Astros: Revisiting the 2001 MLB amateur draft hits, misses
We take a look back at the Houston Astros picks in the 2001 MLB amateur draft.
In what has become a sad, recurring theme throughout this series, the Houston Astros had a disappointing draft class in 2001. There are a few names in here that most fans will remember, but none of these players had the type of careers they and the team had hoped for.
The team’s first round pick came at No. 10 overall, which is higher than in many of their subsequent drafts. Some key names were already off the board including Joe Mauer, Mark Prior and Mark Teixeira.
First through Fifth Rounds
With their first pick, the Astros selected second baseman Chris Burke out of the University of Tennessee. He reached the major leagues in 2004 and became a semi-regular utility player for the next three seasons, compiling a .249/.319/.377 line 1,155 plate appearances. He was traded to the Diamondbacks in the Jose Valverde deal and played only two more seasons in the majors.
There weren’t any future impact major leaguers taken shortly after Burke, however, so it’s hard to criticize this pick. The next impact player was David Wright, but he didn’t come off the board until the 38th pick. So Burke might not have lived up to expectations, but there weren’t really any better alternatives. And he did give us one of the top five moments in franchise history.
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With their second round pick, the Astros drafted outfielder Mike Rodriguez out of the University of Miami. He made it to Triple-A and hit .275/.345/.384 there, but never did crack the major leagues. Players the team missed with this pick included J.J. Hardy and Dan Haren.
In the third round, the Astros picked pitcher Kirk Saarloos out of Cal State Fullerton. He pitched two seasons in Houston, totaling a 5.61 ERA in 21 starts and 32 relief appearances before being traded to Oakland. He ended his career with a 5.02 ERA in 509 innings. Players who went after this pick included Scott Hairston and Ricky Nolasco.
The team went local in the fourth round for left-hander Philip Barzilla out of Rice University via Dulles High School in Sugar Land. He made just one major league appearance and faced only two batters, allowing one hit and no runs. Players selected after this included Ryan Howard, C.J. Wilson and Jim Johnson.
In the fifth round, the Astros took outfielder Charlton Jimerson out of the University of Miami. His career was interesting, as he appeared in two seasons with the Astros and two with the Mariners and totaled only nine plate appearances, but had four hits, including two homers, plus four steals. Players going after this included Ryan Raburn and Skip Schumaker.
Notable Later Picks
The most notable of these was their 23rd round pick, high school pitcher Matt Albers out of Sugar Land. He went 4-13 with a 5.87 ERA in his first two seasons before being traded to Baltimore in the Miguel Tejada deal, which we recently reviewed in detail. He carved out an up-and-down career as a reliever and even returned to Houston in 2014 to allow one run in 10 innings.
The team’s eighth round pick, second baseman Brooks Conrad out of Arizona State, eventually played for five teams in six major league seasons, though none were the Astros. Their 11th round pick, pitcher D.J. Houlton out of the University of the Pacific, pitched in two seasons for the Dodgers.
Their 10th round pick, University of Alabama pitcher Lance Cormier, did not sign and was re-drafted in the fourth round by Arizona in 2002. He compiled a 5.07 ERA in parts of eight major league seasons for five teams.
None of the team’s other selections would reach the majors. So from a WAR standpoint, the best career in this draft class was that of Albers, who’s been worth 2.4 WAR thus far. That’s not an ideal outcome, but that seems to be a typical one for this franchise in their drafts in the 2000s.