In the midst of an extensive rebuilding project, first-year Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow is upgrading the team’s organizational depth at every position, which he hopes will lead to difficult decisions down the road.
The Astros’ lone All-Star this season, Altuve is having a breakout performance with a .300 average, five home runs, 31 RBI, 25 stolen bases and a .774 OPS in 479 plate appearances. A 22-year-old international free agent signed out of Venezuela in 2007, Altuve made his Major League debut last year, batting .276 in 234 plate appearances.
Altuve is the second baseman of today for the Astros, and considering his young age and early success, chances are he will have a long-term future with the club. If so, Houston will have to find another position for DeShields, the son of former Major Leaguer Delino DeShields Sr.
Delino DeShields Jr
The eighth overall pick in the 2010 draft, DeShields’ 2011 season was forgettable. At low Single-A Lexington, he hit .220 with a .627 OPS, though he did swipe 30 bases.
The confident 20 year old set lofty goals for 2012, including 75 steals, 85 runs and a .280 average. DeShields met and exceeded those numbers, earning a promotion in the process.
At Lexington, he batted .298 with 10 home runs, 52 RBI, 22 doubles, five triples, 96 runs and 83 stolen bases. He was recently called up to advanced Single-A Lancaster in the California League, where he has a .316 average in 19 at-bats.
MLB.com, which ranks DeShields as the seventh-best second base prospect, praises his foot speed and bat speed, projecting more power once he improves his plate approach.
DeShields played 15 games in center field at Greeneville in the Appalachian League, so he has the athleticism to move off second base if the Astros commit to Altuve for the long term.
The team recently moved Jimmy Paredes, a 23-year-old switch hitter from the Dominican Republic, from second base to the outfield because of Altuve’s presence. Paredes is hitting .317 with 12 home runs, 54 RBI and 33 stolen bases at Triple-A Oklahoma City.
Luhnow is rebuilding the Astros through the draft, international free agent signings and trades, from which he is stockpiling prospects.
This summer, Houston has traded pitchers Wandy Rodriguez, Brett Myers, J.A. Happ; first baseman Carlos Lee; and third baseman Chris Johnson for a myriad of promising minor leaguers, including former first rounders Matt Dominguez (third base), Joseph Musgrove (starting pitcher) and Asher Wojciechowski (starting pitcher) and second rounder Rob Rasmussen (pitcher).
Along with Altuve and DeShields, promising 24-year-old outfielder J.D. Martinez, 22-year-old outfielder George Springer (listed by MLB.com as the organization’s third best prospect and No. 45 on Baseball America’s Mid-Season Top 50 Prospects List) and highly regarded Double-A shortstop Jonathan Villar (who was acquired from Philadelphia in the Roy Oswalt trade) are part of the team’s future – as long as Luhnow can find vacancies for them on what will be a crowded Major League roster in two years.