The Houston Astros have had their share of disappointing players in recent years. Several stand out as men that did not live up to expectations. All of these players came to the team with the promise of stardom but, unfortunately it didn’t happen, at least while they were with the Astros organization.
Reggie Abercrombie looked like he had what it took to be a Major League star when the Florida Marlins called him up in 2006, after six seasons in Single and Double-A. Over 111 games with the Marlins, he only managed a .212 average with 5 home runs and 78 strikeouts in 255 at bats. The next year, he only appeared in 35 games, spending a good deal of the season with Triple-A Albuquerque, before being chosen from the waiver wire in October 2007 by the Astros.
“He’s got speed and solid tools,” said then GM Ed Wade of Abercrombie in October 2007, according to Alyson Footer. “He’s been slow in developing at this point with the Marlins, but our reports on him are pretty good.”
“Brett Wallace is a hitting machine” – Ed Wade
Obviously, Astros management thought they had a winner when they picked the 6’3, 215 pound outfielder. In 2008, Reggie split time between Triple-A Round Rock, and two short stints with the Astros. Although he hit .309 in 55 at bats, his 23 strikeouts contributed to his return to the minors, where he spent the 2009 season. He hit .271 at Round Rock, with 6 triples and 11 home runs, however, 159 strikeouts in 517 at bats most likely led to his release after the season.
Abercrombie spent the next five years kicking around the Mexican Triple-A league and the American Association, an independent US/Canadian league. He continues to play at age 33 with the Winnipeg Goldeyes in that league.
Brett Wallace was supposed to replace long-time Houston fan favorite Lance Berkman at first base. When Berkman was traded to the Yankees in July 2010, Wallace, who was obtained in a minor league trade two days before, was called up to the Astros without playing any games for Triple-A Round Rock.
“Brett Wallace is a hitting machine,” said then Astros General Manager Ed Wade, in a July 2010 story by Brian McTaggart on MLB.com.
Unfortunately, that turned out not to be the case.
In 311 big league games over four seasons, Wallace hit .242 with 29 home runs, 102 RBI, and 318 strikeouts in 971 at bats. Wallace had promise as a hitter, however the strikeout numbers did not inspire confidence in his ability. By 2014, it was clear to the Astros brain trust that Wallace was not going to work out, and he was released in March 2014.
“Wallace stands as proof that they won’t all work out as envisioned,” wrote Chron.com’s Evan Drellich in February 2014.
Then we come to the curious case of J.D. Martinez. In the summer of 2011, he was the best hitter on the Corpus Christi Hooks, the Astros Double-A team. In July, Martinez was called up to the majors to replace the traded Hunter Pence – a rare jump from Double-A to the big leagues (his teammate Jose Altuve had already made the same jump two weeks earlier.)
J.D. made his first big league appearance as a pinch hitter, and stroked a double to center field, driving in a run – a promising debut. He finished the season with a .274 average and six home runs in 53 games, giving Astros fans hope that he would be a good replacement for Pence. Unfortunately, the next two seasons were not so good, and by March 2014, the Astros released him.
“We still think he’s a Major League player. It’s just not a fit for our club right now,” said Astros General Manager Jeff Luhnow in a Brian McTaggart Spring Training story in 2014.
Two days later, the Detroit Tigers signed Martinez to a Triple-A contract and he proceeded to tear up the International League. By April, the Tigers called him up and he became Detroit’s player of the month for June. Astros fans were surely shaking their heads, wondering why the Astros had given up on this slugger so soon.
Houston fans were still wondering about Luhnow’s statement when Martinez finished the year for the Tigers with a .315 average, 23 home runs, and 76 RBI in 123 games.
Of course, no one has a crystal ball that can tell which player will be the next great one. The Astros seemingly made the correct choice with Abercrombie and Wallace, yet struck out with the Martinez decision.