s get this out of the way. I know everyone wants to talk to you about your height. Humor me for a few minutes and then we’ll move on to your hitting.”
The thing that struck me about Altuve, even more than his intelligence and firm grasp of the English language, was his poise, and how unfazed he was by his physical stature. He’s been reminded hundreds of times that he’s short. His answer is something like this, “Look, I know I’m short. I’ve known myself my whole life. I know what I look like. You’re not telling me anything new.”
He first tried out for the Astros as a 16-year-old in Venezuela, and the Astros sent him home, telling him — yep, you guessed it — that he was too small to have a legitimate shot at playing in the big leagues. But Altuve persisted, and eventually, it was enough for the Astros to take a serious look at him. That was six years ago.
Altuve played in the Futures Game during All-Star Week last July. If the first month of the season is any indication, it’s very possible he could represent the Astros in Kansas City at the All-Star Game this year. Only seven players have appeared in the Futures Game one year and the All-Star Game the following season: Adam Dunn, Neftali Feliz, Jason Heyward, Francisco Liriano, Evan Longoria, Ben Sheets and Geovany Soto. Could Altuve be No. 8?
Entering Monday’s game, he was leading all Major League second basemen with a .352 batting average. His 15 multi-hit games were tops in the National League, and he was tied for third in with 38 hits.
Altuve will probably continue to have his detractors who will look at the stat sheet, size him up and say, “He can’t keep this up.” No big deal. He’s heard that before.
He just thinks back to the conversation he had with the Astros scout who decided to take a chance on him at that tryout six years ago. “Just do what you know how to do,” Altuve was told.
“This,” Altuve answered, gesturing to the field, “is what I know how to do.”
And now he’s found a home in Houston.
Richard Hidalgo hasn’t played in the big leagues in quite some time, but he has always been a regular presence and active player at Winter Ball in his native Venezuela.
During the Astros’ television broadcast Monday night, Hidalgo told FS Houston’s Patti Smith that he will likely retire this year and start coaching baseball in Venezuela. If he ever decides to pursue a coaching career in the United States (a notion that isn’t out of the question, considering he makes his year-round home in Orlando, Fla.), I hope he gives the Astros a call, or vice versa.
Hidalgo was a fan favorite when he played in Houston, but that was nothing compared to how popular he was inside the clubhouse. Hidalgo was a great teammate, a hard worker and a kind person. Everyone loved “Doggie,” and when he was traded to the Mets in the middle of the 2004 season, a forlorn Gerry Hunsicker, then the GM, mentioned that he whenever Hidalgo retired, he would be the first to try to bring him back into the coaching ranks.
Hidalgo was a regular presence at the Astros’ Venezuelan Academy in the late 1990s and early 2000s on his own volition. He wasn’t asked or paid by the Astros to spend time with the young prospects; he simply was there because he enjoyed passing his knowledge down to the younger generation.
Hidalgo was a matinee idol in Venezuela during his years with the Astros, but in all of his years here, he never changed. He was, and is, a heck of guy. It was great to catch up with him at Minute Maid Park, and here’s hoping we’ll see him again in the future.
There are records for everything, and there is a record in the Astros’ books for the most games a player reaches base safely to start a season. The record is held by Denis Menke, who reached base safely in the first 25 games he played in 1969.
Jordan Schafer, with his base hit that broke up R.A. Dickey’s no-hit bid in the sixth inning Monday, has now reached safely in 23 games. That ties him with Ricky Gutierrez (1998) for second place.
A couple of other cool stats we came across before the game:
* The Astros have greatly improved in plate discipline from last year. In 2011, the Astros ranked 30th (last) with a 2.5 walks-per-game ratio. This year, through Sunday’s game, they were drawing 3.6 walks per game, good for seventh-best in the Majors. The difference of 1.1 walk improvement is the second- best in the big leagues, behind only the Indians (2.0).
* After going 3-for-5 on Sunday in Cincinnati, Jose Altuve’s .373 batting average ranks among the best ever by any Astro through 22 team games. All-time:
Derek Bell, 1998, .402
Billy Hatcher, 1987, .391
Joe Morgan, 1966, .375
Cesar Cedeno, 1972, .375
Jose Altuve, 2012, .373
Opening Day is special, and you instantly can feel the vibe. It’s festive, it’s fun and everyone’s in a good mood. And, least importantly, it’s the one game of the year where people get all gussied up.
On Opening Day, just about everyone who covers baseball, or broadcasts baseball, or signs free agents, or helps design bobbleheads, or sits in a suite with other like-minded very important people, is dressed to the nines. The men look a little like secret service agents (without the ear buds and scowls worn by the real secret service agents who are there to protect Minute Maid Park regulars George and Barbara Bush).
Opening Day means something. The ballpark is the place to be. Even if it’s just one game of 162 played every year, what Opening Day symbolizes is recognized, and respected.
That doesn’t mean Opening Day is some stuffy cocktail party. No, quite the contrary. Opening Day is a big party, and that was never more apparent than in the nearly seven hours leading up to first pitch, when the streets surrounding Minute Maid Park were closed off and transformed into the annual rite of passage known as Street Fest.
The festival on the streets by the ballpark (hence the name Street Fest) included a little bit of everything — bands, food, beverages, fans and appearances by significant members of the team, both from the front office and the uniformed staff.
Street Fest started early and ended late and featured visits from some of the most recognizable members of the team. Two groups of Astros dropped by for two separate pep rallies.
Unsurprisingly, the second crowd, on hand for the appearance by Jose Altuve, J.D. Martinez and Bud Norris at 4:30-ish, was slightly more spirited and, shall we say, less inhibited than the fans who moseyed over to the stage for the 12:30 show with Jeff Luhnow, Brad Mills and Larry Dierker. Hey, certain libations just flow more freely in the late afternoon hours.
Pep rallies were just one element of the Opening Day celebration. Pregame ceremonies included trotting Budweiser Clydesdales, an anthem-singing country music star (Clay Walker), ceremonial first pitches by those who contributed to the Astros’ storied history (Jimmy Wynn, Dierker and Jose Cruz) and those who are ready to usher in a brand new era of Astros baseball, including owner Jim Crane and his many board members.
Crane’s afternoon began with a lengthy visit to batting practice and brief remarks to the team assembled in the locker room a couple of hours before first pitch.
We have lots of pictures and videos to share from the day. We’ll start with Crane’s remarks to the team:
“Congrats on making the team. I know for a lot of you guys it’s your first time making the team, your first Opening Day. Have some fun.
“There’s a lot of opportunity here. We’re going to try to do things right and try to make this a fun place to be. This should be a fun team to be on so anything we can help you with, you’re part of my family now.
“One thing you’ve got to remember — those people outside (in the stands) pay the bills. We put up the money to buy the team, and we need to engage the fans, stay close to the fans. We need to be nice to the fans. We’ve worked hard at that. I’m going to ask a lot of you throughout the season when you’ve got the time. We won’t take away from your work.”
The dugout scene before the game always includes plenty of hugs and handshakes among teammates. This is the one game of the year where the sense of brotherhood is front and center. Although the camaraderie doesn’t dim through the season, you don’t see a lot of outward affection between teammates from day to day. That’s mainly saved for the opener.
Enjoy the photos from an eventful day at Minute Maid Park:
The decision to move Jimmy Paredes back to second base, the position he’s played more than any other since his professional career began, has little to do with Jose Altuve, or Delino DeShields, or anyone occupying his old position at third base, for that matter.
Ballplayers are evaluated, discussed, scrutinized and sometimes moved around from the moment they join an organization. General manager Jeff Luhnow and his staff kept a close eye on Paredes, acquired a couple of years ago from the Yankees in the Lance Berkman trade, and decided the athletic infielder should move back to second base.
And that’s where he’ll play in the Minor Leagues. The general belief is Paredes will eventually be a mainstay in the Majors. The goal is to get the most out of him in the role he’s best suited for. That role, according to the club’s talent evaluators, is not third base.
When the decision was announced, questions immediately popped up regarding the futures of Altuve and DeShields. It made some wonder if moving Paredes is a direct reflection on the Astros’ confidence, or lack thereof, in Altuve’s abilities.
The answer is pretty simple, really. Decisions regarding Paredes have to do with Paredes, and only Paredes. This isn’t about Altuve or DeShields or any other middle infielders in the organization.
Baseball is unlike the other sports. There are many layers to an organization. Most players who are drafted — save for the very few Stephen Strasburg-like prodigies — won’t reach a big league field for three years, minimum. That’s why the Minor Leagues exist. They are designed to turn young, raw ballplayers into Major League contributors.
Hundreds of players comprise a Minor League system. Around four percent are actually prospects that will make it to the big leagues. Even fewer will last more than a couple of years.
The best organizations have talented players at every position throughout the system. They don’t look at their All-Star shortstop on the Major League level and shrug and say, “Well, looks like we don’t need any other good shortstops in our system.” A dozen roadblocks can mess up even the best plan. Injury. Inconsistency. Free agency. A can’t-miss prospect who gets to the big leagues and blows out his arm. Or finds out he can’t hit a Major League curveball.
Take the Yankees’ Joba Chamberlain, for example. He was a sure-fire, can’t-miss star. Except, of course, that he’s not. First there was the elbow surgery. Now we hear that he has a possible career-ending ankle injury, born from a trampoline mishap.
More than a decade ago, Tim Redding blew through the Astros’ Minor League system with such force that most considered him a better pitcher than Roy Oswalt.
The only problem with that theory was that it was wrong. As it turned out, Redding lacked two things: maturity, and the ability to make adjustments when no Major League hitters were swinging at his 0-2 pitch. Or his 1-2 pitch. Or 2-2 and 3-2.
Staff ace? Not so much. Master of the 100-pitch-count-after-four-innings? Most definitely.
That’s why baseball teams are layered in such a way that gives them Plans B, C and even, in some cases, D and E. There are eight levels in the Minor Leagues. Prospects who go through the system endure a steady climb to the big leagues, some quicker than others. There are no guarantees the player who shows an enormous skill set in Rookie Ball will still have that going for him when he moves up to Double-A.
Altuve has less than a half-season of experience as a Major League second baseman. He shows great potential and will be at second base on Opening Day on April 6. Is he destined for a 10-year career? Is he a future All-Star?
DeShields was a first-round draft pick a couple of years ago and was converted from an outfielder to a second baseman. The Astros like his athleticism and speed and believe he has a future as a big league infielder. Does he?
The answer to both questions is a resounding…maybe. But who out there really knows, with 100 percent certainty?
Baseball organizations — the good ones — are about depth. Having too many good players in a system at one position is a good problem to have. Depth gives teams flexibility. It allows them have a strong Major League team that is built with home-grown players, while giving them trading chips when there’s a need in another area. It also allows teams to replenish the roster with talent when a player prices himself out of payroll parameters.
In certain circumstances, of course, adjustments have to be made. Lance Berkman became an outfielder around the same time Jeff Bagwell signed a long-term contract extension. Jonathan Singleton was clearly going nowhere as a first baseman in Philadelphia’s system, given its recent commitment to Ryan Howard through 2017. And that’s one of the reasons the Astros were able to trade for him.
Why were the Phillies able to land Hunter Pence in a blockbuster trade last year? Simple: they had the surplus of prospects to offer up. They had a solid farm system that was contributing in two ways: it produced Major League talent capable of getting to the World Series, with even more players available as trade bait to make the product at the very top that much more powerful.
If an organization has one good shortstop, or one good catcher, or one good second baseman, and no options coming through the Minor Leagues, well, that’s where you start to see “100″ and “losses” used together in a sentence.
Depth is the single most important component of a healthy organization. Baseball teams cannot survive without it. So don’t fret over the Paredes/Altuve/DeShields conundrum. Be glad it’s here.
Speaking of prospects, several Astros staff members and players involved with the 2011 Arizona Fall League championship team received rings for winning the AFL Championship.
The players: Jay Austin, Jason Castro, Jake Goebbert, Kody Hinze, Dallas Keuchel, Jason Stoffel, Josh Zeid and athletic trainer Eric Montague.
Photos from the ceremony:
One thing that intrigues me about the Minor Leagues is how the players are coached and managed at this level.
To state the obvious, in the big leagues, the only thing that matters is winning. That means doing the little things to generate runs in addition to the long balls and extra-base hits. Situational hitting. Moving runners over. Driving in a run by hitting that ground ball in the perfect spot that lets the runner on third score easily.
Minor League rosters are loaded with players whose main goal is getting to the Major Leagues. Not everyone will make it. Most will not, in fact. Individual stats become hugely important, and it’s understandable if players in the farm system are more concerned with how they fared at the end of the night over whether or not the team won.
I imagine it would be hard for a Minor League coaching staff to find that perfect balance between teaching these players the importance of doing the little things to win games and tempering their desire to try to knock every ball out of the park while scouts and team execs watch and judge from the seats behind home plate.
This has to be a challenge for Minor League managers. In speaking with Hooks manager Tom Lawless yesterday, it’s obvious that he has to handle different players in different ways, depending on the position they play.
To his middle infielders, he stresses defense, defense, defense. You don’t have to tear the cover off every ball, he tells them. You cannot, and will not, play in the Major Leagues if you cannot catch the ball. You must be able to make every routine play, and if you can’t, there won’t be a place for you in the Majors.
At the more traditionally offensive positions — corner outfield, first base, third base, catcher — Lawless stresses hitting. He has told Hooks left fielder J.D. Martinez — by far the Astros’ top hitting prospect — “You can’t play left field and be a singles hitter in the big leagues.” (Go ahead, Astros fans, get the snarky comments out of your system. I’ll wait.) “You have to drive the ball to the gaps and hit home runs.”
“I think he understands that now,” Lawless added.
Mid-day notes from Corpus:
* He wasn’t on my target list when I arrived to town yesterday, but it bears noting that outfielder/first baseman Jacob Goebbert is receiving rave reviews from the people who work for and cover the Hooks. The 23-year-old is hitting .308 (60-for-195) with 15 doubles, three triples and four home runs with 24 RBIs. He also was named Hooks Player of the Month after compiling a .984 fielding percentage with six outfield assists.
Last night, Corpus Christi Caller-Times beat writer Greg Rajan sent out this tweet: “Jacob Goebbert drew an 11-pitch walk and scored. Dude is a player for @cchooks, but doesn’t get enough respect from #Astros brass.”
* Shortstop Jonathan Villar, obtained from the Phillies in the Roy Oswalt trade last year, has, according to Lawless, “talent oozing out of him.” Villar is just 20 years old, however, and has some maturing to do. “He can make the defensive plays that have the ‘wow’ thing,” Lawless said. “He has to understand that you have to make the routine plays, too. He has plenty of arm, plenty of range.”
During Thursday’s game, Villar made a spectacular off-kilter play that showed that above-average range. An inning later, he fielded a simple grounder and threw wide to first base. So I understand where Lawless is coming from on that one.
* Here’s something I didn’t know: in the Minors, the players often coach first base. Apparently, when the hitting coach prefers to be in the dugout when his team is batting, a player not in the game can serve as the base coach. Jimmy VanOstrand coached a few innings at first Thursday night. Interesting.
* The rules in Corpus dictate that players are not allowed to talk on their cell phones inside the clubhouse. Lawless made one exception to that rule, the day Jose Altuve learned he’d be playing in the Futures Game on All-Star Sunday in Phoenix.
“I said, ‘I figure your phone’s going to blow up today, so you don’t have to go outside every time someone calls,’” Lawless recalled.
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