In this installment of the Players You Forgot Were Astros series, we look at the career and Houston tenure of Darin Erstad.
Darin Erstad might not be a player the casual baseball fan remembers, but those who followed the game closely in the late 1990s and early 2000s will remember him. He was the No. 1 overall draft pick in 1995 and had a noteworthy run on some really good Angels teams, including the World Series-winning squad in 2002. He also ended his career with the Houston Astros.
By the time he came to Houston in Dec. 2007, Erstad’s best days were behind him. He was 33 and coming off a pair of subpar seasons, and the Astros mainly wanted him as a reserve outfielder/first baseman and pinch hitter. He served that role well, especially in 2008 when he hit .276/.309/.363 in 342 plate appearances.
His numbers fell off in 2009, which would prove to be his final year in the major leagues. But he concluded a career that had some impressive highs and an incredible combination of defensive skill and versatility.
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Erstad played all three outfield positions and first base over the course of his career, and he won three Gold Glove Awards, with each of those three coming at a different position. He played primarily left field when he won in 2000, then won as a center fielder in 2002 before winning at first base in 2004.
He was no slouch with the bat either, carving out a role as a professional hitter with a solid batting average, gap power and some speed on the bases. His best season came in 2000 when he led the majors with 240 hits to go with a .355/.409/.541 line, 39 doubles, 25 homers, 100 RBIs and 28 stolen bases.
He finished eighth in the MVP voting that year and could’ve won a batting title if not for prime Nomar Garciaparra hitting .372. He was second among AL position players in WAR, trailing only Alex Rodriguez.
All told, he finished his career with a .282/.336/.407 line with 1,697 hits, 316 doubles, 124 homers and 179 steals in 14 seasons, 11 of which were with the Angels. He nabbed two All-Star selections, a Silver Slugger and those three Gold Gloves. A career WAR total of 32.3 is more than most players get, and he got a World Series ring to boot. Not half bad.