Jose Altuve proved that his 2016 power surge wasn't a fluke, matching his home-run total (24) from the previous year and setting new career bests with his entire slash line (.346/.410/.547) while improving his success rate on the basepaths (84.2 percent). For the fourth consecutive season, he led the American League in hits, despite his lowest total of plate appearances since 2012. A perennial All-Star and Silver Slugger Award winner, Altuve has played at an elite level annually since 2014, when fantasy owners were enthralled by his ability as a 50-steal contributor. An early-season spike in strikeouts in April was offset by three straight months with a K-rate under 10 percent, and while his season rate was up from 9.8 to 12.7 percent, whiffs are not an issue for him. As part of a Houston core that figures to remain intact for at least another two years, Altuve is positioned to once again make another run at being the best player in the game.
Altuve and the Astros agreed to a five-year, $151 million extension Friday, Jon Heyman of FanRagSports.com reports. The extension will cover the years from 2020 to 2024, taking Altuve through his age-34 campaign. The 27-year-old second baseman has been one of the best players in the game for the past four seasons and should remain at that level for a long time, though his productivity on the basepaths will more than likely tail off toward the back end of the deal. The contract will keep Altuve in Houston for the next seven seasons, and while there are certainly more hitter-friendly parks out there, any negative effects on that front are outweighed by the quality of the lineup that surrounds him.
Altuve is hitting .421 (8-for-19) with two home runs and four RBI this spring, but admits he needs to be more consistent, Hunter Atkins of the Houston Chronicle reports. "Right now I see one good at-bat and the other one not so good," he said. "When I show up one day and I have three or four quality at-bats in a row that's a good sign." Altuve the professional hitter sees where he needs to improve, but to the outside observer's naked eye, the 2017 AL MVP looks to be in midseason form. He's not concerned with the numbers, but rather how often he's making hard contact. That will come with more at-bats. At the very least, his impeccable management of the strike zone is intact. Not many balls are missing his bat. Altuve's whiffed just three times over 20 plate appearances and, as a corollary to his hard-contact rate improving, his strikeout rate will shrink with more plate appearances.
Altuve was named the American League's Most Valuable Player on Thursday. Altuve's ascension to stardom took another major leap forward in 2017 as the 27-year-old became the first Astro to bring home MVP honors since Jeff Bagwell was crowned NL MVP in 1994. Altuve led the American League in hits (204) for the fourth consecutive season and won the league's batting title with a career-high .346 average. His 24 home runs were also a career high and the superstar second baseman is the consensus No. 2 player (after Mike Trout) heading into 2018 fantasy drafts. The man can do it all.
Houston picked up its club option of $6 million for Altuve ahead of the 2018 season, Julia Morales of AT&T SportsNet reports. No surprise here as the Astros will gladly pick up Altuve's modest contract for next season, with another club option on the horizon the following year as well ($6.5 million). During the regular season, Altuve hit .346/.410/.547 with 24 home runs and 81 RBI, and then helped the team bring a World Series title to Houston.
Altuve went 3-for-4 with a double and two runs scored in Thursday's 12-2 win at Fenway Park. Altuve bolstered his AL MVP case with this three-hit effort, though Aaron Judge of the Yankees kept pace by mashing his 51st home run of the season over in New York. The diminutive second baseman is slashing .350/.415/.555 and ranks second in MLB to Colorado's Charlie Blackmon with 203 hits.
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