Fantasy Baseball 2018: Is Jose Altuve the top batter to draft?

Jose Altuve doesn’t have the same power as some of his contemporaries but contributes in all five categories. Should he be the first hitter draft next season?

The Houston Astros ran away with the American League West title. The team had some issues on offense but there was one constant all season. Second baseman Jose Altuve is in AL MVP conversations. Even if he doesn’t win, should he be the first hitter drafted in 2018?

Altuve was clearly the best hitter in the league this season. He posted a ridiculous line. In 153 games, he hit 24 home runs, 81 RBI and .346 with 112 runs scored, 32 steals in 38 attempts and a .410 on-base percentage.

He finished first on the ESPN Player Rater, just points ahead of Charlie Blackmon. The added steals pushed him over the edge there. If he wasn’t drafted first overall this season, he went at No. 2. The ability to hit for contact and power, run and score is hard to find at the end of the first round.

Altuve was drafted behind Mike Trout in ESPN leagues, and probably the same across the industry.  That would be the internal debate for whoever has the first overall pick in leagues next year.

Trout can hit over .300 with 30+ home runs, 100 runs and 80 RBI. He did steal 22 bases and could have had 30 if he didn’t miss time.

Altuve has been in the league for seven seasons already. He was slowly building his fantasy stock in the first four seasons. Altuve hit a combined 21 home runs, 160 RBI and .302 with 131 steals in 167 attempts.

There is some good there, especially the steals and batting average. Though, the power wasn’t where it would be this season. Altuve was more of a contact hitter with speed. It’s still valuable but something that could be found later in drafts.

However, Altuve would develop that power over the next three seasons. He hit a combined 63 home runs, 243 RBI and .332 with 100 steals in 129 attempts. The contact actually grew along with the power. The speed subsided but an average of 33 steals per season is still really good.

Altuve is also consistent at the plate with 274 strikeouts and 187 walks over his last four seasons.  He also averages 156 games played in that span. Trout hasn’t missed more than five games in his previous four seasons before this year.

The tipping point for me is the surrounding cast. The Angels have Albert Pujols. CJ Cron and Kole Calhoun as support for Trout. The Astros offense is stacked from one to seven or eight with Carlos Correa, George Springer, Alex Bregman, Yuli Gurriel, Brian McCann and Evan Gattis.

I don’t think you can go wrong with either Trout or Altuve.

With the amount of power that can be found, 117 batters hit at least 20 home runs, you can find someone to make up the difference between Trout and Altuve’s home runs.