The Astros likely got a little worse Tuesday with Jeff Keppinger’s departure, but they also got a little more interesting.
Jose Altuve is listed at 5-foot-7, but according to just about everyone who has seen him in person, he’s likely much closer to 5-foot-5. And now he’s the game’s most compact major leaguer after being called up from Double-A to take over at second base.
Altuve was absolutely tearing it up in the minors this season. He started out at Single-A Lancaster and batted .408/.451/.606 with five homers and 19 steals in what, admittedly, is a fantastic environment for hitters. He hadn’t slowed too much following the move up to Double-A, though. He was hitting .361/.388/.569 in 35 games for his new team. Overall, he was at .389/.426/.591 with 10 homers and 24 steals in 357 at-bats.
The Astros are almost certainly rushing Altuve. He’s just 21, and it’s not at all likely that he’s ready to hit for power in the majors. Still, he’s the most intriguing position player they’ve developed since Hunter Pence, and given that the Astros are in need of a little excitement, it’s not too surprising that they chose to give him a look.
On Monday, Cubs catcher Willson Contreras showed he was very confident heading into the 2018 season, saying, “I know that I’m going to be better than [Yadier Molina and Buster Posey].” Contreras explained that his goal is to become “the best catcher in the game for a long time — like it was with Yadier Molina, like it is with Buster Posey.”
Apparently, Contreras ruffled Molina’s feathers as the Cardinals’ veteran backstop took to Instagram to respond. Posting a picture of himself with Buster Posey and Salvador Perez, Molina wrote, “Respeten los rangos NOVATOS!! aqui con los q si han probao que son los duros!!” That loosely translates to “respect the ranks,” referring to Contreras as a novice.
Molina is no stranger to using Instagram to air his grievances. He apparently used the social media app to take a swipe or two at manager Mike Matheny last year.
Of course, Molina seems to be misreading the intent of Contreras. Contreras seems to think highly of Molina, having referred to him as being one of the best catchers in the game — even if it was in the past tense. Molina should know, being someone who also competes at the highest level, that having confidence is an important part of the recipe for success. Perhaps this will make for some interesting games during the season, breathing new life into the Cubs-Cardinals rivalry.