KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- All-Star second baseman Jose Altuve was in the leadoff spot in the batting order in his spring debut Saturday against the Yankees, but where he will bat in the lineup when the season begins remains to be seen.
Altuve, the reigning 2014 American League batting champion, hit primarily first or second last year, depending on the health of Dexter Fowler, who's since been traded. Altuve led the team with 78 starts in the leadoff spot, with Robbie Grossman's strong finish giving him 43 starts (second on the team).
When asked about the leadoff spot Saturday, Astros manager A.J. Hinch mentioned Altuve, Grossman, Alex Presley and Jed Lowrie as possible candidates.
"There are a number of guys," he said. "I'm not married to any one spot in the order for any of these guys. We have to try a couple of different people. I had [Jake] Marisnick there [Friday], I'll have [George] Springer there at some point just to take a look at it. I can't predict how it's going to end. Obviously, Altuve is going to hit in one of the first few sports, but how it factors in towards the season will be determined later."
The Astros ranked second in the Majors last year in batting average (.301) and on-base percentage (.353) from the top spot in the order, primarily because of Altuve and Fowler. Altuve had a .331 average and .363 on-base percentage hitting first, and a .373 average and .408 average in the No. 2 hole.
"Everybody traditionally thinks the leadoff hitter is the speed guy that has to get on base all the time and that's important, but there are different ways to kick-start an offense," Hinch said. "Different guys can bring different skills sets to the batting order."
Taking a lot of pitches and drawing walks at the top of the order are prerequisites, but versatility is key as well.
"When the lineup rolls around, there's two outs and a runner in scoring position, that's not the [walk] that you need," he said. "A well-rounded hitter is a good hitter to have at the top."
Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Tag's Lines. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.