Astros prospect Altuve not short on talent
Small-statured second baseman showing big-time offense
PHOENIX -- Jose Altuve represents the little guys -- the ones who are often teased, usually doubted and sometimes overlooked.
See, Altuve -- listed at a generous 5-foot-7 -- has been facing that all his life. And even though the 21-year-old second baseman was here at Chase Field, playing on the World Team while serving as the Astros' representative in Sunday's XM All-Star Futures Game, he still deals with that quite a bit.
Until they see him put bat to ball, that is.
"What he does on the field, it's just incredible," Tigers third-base prospect Francisco Martinez, who played against Altuve when the two were teenagers in Venezuela, said. "The guy's hitting .350, .390, .400 -- I don't know what he's hitting, but he's hitting a ton. The little man can hit. It's that simple. That little man can hit."
Actually, Altuve's 2011 numbers look more like this: .387 batting average, .425 on-base percentage, nine homers and 24 stolen bases in 85 games in the Astros' system.
Altuve, who went 2-for-3 with a double while starting at second base for the World Team, had a ridiculous .408 batting average, 1.057 on-base plus slugging, five homers and 19 stolen bases in 52 games for Class A Lancaster. Then, after being promoted to Double-A on June 1, he hit .353 with four homers and 22 RBIs in his first 33 games for the Corpus Christi Hooks.
Altuve thinks his height may be an advantage in new places.
"They don't know me over there," he said about Double-A. "They see that I'm a short guy, so I know they're going to throw a couple of fastballs right down the middle."
Altuve speaks nearly flawless English despite not coming to the United States until age 16, which means he'll get asked and playfully teased about his stature in two languages. Every time Martinez sees him, in fact, he asks him to stand on a chair so the two can be at eye level.
"We love to mess with him," Martinez said. "It's all in good fun."
Because of the Astros' last-place standing, their infield needs and the way every member of their front office raves about him, the general perception is that Altuve could be called up to the big leagues when rosters expand in September.
Whenever his promotion actually does come, he'll look to follow in the path of baseball's rare breed of small-statured sluggers -- like Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins (generously listed at 5-foot-8) and Giants infielder Miguel Tejada (5-foot-9) or Altuve's idol, 5-foot-9 Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia.
"I know that everywhere that I go, people talk about [my size]," said Altuve, who holds a .326 batting average in five seasons in the Minors. "But that's something that doesn't bother me a lot. It just pushes me to keep on playing. We have a lot of short guys in the big leagues, and I want to be one of them."
Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his columns and his blog, listen to his podcast and follow him on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.