In the Castro-Altuve comparison, frankly, there is none

The Astros locked up Jose Altuve last year with a long-term deal. Earlier this week, Houston avoided arbitration with Jason Castro on a one-year, $2.45 million contract.

That shouldn’t come as a surprise as the ingredients and particulars are different with these two players.

While most everyone would agree that a two or three year deal with Castro would be reasonable, that’s probably more “reasonable” from a team standpoint and not as advantageous for Castro.

Moreover, Altuve and Castro aren’t the same players, don’t bring the same value and offer different comparables.

Like it or not (and you can grimace if you want), Castro actually ranks on the top side of the list of catchers in the AL. As a hitter. At 26, he brings a lot to the table. Yes, potential and upside are part of that package, but his breakout 2013 season began to put some meat on the bones of that skeleton.

Castro has power in his package. Altuve brings speed and SB potential. Power outranks speed for the most part, especially when money’s on the table.

Castro brings run production, as in RBI. Altuve does not, at least not in the realm of his position.

Believe it or not, each scores about the same number of runs (per AB) as the other. At least through the early parts of their careers. And, that may obviously change if Altuve stays near the top of the order and the Astros add some true middle-of-the-order hitters.

Both players will likely hit in that .275-.300 range, but Castro will get on base more, if their walks-to-date is an indicator.

Indeed, size is a factor. Will Altuve’s frame hold up over a long career? Other than his knees, Castro’s size will likely allow him to play the game longer.

Frankly, Castro missing the entire 2012 season with that knee injury has likely influenced long-term decisions, in more ways than one.

Yes, he still has to prove he’s returned and that the knee won’t be a factor. But more importantly, it interrupted the arbitration process. Castro had his first arb-year in 2014. Altuve wasn’t due arbitration until 2015. Since he got “credit” for major league service while sitting out,  Castro reached his arbitration years effectively without the full complement of stats.

If the two sides had not agreed Friday, we could have seen a more clear picture perhaps since both sides would have been forced to present their numbers. Would Castro have asked for $3 million or more? Would the Astros have offered less than $2 million? Does either side actually believe those numbers?

Overall, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Astros and Castro come to terms on a longer deal at some point this year. Note “year”, not necessarily “season”. The next 2-3 years may well determine if Castro remains an Astro long-term. It’s likely Altuve will win that longevity battle and play more years in Houston than Castro.

But when it comes to Castro and Altuve comparisons (especially in the money game), there simply aren’t many. And one reason is that Castro is simply a more valuable player.


7 comments on “In the Castro-Altuve comparison, frankly, there is none

  1. I agree with you Chip. It appears to my untrained and sabremetric challenged eye that Castro is the better player. My enthusiasm for Altuve has diminished. He quickly returns to the “hit the first ball pitched” far too often and is undisciplined on the bases. There are some athletes who are not as coachable as others and Altuve seems to fall into that category. Castro, on the other hand, has adjusted and is improving. I hope his catching capability improves but there are a number of good-hitting catchers that have good careers who are also lacking as receivers.


  2. Everyone will see my discussion on Altuve in a few days (hint of things to come), but there is no doubt that Castro’s hitting last year was superior to Altuve in 2012 or 2013.
    With a handful more ABs – Castro would have qualified as 15th in OPS in the AL with a .835 – this would have been very good no matter which position he was at – but especially as a catcher.
    Altuve had a bad offensive year and a fairly brainless year.
    More discussion to come.


  3. Castro has had one good year at the plate and is an average catcher.
    Although he played some 1B in college, no one has seen him play it in MLB and he has had knee problems since he last played 1B.
    Castro is real slow and will get slower and he is what, 27 next season?
    When will Castro learn to frame pitches and block balls in the dirt?
    Altuve has speed but his legs are very short so he takes lots of steps to cover ground. As he ages he, will lose speed quickly and his range at second will diminish from where it is now(below average).
    Somebody like Kemp or Fontana will replace Altuve in two or three years as his skills lessen and his low OBP catches up with him.
    Right now these are two of our most consistent players, but they will get overtaken by younger, better players by the time we are ready to contend.


  4. The sample size on Castro is really too small for me to form a confident opinion on his future. I don’t feel as if he’s a top of the order hitter. I feel like 6-7-8 on a normal team is more his speed. Take away his 24 games in August and he was .262 Avg / .316 OBP / .456 SLG (.772 OPS) with 13HR 42 RBI 32 BB 102K. Because of his position, that’s still really good – probably 5th best in all of baseball.

    How much did being on the Astros drag him down, and how much did hitting him 3rd for so much of the season drag the Astros down? Is August an indication he was turning the corner, or a Chris Johnson like hot flash that may not be repeated again while wearing an orange star?


  5. Chip, I don’t get the concept of Castro having a longer career due to “frame size”. Castro, as a young player, already has a significant injury history. Altuve is a sturdy kid, having played in 299 games over the past two seasons. Granted, he won’t get any quicker, but he’ll be around for 15 seasons, somewhere, if he can learn to take a pitch. Do you see Castro playing until he’s 38 or 40? I don’t. Sure he plays a far more physically demanding position, but has yet to prove that he can stay healthy through a full year, even at a young age.

    Castro certainly brings far more to the table as an offensive threat. He’s one of the best MLB catchers in that regard, at least when facing right handers. Most all good teams have a solid back stop though, A guy that pretty much runs the show. Castro is not that player. But I think Stassi can be that guy. And I think Castro’s one year contract illustrates that point.

    As far as Altuve’s career in Houston goes, I think it’s a short one. I look for Joe Sclafani, not Nolan Fontana, to take over second base in a year or two. I think Sclafani becomes the small mans version of Ben Zobrist.


  6. Chip, I think your headline says it all. It is not lefty vs righty, shorter vs. taller, or Venezuela vs Stanford. Two totally different situations. Altuve got $12.5 Million and appears that he and the Astros are happy. Castro got $1 Million more for 2014 only, and it appears that he and the Astros are happy. Should Castro get hurt or regress, he made a mistake. Should Altuve do the same, the Astros made a mistake.


  7. I think the jury is still out on both. Altuve, for example, is younger than Springer. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to think he could still improve offensively. If he could take a step forward with his walks–like he was doing in 2012–he could have more value than Casto.

    Castro, meanwhile, needs to put together a few healthy seasons in a row.

    Here’s hoping we find real value in both for years to come.


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