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Astros: Revisiting the 2004 MLB amateur draft hits, misses

(Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
(Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images) /
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We take a look back at the Houston Astros picks in the 2004 MLB draft.

The 2004 draft was a fairly fruitful one for the Houston Astros, in contrast to several of the drafts that followed it. Six of their selections ended up reaching the major leagues, with two of them developing into All-Stars. That’s a pretty good haul for any team.

Interestingly, the Astros did that in spite of not having a first round pick. Their first rounder went to the Yankees that year as compensation for the team’s signing of Andy Pettitte, so they didn’t select until 64th overall. Plenty of talent went before then, including Justin Verlander, Neil Walker, Jered Weaver, Billy Butler, Stephen Drew. And that’s just what came off the board before the first rounder that was sent to New York.

With that pick, coming at No. 23 overall, the Yankees took pitcher Phil Hughes. Players who went after that included Gio Gonzalez, Huston Street, Yovani Gallardo and Seth Smith. So there was plenty of talent the Astros didn’t get the chance to draft, but they did alright with what they had.

Second Through Fifth Rounds

With their second round pick, the team selected outfielder Hunter Pence out of UT-Arlington. He made his debut with the Astros in 2007 and hit .290/.339/.479 with 103 home runs in parts of five seasons. The team traded him to Philadelphia in a deal we recently reviewed in detail.

While no one would regret that selection, it’s interesting that the very next player drafted was Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia, who’s been worth a full 20 WAR more than Pence. Other players drafted after this pick were Kurt Suzuki, Jason Vargas, Wade Davis, Adam Lind, Ian Desmond and J.A. Happ.

In the third round, the Astros took outfielder Jordan Parraz out of the College of Southern Nevada. He hit decently but only made it to High-A before being traded to the Royals. He hit .270 at Triple-A in parts of five seasons but never could quite make it into a big league game. Players the team missed here included Chris Iannetta and Casey Janssen.

With their fourth round pick, the Astros took catcher Lou Santangelo out of Clemson. He made it to Triple-A but hit only .208/.268/.356 there and thus did not make it to the majors. Players taken after him included Ryan Webb and Jake McGee.

The Astros went the high school route for second baseman Mitch Einertson in the fifth round, but he would only make it as far as Double-A. Luckily the team didn’t miss any significant major league players between this pick and their next.

Notable Late Round Picks

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This is where this draft gets interesting. In the sixth round, the team grabbed another second baseman — Ben Zobrist out of Dallas Baptist. Despite the fact that the Astros traded him to Tampa in a now-infamous deal for Aubrey Huff, this was an excellent find. Zobrist has been worth 44.6 WAR over his career and won a couple of championships.

In the ninth round, the Astros went to Tomball High School to take left-hander Troy Patton. He only appeared briefly in Houston before being shipped to Baltimore in the Miguel Tejada trade. He’s compiled 3.2 WAR over the course of his career.

In the 13th round, the Astros selected pitcher Chad Reineke out of Miami University of Ohio. He was traded to the Padres for Randy Wolf in 2008 and proceeded to make a total of seven major league appearances for three teams, compiling a total 5.76 ERA.

With their 15th round pick, the team took outfielder Drew Sutton out of Baylor. He was sent to the Reds in the Jeff Keppinger trade in 2009. In parts of four seasons in the majors, he hit .256/.309/.399, totaling 0.1 WAR.

Then in the 20th round, the Astros drafted catcher J.R. Towles out of North Central Texas College. Fans will remember his 2007 debut when he hit .375/.432/.575 with five doubles and 12 RBIs in 14 games. Unfortunately his average was below the Mendoza Line in each of the next five seasons as he finished his career with a .187/.267/.315 line and -0.1 WAR.

That’s all of the team’s draft picks to reach the majors, but that’s a pretty good list. Six of their picks eventually made it, with two of them going on to distinguished careers. That’s more than most drafts can claim, making this one a success.

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