Astros: Revisiting the 1989 MLB amateur draft hits, misses

31 May 2001: Pitcher Shane Reynolds #37 of the Houston Astros winds back for the pitch during the game against the San Diego Padres at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego, California. The Astros defeated the Padres 8-4.Mandatory Credit: Todd Warshaw /Allsport
31 May 2001: Pitcher Shane Reynolds #37 of the Houston Astros winds back for the pitch during the game against the San Diego Padres at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego, California. The Astros defeated the Padres 8-4.Mandatory Credit: Todd Warshaw /Allsport /

We take a look back at the Houston Astros picks in the 1989 MLB amateur draft.

As we’ve looked at recently, the Houston Astros drafts in 1990 and 1991 were pretty barren. Thankfully, however, their 1989 draft was considerably better. They didn’t grab the best players of that draft class, but they did find a couple who would have notable careers.

The team’s first pick was at No. 12 overall, which meant they missed out on one of the best players in this draft. Hall of Famer Frank Thomas went to the White Sox at No. 7 overall, while the Orioles used the No. 1 overall pick on pitcher Ben McDonald. The Expos also drafted catcher Charles Johnson at No. 10 overall, but did not sign him.

This was also the year after the team lost Nolan Ryan to the Rangers. Thanks to that, however, they had an additional pick late in the first round, plus they took on the Rangers’ second rounder. They used those picks on a couple of names that fans may remember.

The First Three Picks

At No. 12 overall, the Astros selected high school pitcher Jeff Juden. He threw only 23 major league innings for Houston before being traded to the Phillies for “Wild Thing” Mitch Williams, who we profiled recently. Juden pitched eight seasons in the majors and compiled a 4.81 ERA for his career. Players they missed with this pick included Mo Vaughn, Chuck Knoblauch and Cal Eldred.

With their supplemental pick at No. 27 overall, the team took Jacksonville State pitcher Todd Jones. He pitched out of the team’s bullpen for four seasons, compiling a 3.27 ERA and 39 saves, before being sent to Detroit in the Dec. 1996 trade bringing Brad Ausmus to Houston. He went on to total 319 saves over a 16-year career, and there weren’t any substantive major leaguers taken between this pick and the team’s next one.

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With the Rangers’ second round pick at No. 5 in that round, the Astros took high school outfielder Brian Hunter. He got some Rookie of the Year votes in 1995 and stole 35 bases in 1996 before being included in that same trade sending Jones to the Tigers. He stole 260 bases in his 10-year career, returning to Houston in 2002 and 2003 for his last two seasons. The most notable player the team missed here was Joe Grahe, so this was the right choice as well.

Through the Fifth

With their own second round pick, the Astros selected high school outfielder Jermaine Swinton. He only made it to A-ball in four seasons with the organization, striking out enough times to make Chris Carter blush. Players they missed here included Tim Salmon and current Mariners GM Jerry Dipoto.

In the third round, the team selected University of Texas pitcher Shane Reynolds. He was an important part of the team’s pitching staff for nearly a decade, totaling a 103-86 record with a 3.95 ERA in 11 seasons. This was clearly a solid pick, though they did miss a better player in longtime first baseman John Olerud, as well as pitcher Denny Neagle.

The Astros went with high school left-hander Tyrone Scott in the fourth round. He never made it past A-ball in four minor league seasons, pitching to a combined 5.60 ERA. Players taken after this included Scott Erickson, Ryan Klesko and none other than future franchise icon Jeff Bagwell, who the team would obviously acquire via trade at a later date.

In the fifth round, the team drafted high school first baseman Jack Stanczak, but did not sign him. He was drafted in the eighth round by the Rangers in 1993 and played in two minor league seasons. Players taken after this included another first baseman, the six-time Gold Glove winner J.T. Snow.

Notable Later Picks

There aren’t many, as the Astros signed only two other players who would reach the majors. Their 17th round pick, Washington State pitcher Mark Small, made 16 relief appearances for the team in 1996, which was his entire big league career. Their 18th round pick, Louisiana-Lafayette pitcher Donne Wall, pitched to a 5.00 ERA in three years in Houston and totaled a 4.20 ERA in eight major league seasons.

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There were a few players they did not sign who would eventually reach the majors, but they only did so briefly. The Astros missed their share of players in this draft — having Vaughn, Olerud or Salmon would’ve been nice — but they also made some solid choices. Reynolds, in particular, was a key member of the team for nearly a decade. As far as drafts go, this one wasn’t half bad.