I am foregoing my weekly AL starting pitcher post to hit on a more timely topic today. As you know, we have been unveiling our consensus rankings by position, and yesterday, we published the second sackers. As expected with any set of rankings from multiple people, there were many examples where our opinions diverged. Jose Altuve was one such player, so I thought it would be fitting to jump back onto the Pod hitter projections train and analyze my projection and how I got to that number nine ranking. In addition, if I find my ranking of a player is far off from the consensus, I then go back to my own projection to make sure I wasn’t unreasonably optimistic or pessimistic.
At-Bats: 575. Houston doesn’t seem to have anyone else that should threaten Altuve’s playing time. For a team going nowhere, there is no reason not to give the 21 year old as much time as possible to see what they may have.
Contact Rate: 88%. He posted an 87% last year with the Astros, but a 90% mark at Double-A and 88% mark at High-A.
GB%/LD%/FB%: 50%/19%/31%. Similar to what he posted last year, with a slight drop in line drive rate in favor of more fly balls. I typically dislike projecting better than league average line drive rates for players with limited track records and his minor league batted ball distribution suggested a slightly higher fly ball rate than the 29.6% mark he posted with the ‘Stros.
BABIP: .320. My expected BABIP formulas spit out .318 and .327 marks and for the most part, he has posted exceptional BABIPs in the minors, including a ridiculous .438 in 213 High-A at-bats last year. With good speed, a ground ball approach and a history of high marks, I feel comfortable with this projection.
HR/FB Ratio: 5%. He posted only a 3.6% mark with the Astros, but was actually a smidge above the league average mark during most of his minor league years and has generally posted pretty good ISO rates throughout his career. It’s amazing that a guy with such a small frame (5’7, 170 lbs) can manage to hit even one homer!
RBI and Runs: 55 and 70. He is currently slated to hit second, but when Jordan Schafer continues to fail at getting on base, leadoff may be a possibility at some point. The run projection seems a bit conservative, but Altuve doesn’t walk much and so his OBP will be mediocre at best, and the Astros lineup is awful.
SBs: 24. He stole 7 last year in 10 attempts, and if you prorate his at-bat total to the 575 I’m projecting, you get just 18. So why the expected improvement? Well, in about the same number of plate appearances at High-A, he stole near triple the number of bases as he did with the Astros. In fact, looking at his entire 2011 season in which he garnered 578 at-bats, he stole a total of 31 bases and also swiped 42 bags back in 2010. Since the Astros offense is so pathetic, Altuve should have every opportunity to run.
Below is my final projected batting line, along with the rest of the projection systems for comparison.
For the most part, our projections are all very similar. I was about to think I was optimistic on the steals, but then noticed ZiPS projects over 30! But they are also projecting the highest at-bat total.
Does my projection seem reasonable? If so, then remember when producing my rankings, all I do is take the dollar values generated by my spreadsheet and sort in descending order. Believe it or not, that projected stat line results in the ninth best value among second basemen. He actually earns the most value from his batting average. A .291 mark over that many at-bats from a middle infielder is really helpful, but average is typically undervalued on draft day, so there’s some nice profit potential here.
Of course, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that Altuve completely skipped Triple-A, so he isn’t without risk. Pitchers seem to have a much easier transition to the bigs when jumping straight from Double-A than hitters do.