Altuve stands tall among Astros' stars

Altuve stands tall among Astros' stars

With Spring Training fast approaching, MLB.com will take a look at a different aspect of this year's Astros squad each day this week. Today's topic: How's your star?

HOUSTON -- He's 26 years old and has already made four All-Star teams -- once for the National League and three for the American League -- has led the AL in hits three years in a row, and has won two AL batting titles, a Gold Glove Award and three Silver Slugger Awards.

Astros second baseman Jose Altuve has emerged as one of baseball's bona fide stars, and the man who stands 5-foot-6 is the heart of a Houston team that is poised to compete for the AL crown in 2017. And he continues to get better, which has put him on a Hall of Fame arc early in his career.

30 stars ready to shine bright in 2017

"He's the epitome of everything that's right around the Astros," manager A.J. Hinch said. "He's a great example, he's a hard worker, he will play selflessly and never take any of the credit and will want all the blame. He's a great example for all of our players on how to be excellent, and I think this season showed what kind of impact he's had with the caliber of awards he was up for."

Outlook: Altuve, 2B, HOU

Altuve -- whose 1,046 career hits since he made his debut on July 20, 2011, are the most in the big leagues in that span -- is in the prime of his career and poised to be with the Astros for at least the next three years. The team-friendly contract he signed midway through the 2013 season will see him earn $4.5 million this year, with team options for 2018 ($6 million) and 2019 ($6.5 million).

The Astros are all but certain to pick up those options, considering Altuve could make probably three times that much on the open market. The Astros rolled the dice and locked him up before they had to, and he took the financial security early in his career.

Last year, Altuve won his second AL batting title in three years, hitting .338 with career highs in homers (24) and RBIs (96) to go along with 30 steals, 42 doubles, a .928 OPS and 7.6 WAR.

Altuve finished third in the AL Most Valuable Player balloting, behind Mike Trout and Mookie Betts, and was named the Sporting News' MLB Player of the Year. He became the first second baseman to reach 100 runs, 200 hits, 40 doubles, 20 homers, 95 RBIs and 30 steals in a single season. He's just the sixth player in Major League history to reach all of those marks, regardless of position.

"Like I said before and will say 100 times, I want to keep getting better," Altuve said.

The Astros lost 106, 107 and 111 games in Altuve's first three seasons in the big leagues, but after getting a taste of the playoffs in '15, Altuve wants more. The team is loaded with such stars as Carlos Correa, George Springer, Dallas Keuchel, Carlos Beltran, Brian McCann and Josh Reddick, but Altuve stands tall above them all.

Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.