In the third installment of the Players You Forgot Were Astros series, we look at Bobby Abreu.
With the candidates for the Baseball Hall of Fame class of 2020 released this week, it brings to mind one particular player who spent a brief part of his distinguished career in Houston. Outfielder Bobby Abreu, who’s on the ballot for the first time this year, started his career with the Astros.
The Astros initially signed Abreu as an amateur free agent out of Venezuela in 1990 when he was just 16 years old. He made his way through the minor league system, eventually reaching the majors in 1996 at the age of 22.
He was unspectacular in Houston, however. In 72 total games between the 1996 and 1997 seasons, he slashed .248/.325/.362 with 11 doubles, three homers and 27 RBIs. Then came November 18, 1997.
That date was the expansion draft, where the Tampa Bay Devil Rays and Arizona Diamondbacks got to draft unprotected players from other teams. Each team could protect 15 players, and nearly all the rest were open to being selected by the two new franchises, who would select 35 players each.
The Astros did not protect Abreu, and he was taken sixth overall by the Devil Rays and promptly traded to the Phillies for Kevin Stocker. It’s important to note that the Astros traded for Moises Alou just one week prior to the draft, so perhaps that’s why they were comfortable letting Abreu go.
Legitimate Hall Case?
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Abreu broke out in his first year in Philadelphia and was a mainstay in the middle of their lineup for nearly a decade. He also had some productive seasons with the Yankees and Angels in the latter part of his career.
He finished with a .291/.395/.475 batting line with 288 homers, 574 doubles and 400 stolen bases in 18 seasons. He drew 100 or more walks in eight consecutive seasons, had six seasons of 30 or more steals, seven seasons of 40-plus doubles and eight seasons of 100 or more RBIs.
He’s unlikely to make the Hall this year, but could garner enough support to stay on the ballot for the future. Even if he does make it to Cooperstown, however, there’s no chance he’d go in with an Astros cap.
It’s easy to think of what might have been if the club had protected him from the expansion draft. Imagine that sweet left-handed swing, high on-base percentage and solid power and speed in the team’s lineup right between Craig Biggio and Jeff Bagwell in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
That would have been a formidable trio, to say nothing of guys like Alou and Richard Hidalgo. Instead, Abreu spent his best years in Philadelphia after the Astros lost him for nothing. That puts him high on the list of players the franchise let get away.