Astros: Revisiting 1991 MLB amateur draft hits, misses

19 Jun 1994: James Mouton of the Houston Astros swings at the ball during a game against the San Diego Padres at Jack Murphy Stadium in San Diego, California. Mandatory Credit: Jed Jacobsohn /Allsport
19 Jun 1994: James Mouton of the Houston Astros swings at the ball during a game against the San Diego Padres at Jack Murphy Stadium in San Diego, California. Mandatory Credit: Jed Jacobsohn /Allsport /

We take a look back at the Houston Astros picks in the 1991 MLB amateur draft.

Every team has its share of bad draft picks and bad drafts overall. But there are bad drafts, and then there are awful drafts. The Houston Astros draft in 1991 would rank as just plain awful thanks to the sheer number of early picks and the fact that they missed on them all.

The Astros had seven picks in the top 50 of this draft thanks to several free agent departures. They received compensation picks for the losses of Danny Darwin, Dave Smith, Franklin Stubbs and Juan Agosto, giving them four first rounders and three second rounders. You’d think they could hit with a couple of those, but no such luck.

Their first pick came at No. 6 overall, so they had the opportunity to select just about everyone in this draft class. The No. 1 overall pick never reached the majors (take that, Yankees), and the only player of consequence taken ahead of the Astros was Dmitri Young.

The First Rounders

At No. 6 overall, the Astros selected Florida pitcher John Burke, but did not sign him. He would be drafted 27th overall by the Rockies in 1992 and post a 6.75 ERA over 28 major league appearances. Players who were selected after this included Manny Ramirez, Shawn Green, Cliff Floyd and Aaron Sele.

With their next pick at No. 29, the team took high school shortstop Shawn Livesey. He played in seven minor league seasons but never went higher than Double-A. Players they missed with this pick included Justin Thompson and Bobby Jones.

With their next pick at No. 40 overall, the Astros went with high school catcher Jimmy Gonzalez. He played 13 minor league seasons, most of which were spent in Double-A, though he did reach Triple-A in three seasons but could never crack the majors. Players going after this included Scott Hatteberg and Trever Miller.

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Their pick at No. 44 overall was the last of the first round, and they used it on Seton Hall third baseman Mike Groppuso. He played in eight minor league seasons and briefly reached Triple-A, but went no farther.

The Second Rounders

The Astros had three straight picks in the second round starting at No. 4. With the first, they took high school outfielder Buck McNabb. He played in nine minor league seasons and briefly reached Triple-A, but did not advance to the majors.

With their next pick, the team went with Florida State right-hander Jim Lewis. He pitched in six minor league seasons with some good numbers, but injuries appeared to take their toll in preventing him from making it to the big leagues.

Then with their third second rounder, the Astros selected high school third baseman Eddy Ramos. He only made it to High-A ball in five minor league campaigns. Players they missed here included Kevin Stocker and Herbert Perry.

I’ll skip the third through fifth rounds since none of those players reached the majors either. There also weren’t many notable big leaguers taken in those rounds, with the most notable being pitcher Paul Byrd.

Notable Later Picks

Their most notable pick in this draft was their seventh rounder, outfielder James Mouton. He played four seasons for the Astros, totaling a .249/.321/.338 line with 12 home runs and 79 stolen bases in 411 games. He was traded to the Padres for Sean Bergman prior to the 1998 season.

The team only had one other signee reach the majors, which was 39th round left-hander Alvin Morman. He broke in as a reliever with the Astros in 1996 before being traded to Cleveland for Jose Cabrera. He worked to a 4.79 ERA in four major league seasons.

The Astros did draft longtime major league relievers Bob Howry and Jay Witasick in this draft, but did not sign them. A few other unsigned players would reach the majors eventually, but none had particularly noteworthy careers.

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So the Astros, armed with seven picks in the Top 50, didn’t get a single one of those picks to the majors. This was simply a terrible draft class for a team that was trying to rebuild, though thankfully it didn’t keep them from being competitive in the latter half of the decade.