Astros: Revisiting the 1997 MLB amateur draft hits, misses

(Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
(Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images) /

We take a look back at the Houston Astros picks in the 1997 MLB amateur draft.

As we’ve seen in this series, the Astros didn’t have the best track record in drafts in the 2000s. But part of their success in the first half of the decade came from their late 1990s drafts, and this was no exception. As far as first round picks go, Houston absolutely nailed its first rounder in 1997.

They picked at No. 16 overall, and there were some hefty names off the board already. Troy Glaus, Vernon Wells, Michael Cuddyer and Jon Garland were already gone. J.D. Drew was picked second overall and famously did not sign. But the Astros, with their pick, selected Rice first baseman Lance Berkman.

This was, literally and figuratively, a home run pick. He generated more career WAR than any of the players taken in that first round, almost immediately becoming a legitimate middle-of-the-order hitter and anchoring the Houston lineup for a decade. One might even argue he’s the third-best switch hitter in the history of the game behind Mickey Mantle and Chipper Jones.

In all, Berkman hit .296/.410/.549 in 12 seasons with the Astros with 326 home runs. He’s among the franchise leaders in most offensive categories. What’s interesting is he isn’t even the first player drafted from Rice that year. His teammate, pitcher Matt Anderson, went first overall to the Tigers but only posted a 5.19 ERA in seven seasons.

There were some other notable players picked after Berkman, including Adam Kennedy, Jayson Werth and Randy Wolf. But this was, without a doubt, the best pick the team could have made in that spot.

Second Through Fifth Rounds

More from Climbing Tal's Hill

With their second round pick, the Astros selected high school catcher Cameron Hahn. He played only one season in the organization, never advancing past Rookie League. Some of the players taken after this included Chase Utley (who did not sign), Aaron Cook, Rick Ankiel, Jeremy Affeldt and Scott Downs.

In the third round, the team took high school left-hander Scott Barrett out of the Houston area. They did not sign him, however, and they drafted him again in the fifth round in 1998, but he never pitched for the organization. However, there weren’t any notable future major leaguers taken between this pick and the team’s next pick.

With their fourth round pick, the Astros drafted UCLA outfielder Eric Byrnes, but also did not sign him. Byrnes was drafted in the eighth round in 1998 by Oakland and put together a solid career, putting up an .814 OPS in 2004 and an .813 OPS with 50 stolen bases in 2007. Players going after this included Chone Figgins and Michael Young.

In the fifth round, the team drafted high school right-hander Derek Stanford, but, yet again, failed to sign him. He did, however, end up pitching in the team’s system anyway, though he did not advance beyond A-ball. Players picked after this included Tim Hudson and Randy Choate.

Notable Later Picks

In the 20th round, the Astros selected community college right-hander Tim Redding. He put together a nice season in the team’s rotation in 2003, pitching to a 3.68 ERA in 32 starts and one relief appearance. But the wheels came off after that and he finished with a career 4.95 ERA.

The one other signee to reach the majors was 22nd-round pitcher Jason Alfaro. He actually reached the majors as a shortstop, appearing in seven games for the Astros in 2004. He managed only two hits in 11 at-bats.

Next. 2020 season in limbo over money dispute. dark

There were two other draftees the team didn’t sign who’d eventually reach the majors. 14th round pick Trey Hodges, who was selected in four MLB drafts, eventually signed with Atlanta as a 17th round pick in 2000. They would re-draft their 25th round pick, outfielder Charlton Jimerson, in the fifth round in the 2001 draft.