Since signing with the Astros out of Venezuela in 2007, Jose Altuve has gone from pint-sized novelty act to a prominent part of the team's rebuilding efforts. The 5-foot-7 second baseman, a career .327/.386/.481 minor league hitter, made his MLB debut in late July and holds a .322/.336/.400 line so far in 121 plate appearances.
Altuve has succeeded to this point while swinging at just about everything. He has offered at about 54 percent of pitches seen overall, which is nine percentage points above the league average. Altuve might be short, but his strike zone is gigantic:
Altuve has chased 39 percent of pitches thrown out of the strike zone, compared to the 28 percent league average. It's no surprise, then, that he has drawn all of two walks and has seen the fewest pitches per plate appearance (3.1) of any major leaguer with 100+ plate appearances.
Despite his hacking, Altuve has fared well due to a low strikeout rate (under 11 percent) and a +.350 batting average on balls in play. It will be interesting to see if the 21-year-old can continue to defy expectations with his aytypical hitting approach and small frame. The Hardball Times' Oliver projection system has Altuve becoming an above-average hitter in the years to come, posting near-.300 averages with a dash of power.
Should Altuve settle in as a quality batter, he would be in rare company among his vertically-challenged brethren: just 21 hitters in MLB history have posted an OPS+ above 100 (minimum 3,000 plate appearances) while standing 5-foot-7 or shorter, according to Baseball-Reference. And keep in mind that most of those guys played in the early 20th century, when the height of the average male was a couple of inches shorter than it is today. Joe Morgan, Yogi Berra, Don Buford, Albie Pearson and Bip Roberts are the only players on the list who played after World War II. Scouts have been selling Altuve short for years, though, so I wouldn't count him out.