Jose Altuve is the best MLB star you don't know

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A snap throw to first base left an opening. He jumped at it. Again, someone underestimated Jose Altuve of the Houston Astros. Again, it didn't pay off.

When Tigers catcher Alex Avila threw to first base trying to pick off a baserunner three weeks ago, he never thought the throw would mean a run. But, in the time it took Avila's throw to reach first and then Tigers' first baseman Miguel Cabrera to throw it back, Altuve had stolen home.

It's one of the rarest occurrences in baseball, but Avila and the rest of the baseball world shouldn't be surprised.

Because, while the Reds' Billy Hamilton and the Dodgers' Dee Gordon get all the hype for their blazing speed, Altuve is right there in between the two with 41 in what has become a three-man blowout of the rest of the competition.

Unknown Quantity

Altuve is one of baseball's biggest stars that few really know about. And it's not just because of his size, 5-foot-5, which seems to be brought up every time Altuve's name is mentioned.

It's also because he's playing in relative anonymity in Houston as the team builds toward competing in 2016 and 2017. He's playing his third full season with the Astros but he isn't part of any trade rumors, because Altuve seems to be a large part of the Astros' long-term plan.

On the Rise

He's only 24, and he's just getting better. While he was named to the National League All-Star team again, it came as a reserve. All while leading the American League in hits, average and stolen bases.

There's still a level of disrespect and "Who is this guy?" that goes along with him. Many probably assume he only made the game because Houston needed to send one player, according to MLB rules. But, that's not it at all.

He played as a reserve behind the Mariners' Robinson Cano.

Altuve is hitting .335 with a pair of homers and 49 runs scored.

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His most impressive stat is probably his stolen base success rate. The Astros are all about mathematical probability and, with Altuve stealing 41 of 44 bases he has attempted to steal this season, that's a rate worth continuing to risk.

But he doesn't claim to be baseball's fastest man. He says that's Dee Gordon. “To me, he’s the fastest guy in the big leagues,” Altuve told the Houston Chronicle.

In his All-Star Game appearance, Altuve muscled a ball to the warning track that became a sacrifice fly.

During that at-bat, Altuve also faced a pitch from Tyler Clippard that flew high into the backstop.

“Oh my God, it’s crazy,” Altuve told the Houston Chronicle about the pitch. “I swing at everything, but I couldn’t swing at that one.”

Friends ReUnited

One of the cool parts of the All-Star experience for Altuve was playing with childhood friend Salvador Perez, the Royals' catcher. Perez was born four days after Altuve in Venezuela and they have played together for most of their lives.

"I always knew he was gonna be here," Altuve told of Perez. "When he was 16, he already looked like a major leaguer. Actually, when he was 13 he already looked like a big-leaguer. We had lots of fun together those days. We just worked hard and played hard and it was great. I love being here with him."

As for the AL batting title, Perez said he has faith in his old friend.

"He's gonna win it," Perez told "I know it."

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MLB American League
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