In the not so distant past, Jose Altuve was that year’s player to compete with Mike Trout. That year was 2017. Going into 2018, Altuve was pretty much the consensus second overall pick, locked in for a .300 plus batting average and 25/30 potential, hitting on top of an absurd offensive lineup. However, that 2018 did not live up to the top dollar despite finishing with a 135 wRC+. His 13 homers and 17 steals were significantly below expectations. But he did suffer a knee injury that July hampering his production and resulting in off season surgery. Off season knee surgery can have a great effect on ability, notably running.
How has this affected Altuve through out the 2019 season so far? First, it has completely removed Altuve stolen base prowess. But not only has the surgery been a reason, he’s been suffering from hamstring issues resulting in missing a large chunk of May and June. Since returning he’s only stolen three bases. The four he’s stolen on the year is far less than any number we’d hope from someone that stole over 30 in his prime. Does the rest of his offense make up for the complete loss of that one category? Altuve has still held is own elsewhere. After returning from his hamstring injury in June, he’s been a beast at the plate. He is slashing .354/.395/.619 with 11 home runs in under 200 plate appearances. Those numbers are even better than 2017 peak Altuve (just without the steals). He added to this with his line last night of 3-6, 3 R, HR, 2B, 3 RBI. However, he is hitting less fly balls, more grounders, and his HR/FB is over 30% where his usual HR/FB is below 15%. His barrel rate had improved in July but he was still far exceeding his expected stats during this impressive streak. I would expect a dip in production, especially in batting average and homers for the rest of the season, but by year’s end he’ll still have ended the year with impressive numbers in an injury shortened season.
Let’s look at the rest of the Astros’ lineup for the rest of our Batter’s Box.
Evan Longoria (3B, San Francisco Giants)—2-3, R, HR, 2 RBI, BB. Longoria came back a week ago after getting placed on the IL in July with a foot injury. Since the return he has scattered a few hits but crushed a 438 foot homer last night. Right before his injury, in the start of July, he was on a hot streak hitting six homers in seven games. He was significantly underperforming his expected stats during the first half, but that seemed to be changing in July and August.
Jorge Soler (OF, Kansas City Royals)—1-4, 2 R, HR, 2 RBI, SB. Soler gave his owners a nice little treat adding a sneaky stolen base in with his 33rd homer of the year and fourth in five games. He finally has enough playing time to showcase the power he always had. But his barrel rate and hard hit rate are also by far career highs this season. He’s always been able to wreck fastballs, but he’s made slight improvements against off speed stuff to keep him around in at bats. His contact in and out of the zone has improved, he’s swinging more in the zone and swinging less out.
Juan Soto (OF, Washington Nationals)—2-3, 2 R, 2 HR, 3 RBI, BB. It seems Soto finds a way into almost every Batter’s Box, but this time it was because he clobbered two 400 foot homers accounting for all of Washington’s runs last night. He has continued crushing it since the break, barely hitting any soft contact, driving the ball to all fields, while also succeeding with a .239 BABIP. He’s also spent this year clobbering off speed pitching while struggling slightly against breaking stuff.
Alex Bregman (3B/SS, Houston Astros)—3-3, 3 R, HR, 2 2B, 3 RBI. An elite hitter has continued to hit at elite levels this season. And August seems to have put him on another level. In those eight games, he has two or more hits in six of them, striking out only once. Since the All Star break he’s been getting on base 44.4% of the time scoring 28 runs over 25 games. One thing about Bregman is his incredible plate discipline. He has continued to maintain a swinging strike rate below 5%. Additionally, he rarely swings. Somehow he dropped his swing rate from an absurdly low 37.1% last year to 34.9% this year. These two stats combined has led to a 1.34 BB/K ratio.
Carlos Correa (SS, Houston Astros)—3-6, 2 R, HR, 2 RBI. I continue this run of Astros with Correa who only contributed a few of the 23 runs scored by the team. Correa’s main contribution was an absolute bomb. His 111.5 MPH hit travelled 474 feet. Correa looks to be recovered from not only his ailments from last year, but also the broken rib he suffered from a massage back in May. In the 13 games played since his return, he’s slashing .294/.379/.647. He has maintained a 145 wRC+ for the year and also importantly a .274 ISO.
Yordan Alvarez (OF, Houston Astros)—3-5, 4 R, 3 HR, 7 RBI, BB. Lace up your Yordan’s cause Alvarez took three baseballs for ride yesterday in the rout of the Orioles. I don’t know if this ever gets old, but he’s doing it again, barreling nearly 18% of his hits placing him sixth in the league in Barrels/PA. He is still maintaining decent plate discipline for a power hitter as well, while devouring every single kind of pitch.
Aristides Aquino (OF, Cincinnati Reds)—3-4, 3 R, 3 HR, 3 RBI, BB. Now that Aquino has been called up, the NL has their own version of Alvarez. Last night they went head to head with their three home run shows. Some of his homers, like last night’s 344 footer, show some luck he’s having while others, like his 452 foot laser from last night, showcase his unbelievable power. Of course he should be on your team if the rest of your league has been this slow.
Hunter Renfroe (OF, San Diego Padres)—3-3, 4 R, HR, 2 2B, 2 RBI, BB. These next two Padres have an interesting story for the remainder of the season as their buddy, Franmil Reyes, was shipped away at the trade deadline. With Reyes gone, Renfroe can focus on his game. He’s having a break out season with 31 homers in under 400 plate appearances. Other than playing time, not much has changed from last year. He’s barreling the ball at the same rate, but more of those fly balls are going over the fence (7% increase in HR/FB). He’s also consistently been hitting fifth. If you need power and RBIs he’ll give that to you.
Manuel Margot (OF, San Diego Padres)—3-4, R, HR, 3 RBI. Margot, even more so than Renfroe, can breathe a bit easier with Franmil gone. This is most likely small sample coincidence, but since the trade, Margot is hitting out of his mind. He is slashing .375/.444/.958 with four homers and is walking more than he’s striking out. If his power continues to blossom in the second half, he may flirt with a 20/20 finish and establish himself as a nice sleeper pick heading into the 2020 season.
Yasiel Puig (OF, Cleveland Indians)—3-4, R, HR, 2B, RBI. Three outfielders in a row that have a connection to Franmil! Fun! Puig, with Franmil, joined Cleveland at the deadline, to give the team the offensive nudge to push past the Twins in the division. Puig tried his best against them last night with 455 foot solo shot. Puig’s been blazing hot since joining Cleveland sporting a 170 wRC+. His season has been a gradual progression of improvement, so Cleveland, and fantasy owners, are hoping this continues into August and September.
Curtis Granderson (OF, Miami Marlins)—2-2, 2 R, HR, RBI. Granderson came off the bench and had a nice little game to help push the Marlins in their comeback over the Braves. However, that doesn’t make up for his rough season. Since the break, he’s hitting .173 but somehow has a 30.6% line drive rate. There may be some improvement to look forward to for the remainder of the season, but if you are counting on Granderson for your playoff push then something is wrong.
(Photo by William Purnell/Icon Sportswire)