This is the third article in a series that looks at the five best players at each position for the Houston Astros. In this installment are second basemen and shortstops.
The middle infield spots for the Astros are littered with players from the teams’ World Series appearances. Shortstop may have the better overall depth, but second base has more star power, with one Hall of Famer at the top, another on the list and a third in between them who might be inducted into Cooperstown one day.
The Best Second Basemen and Shortstops in Houston Astros History
Honorable Mentions – Art Howe spent seven seasons with Houston as a player (1976-82), splitting time between second base (362 games) and third base (244). He batted .269 with 609 hits, 39 home runs, and 266 RBIs in 706 games. Howe added seven hits, a homer, and three RBIs in 10 postseason games. After his playing career, he had a 1,129-1,137 record in 14 seasons as a manager with the Astros, Athletics, and Mets, including a 392-418 mark in five years with Houston.
Tommy Helms was the 1966 Rookie of the Year, and he also was a two-time All-Star and a two-time Gold Glove winner during his eight seasons with the Reds. After being traded to Houston for Joe Morgan, Helms batted .269 with 444 hits and 185 RBIs in 486 games over four seasons (1972-75). The 1974 fielding champion at second base was traded to the Pirates for Howe the following year.
5. Jeff Kent – Much like his teammate Barry Bonds, he was known for his on-the-field play in San Francisco and his surly attitude. Kent won the National League MVP Award in 2000 and earned two All-Star selections and two silver sluggers during his time with the Giants.
Kent signed with the Astros before the 2003 season, and he had an off year, hitting 22 home runs. The following year, he rebounded to hit .289 with 27 homers and 107 RBIs while making his only All-Star team while with Houston. He signed with the Dodgers in 2005 and spent his final four seasons with Los Angeles.
In 12 games during the 2004 playoffs, Kent totaled 11 hits, six runs, five doubles, three home runs and 10 runs batted in. He retired in 2008 after a 17-year career and his 351 home runs as a second baseman are the most in Major League history.
4. Bill Doran – Although he did not win any awards or lead the league in any offensive categories, he was a solid contributor to the Houston lineup for nine seasons (1982-90). Doran’s best year was 1987, when he hit .283 with 82 runs and 31 stolen bases and set career highs with 177 hits, 16 home runs and 79 RBIs.
The two-time fielding champion is tied for ninth in steals (191) and ranks tenth in franchise history in runs (611), hits (1,139) and triples (35). Doran also batted .267 with 611 runs, 180 doubles, 69 homers and 404 RBIs in 1,165 games. He had six hits, three runs scored, one home runs, three RBIs and two stolen bases during the 1986 NLCS loss to the Mets.
3. Joe Morgan – He endured racism in his early days as a player and was passed over by many teams due to his size (5-foot-7), but he proved all the naysayers wrong. Working with Hall of Famer Nellie Fox helped him not only to become a better hitter but to develop his distinctive arm flap before every pitch to aid him with timing.
After September call-ups in two straight seasons, Morgan came to Houston for good in 1965, finishing second in the Rookie of the Year voting after hitting .271 with 100 runs, 163 hits, 12 triples, 14 home runs, 40 runs batted in and 20 stolen bases. He missed most of 1968 with a torn ligament in his left knee.
Morgan earned a pair of All-Star selections during his 10 seasons with the Astros (1963-71 and ’80) and he led the league in walks twice and topped the N.L. with 11 triples in 1971. The “Little General” took issue with manager Harry Walker (who tried to lay the blame for Houston’s shortcomings on the team’s black players), and Morgan was traded to the Reds in a multi-player deal involving Helms.
The rest, as they say, is history. Morgan won two MVP Awards, was selected as an All-Star in each of his eight seasons with Cincinnati, earned five gold gloves and was a major part of the “Big Red Machine” that won a pair of titles during his stay. Morgan returned to Houston in 1980 and helped the Astros reach the postseason for the first time, going 2-for-13 with a run scored in the NLCS loss to the Phillies.
Morgan spent time with the Giants, Phillies and Athletics before he retired in 1984 and turned to broadcasting, becoming one of the voices of ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball. He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility in 1990 and passed away in 2020 at age 77.
2. Jose Altuve – He was the first in a long line of superstar players to come out of Houston’s farm system and bring the franchise unprecedented success. Altuve played in the 2011 Futures Game, is nearing the end of his 13th season with the Astros (2011-present), and he is quickly moving up the franchise lists in many offensive categories. However, he was slowed down by a fractured thumb and an oblique injury this season.
So far, Altuve has earned eight All-Star selections, six silver sluggers and a gold glove in 2015. He has been in the top 10 of MVP voting four times, winning the award in 2017, when he won his third batting title with a .346 average (third best in team history), led the league in hits (for a fourth straight year) with 204 and added 112 runs, 24 home runs 81 runs batted in and 32 stolen bases.
Altuve led the league in steals twice with a high of 56 in 2014 and he had an average of .300 or better seven times. His 225 hits that year are a team record, and he has four of the franchise’s five 200-hit seasons. He ranks second in team history with a .307 average, third in runs (1,061), hits (2,039), doubles (399), stolen bases (292) and total bases (3,127), fourth in games 1,662, fifth in home runs (209) and seventh in RBIs (745).
He is just as much of a clutch player in the playoffs, totaling 78 runs, 103 hits, 18 doubles, 23 home runs, 49 RBIs and eight steals in 92 career postseason games. Altuve made four World Series appearances with the Astros, hitting four homers and driving in nine runs in 26 games. He was also the MVP of the 2019 ALCS, amassing eight hits, six runs, two home runs and three RBIs in the series.
1. Craig Biggio – The converted catcher became one of the leaders of the “Killer B’s” and spent all 20 of his seasons with the Astros, with 14 as the starting second baseman. Biggio excelled in every facet of the game, earning seven All-Star selections, four gold gloves and five silver sluggers.
He led the league in doubles three times, runs scored twice, stolen bases once and hit by pitch five times. The 146 runs he scored in 1997 are the second most in team history and his 56 doubles in 1999 set a franchise record.
Biggio scored 100 or more runs and hit 20 or more home runs eight times each, at least 40 doubles seven times, stole 30 or more bases five times, topped the .300 mark four times and drove in at least 80 runs twice. In 1998, he became the first Astros player to knock 200 hits in a season when he had 210. He is currently the only other player besides Altuve to reach the mark for the franchise. Also in that season, Biggio scored 123 runs, hit 20 homers and set career highs with a .325 average, 88 RBIs and 50 stolen bases.
While he never won the MVP Award, Biggio took home some hardware during his long career. He won the Branch Rickey Award (for exceptional community service) in 1997, the Hutch Award (for fighting spirit and competitive desire) in 2005 and the Roberto Clemente Award (for character, community involvement, philanthropy and positive contributions on and off the field) in 2007.
Biggio’s detractors use the term “stat collector” when they are trying to diminish his accomplishments, but he certainly did “collect” a lot of stats during his career. In addition to his .281 average, he is the all-time franchise leader in games (2,850), runs (1,844), hits (3.060), doubles (668) and total bases (4,711), and he ranks second in RBIs (1,175) and stolen bases (414), third in home runs (291) and tied for fifth in triples (55). Biggio also was hit by a pitch 285 times, which ranks second in Major League history behind late 19th century star Hughie Jennings, who had 287.
He also had solid numbers in the playoffs, amassing 23 runs, 39 hits, nine doubles, two home runs and 11 RBIs in 40 postseason games. During the 2005 World Series, he had four hits and three runs scored in the four games. Biggio spent a season in center field, winning a fielding title in 2003, and started in left field the following year.
During his final season, Biggio got into the 3,000-hit club with a single in the June 28 game against the Rockies. He retired after the season to spend more time with his family, and he coached his two sons and the St. Thomas High School team in Houston to state championships in 2010 and ’11. His son, Cavan, is currently in his fifth season as the Blue Jays’ second baseman.
Biggio became the first player to go into the Hall of Fame wearing an Astros cap on his plaque. After missing out on election by two votes in 2014, he was inducted the following year, his third on the ballot.
Honorable Mentions – Bob Lillis was Houston’s original shortstop and spent his final six seasons with the Astros (1962-67). He had his best performance in the club’s inaugural season, setting career highs with 114 hits and 30 runs batted in. Overall, Lillis had 444 hits and 102 RBIs in 614 games. He later managed the team for parts of four seasons (1982-85), compiling a 276-261 record.
Roland “Sonny” Jackson played five seasons with the Astros (1963-67), mostly as Lillis’ backup, but he was the full-time starter in 1966-67. The bespectacled Jackson finished second in the 1966 Rookie of the Year voting after setting career highs with a .292 average, 80 runs and 174 hits, finishing second in the National League with 49 stolen bases and leading the league with 27 sacrifice bunts. He batted .264 with 308 hits and 81 steals in 299 games.
Dickie Thon had a promising start to his Astros career, leading the league with 10 triples and posting a career-high 37 stolen bases in 1982 and posting his best offensive numbers the following year. He earned his only All-Star and silver slugger honors and received some MVP consideration in 1983 after setting career highs with a .286 average, 81 runs, 177 hits, 20 home runs and 79 RBIs to go along with 34 steals.
Thon’s career was derailed five games into the 1984 season when he was hit in the head by a pitch from the Mets’ Mike Torrez, which fractured the orbital rim bone above his left eye. The incident was so traumatizing to watch that Thon’s wife went into labor and delivered their son, Freddie, prematurely.
Even though he spent three more seasons in Houston, Thon was plagued by blurred vision and his play suffered. He had a falling out with Astros management and signed with the Padres in 1988. Thon started for three seasons with the Phillies, then was a backup with the Rangers and Brewers before he retired in 1993. Thon batted .270 with 226 runs, 492 hits, 33 home runs, 179 RBIs and 94 stolen bases in 566 games over seven seasons with the Astros (1981-87).
Denis Menke began his career with the Milwaukee/Atlanta Braves before joining the Astros for four seasons (1968-71), during which he spent time at all four infield positions. He earned All-Star selections in 1969-70 while he was the full-time shortstop, setting career highs with a .304 average, 82 runs, 171 hits and 92 RBIs in 1970.
Menke batted .266 with 269 runs, 575 hits, 30 home runs and 282 RBIs in 634 games. He was sent with Morgan to the Reds in the trade before the 1972 season and returned to Houston two years later and played two games before he retired.
Adam Everett spent seven seasons with the Astros (2001-07), totaling 257 runs, 531 hits, 35 home runs and 214 RBIs in 649 games. His best season was 2005, when he set career highs with 136 hits, 11 home runs and 21 stolen bases to go with 54 RBIs. Everett had 11 hits, five runs and three RBIs in 19 career postseason games and went 1-for-15 with two runs scored in the 2005 World Series.
5. Craig Reynolds – After playing briefly with the Pirates, he joined the Mariners for two seasons and was an All-Star in 1978. Reynolds spent 11 seasons with the Astros (1979-89), earning his second straight All-Star selection in his first year with the club. That season, he hit .265 with 147 hits, 39 runs batted in and set career highs with 63 runs scored and 12 stolen bases.
Reynolds led the league in sacrifices three times with Houston and topped the N. L. with 12 triples in 1981. He is tied for fifth in franchise history with 55 triples, and he also had 373 runs, 860 hits and 300 RBIs in 1,170 games. Reynolds had four runs and seven hits in 12 postseason games.
4. Roger Metzger – He was a traditional light-hitting, speedy shortstop during his eight-year run in Houston (1971-78). Metzger led the league in triples twice, including 1973, when he set a team record with 14. That season, he also earned his only gold glove. The following year, Metzger nearly died after colliding with pitcher Don Wilson during pregame warmups. The shortstop was knocked unconscious and nearly stopped breathing after swallowing his tongue.
Metzger ranks third in franchise history with 62 triples, and he amassed 407 runs, 844 hits and 206 RBIs in 1,021 games. He went to the Giants and spent his final three seasons on the West Coast before retiring in 1980.
3. Jeremy Peña – Although he is only in his second season (2022-present), he is well on his way to becoming the best at his position if he continues at his current pace. Peña won a gold glove and received some Rookie of the Year consideration in 2022 after posting a .253-22-63 stat line.
However, it was in the postseason where Peña made his mark. He earned MVP honors in both the American League Champion Series and the World Series, becoming the first rookie hitter to earn that honor after posting a .345 average, 12 runs, 20 hits, five doubles, four home runs and eight RBIs in 13 postseason games. Peña hit two homers and drove in four runs in the ALCS win over the Yankees and followed that with 10 hits, five runs, a home run and three RBIs against the Phillies to help the Astros win their second championship.
While Peña has not shed his image as a high strikeout player yet, he has put together another solid season in 2023, batting .261 with 81 runs, 156 hits, 10 home runs, 51 runs batted in and 13 steals heading into the final week of the season.
2. Miguel Tejada – While his Astros tenure was not the highest point of his career, he was still a productive player during his two seasons in Houston (2008-09). Tejada did not reach the same level he had in Oakland (winning the MVP Award in 2002) or Baltimore (three All-Star selections in four years and led the A. L. with 150 RBIs in 2004), but he was an All-Star in both of his Houston seasons and led the league with 46 doubles in 2009.
Tejada batted .298 with 175 runs, 378 hits, 27 home runs and 152 RBIs in 316 games with the Astros. He split the 2010 season between the Orioles and Padres, then spent one year with the Giants. He signed with Baltimore for a third time in 2012, but failed to make the Major League roster and was released in June. Tejada played sparingly with the Royals the following year, but his season ended early after he failed a drug test due to Adderall use. He finished his career by playing four seasons in Mexico before he retired in 2017.
1. Carlos Correa – He spent seven seasons with the Astros (2015-21), joining with Altuve to form one of the best double-play tandems of the 21st century. The first overall pick in the 2012 Draft played in the 2013 MLB Futures Game and was named 2015 Rookie of the Year after posting a .279 average, 22 home runs, 68 runs batted in and 14 stolen bases. He also earned two All-Star selections with Houston and won both gold and platinum gloves in 2021.
“The Captain” batted .277 with 438 runs, 781 hits, 162 doubles, 133 homers, 489 RBIs and 1,358 total bases in 752 games. Like many other recent Astros, he has had plenty of playoff experience, totaling 37 runs, 82 hits, 16 doubles, 18 home runs and 59 RBIs in 79 postseason games.
Correa signed with the Twins as a free agent in 2022 and tested the market again this past offseason. He received massive offers from the Giants (15 years, $350 million) and Mets (12 years, $315 million) before both teams got cold feet about his right ankle that had been surgically repaired in 2014. Instead, Correa “settled” for a six-year, $200 million deal to return to Minnesota. He responded with his worst year at the plate other than the COVID-shortened 2020 season.
Houston Astros Catchers and Managers
Houston Astros First and Third Basemen and Designated Hitters
Houston Astros Second Basemen and Shortstops
Houston Astros Outfielders – coming soon
Houston Astros Pitchers – coming soon
A look back at the Colorado Rockies
A look back at the Cleveland Guardians
Cleveland Guardians Catchers and Managers
Cleveland Guardians First and Third Basemen and Designated Hitters
Cleveland Guardians Second Basemen and Shortstops
Cleveland Guardians Outfielders
Cleveland Guardians Pitchers
A look back at the Cincinnati Reds
A look back at the Chicago White Sox
Chicago White Sox Catchers and Managers
Chicago White Sox First and Third Basemen and Designated Hitters
Chicago White Sox Second Basemen and Shortstops
Chicago White Sox Outfielders
Chicago White Sox Pitchers
A look back at the Chicago Cubs
A look back at the Boston Red Sox
A look back at the Baltimore Orioles
Baltimore Orioles Catchers and Managers
Baltimore Orioles First and Third Basemen
Baltimore Orioles Second Basemen and Shortstops
Baltimore Orioles Outfielders and Designated Hitters
Baltimore Orioles Pitchers
A look back at the Atlanta Braves
A look back at the Arizona Diamondbacks
Arizona Diamondbacks Catchers and Managers
Arizona Diamondbacks First and Third Basemen
Arizona Diamondbacks Second Basemen and Shortstops
Arizona Diamondbacks Outfielders
Arizona Diamondbacks Pitchers