Dan's Dugout: Is Ozzie Albies the Jose Altuve of the NL? • Latino Sports

Baseball

Dan’s Dugout: Is Ozzie Albies the Jose Altuve of the NL?

on

Don’t look now, but the National League may have its own version of Jose Altuve.

The reigning Most Valuable Player of the American League, the 5’6″ Altuve is the shortest man in the major leagues. But his resume stands tall.

Jose Altuve has won two straight AL batting crowns

The five-time All-Star not only owns consecutive batting titles but has led his league in hits for four straight seasons. The 164-pound righthanded hitter added power to his production two years ago, capping his 2017 campaign with seven postseason homers after hitting 24 during the regular campaign.

With a three-homer explosion against the Boston Red Sox in the first game of the 2017 American League Division Series, Altuve even became the first player to hit three homers in a playoff game since Pablo Sandoval of the San Francisco Giants in the 2012 World Series opener.

Now a kid named Ozzie Albies, in his first full season, is doing a terrific imitation in the other league.

A shortstop who moved to second base to accommodate Atlanta trade acquisition Dansby Swanson, a one-time top draft pick off the Vanderbilt campus, Albies is turning heads with acrobatic plays that allow him to show both exceptional range and a strong throwing arm.

In fact, many scouts think the Braves would be better off having the tandem trade positions.

Ozzie Albies, just 21, leads the majors in extra-base hits

But that would hamper this column of Albies/Altuve comparisons.

Let’s start with the fact that both men are Latinos with six-letter surnames that start with the first letter in the alphabet. They play the same position. Both provide speed, defense, and contact hitting with surprising power for their size.

In fact, after the first 15 games of the season, Albies was leading both leagues with 14 extra-base hits.

Unlike the experienced Altuve, Albies is in his first season. A switch-hitter from Curacao, the same country that produced former Braves standout Andruw Jones, Albies is a few inches taller than his Venezuelan counterpart and 10 pounds heavier. Plus he bats from both sides of the plate.

At 21, Albies is seven years younger than Altuve, who shares his May 6 birthday with both this reporter and Willie Mays. But neither age nor inexperience has hampered his performance.

In frigid and wet Wrigley Field on April 14, Albies started the game with a home run, later adding a single and a double.

Albies just missed hitting for the cycle in frigid Wrigley Field Saturday

His first-inning home run against veteran Cubs southpaw Jose Quintana was his second leadoff homer and his 10th extra-base hit within a span of 31 at-bats dating back to the start of the team’s road trip, which ended with a rainout Sunday.

He has recorded multiple extra-base hits five times, all within the past eight games and all on Atlanta’s grueling and frozen sojourn that started in Denver and went to Washington before coming to Chicago.

Albies knocked in a run in each of his four at-bats Saturday, only to see his star tarnished when the Atlanta bullpen yielded nine runs on three hits in the eighth inning. The Cubs won, 14-10, in a game the Braves once led, 10-2.

But it was hardly the fault of the second baseman, whose sole major-league experience until this year was a 57-game audition last summer (he hit .285 with six homers).

A slow starter this season while batting second behind Ender Inciarte, Albies finally caught fire despite the frosty conditions the team found in each of its three stops on the road.

After opening with two hits in his first 20 at-bats, Albies has hit .409 (18-for-44) with four homers and a 1.298 OPS. With Inciarte slumping, the outburst earned him at least temporary occupancy of Atlanta’s leadoff spot.

He’s not eligible for Rookie of the Year, an honor most experts predicted would go to Atlanta teammate Ronald Acuna Jr. But Acuna got off to a slow start in Triple-A and is still there.

Albies has picked up the slack – in a big way.

About Dan Schlossberg

Former AP sportswriter Dan Schlossberg of Fair Lawn, NJ has produced 35 baseball books, including autobiographies of Ron Blomberg, Al Clark, and Milo Hamilton. Also a broadcaster, he is the host and executive producer of Braves Banter and Travel Itch Radio and a contributor to Sirius XM.

Recommended for you