Unfortunate, ill-timed injuries during the World Baseball Classic have sent fantasy managers scrambling for replacements or readjusting their preseason fantasy baseball rankings for their upcoming fantasy baseball draft. First, it was Edwin Diaz of the New York Mets, and now Jose Altuve becomes the latest addition to any fantasy baseball injury report. An errant heater resulted in an Altuve hit by pitch, and tests revealed a fractured thumb. There’s still no timetable for his return, but similar injuries take about eight-plus weeks, and in this week’s Fantasy Alarm Fantasy Baseball Podcast, Matt Selz and I talked about how being cleared to return is different from being 100 percent full strength. How should you approach this injury to Altuve in your upcoming draft? How will the Houston Astros look to replace Altuve in their lineup and at the keystone? What is the fantasy baseball impact of the injury? Is there a new fantasy baseball sleeper in Houston to replace Altuve? All of that and more in today’s positional spotlight.
Handling Jose Altuve's Injury in Fantasy Baseball Drafts
The expected time to return is eight to 10 weeks, and while the hope is that he can return in May, I wouldn’t be so sure of that. Why does Houston need to rush Altuve back? He’s very good, don’t get me wrong, but they have adequate replacement options, and October is what matters for Houston, not May. Even without Altuve, they still have a batting order that features Jeremy Pena, Kyle Tucker, Alex Bregman, Yordan Alvarez, and Jose Abreu in the top half, not to mention one of the best pitching staffs in baseball. They do not need to, nor will they rush back Altuve. I expect the Astros to deploy him on a semi-lengthy rehab stint in the minors to ensure that his thumb is ready for the rigors of the season, so fantasy baseball managers should be preparing to be without Altuve until early June at least.
With that in mind, how should we be approaching Jose Altuve in upcoming fantasy baseball drafts, since we can no longer take him within the first handful of rounds or as a top-three second baseman? Well, courtesy of NFBC data, let’s take a look at how the injury has impacted his draft trends.
As expected, a steep drop-off, but just how much?
From March 1, 2023 to March 18th, 2023, Altuve was the first second baseman off the board, with an average ADP of 30.92. If we look solely at drafts beginning on March 19th to the time of writing, he’s the eighth second baseman off the board, with an ADP of 141.
Given the concern with the second base position, I’m still okay with taking a flier on Altuve in the double-digit rounds, but you’ll need to look for an adequate fill-in in case his recovery takes longer than expected. A few rounds after Altuve, I’d be looking closely at the likes of Thairo Estrada, Jonathan India, and Whit Merrifield. Or, if you want to wait further, multi-positional options in Brendan Donovan and Nick Gordon are attractive options. Additionally, Altuve’s likely fill-in is an intriguing late-round dart throw…
Houston Astros' Replacements for Jose Altuve
David Hensley will get the first crack to man the keystone position during Altuve’s absence. Of the in-house candidates, he’s also the most appealing from a fantasy perspective. In 26 games with Houston last year, he slashed .345/.441/.586 and made appearances as the team’s DH, second baseman, third baseman, shortstop, and outfielder. His walk rate elevated as he progressed through the minors, and his strikeout rate stayed relatively in check, hanging out in the low-20s for most of his minor league career. His overall power profile is far from prolific, but his power did tick up as he moved through the minor league ranks, and he’s a cheap source of steals. Fantasy managers shouldn’t expect much in the power department, as he’ll hit a ton of ground balls, but if he can lift it a bit more, there’s enough thump to leave the yard on occasion.
The biggest knock on Hensley from a fantasy perspective, outside of the likely lack of consistent power, is that he may be UTIL-only until he gets enough starts at second base to qualify. Mauricio Dubon is another in-house candidate, and even if the team looks to give him some at-bats at second base, Michael Brantley’s likely absence at the beginning of the year opens another avenue for Hensley to get time. Dubon is also a guy with an underwhelming batted-ball profile, and despite making a good bit of contact throughout his career, he leaves the zone too much and is a career .244/.287/.366 hitter.
Hensley is the name to monitor here for fantasy purposes while Altuve is out with his fractured thumb, and he’s an excellent later-round dart throw.
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