Astros: Revisiting the 1980 MLB amateur draft hits, misses

We take a look back at the Houston Astros picks in the 1980 MLB amateur draft.

We’re heading back into ancient history in this series as we’ve worked our way back to 1980, a full 40 years ago. We’ve seen some good drafts and some pretty bad drafts along the way, and this one probably sits closer to the middle of the pack for the Houston Astros.

They actually lost their first and second round picks due to free agent signings. Their first rounder went to the Angels as compensation for the signing of Nolan Ryan, so they’re probably alright with that one. Their second rounder went to the Reds as compensation for the signing of Joe Morgan, which wasn’t quite as successful. Morgan’s second stint in Houston lasted only one year, and he wasn’t the same player who won two MVPs in Cincinnati.

The first overall pick in this draft was Daryl Strawberry, a pick which worked out pretty well for the Mets. Between that pick and the one the Astros gave up at No. 17 overall, there wasn’t much in the way of big time major league talent. Longtime catcher Jeff Reed and infielder Kelly Gruber were the most notable players.

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First Five Rounds

The Angels took left-handed pitcher Dennis Rasmussen with the Astros’ first round pick. He would go on to post a 91-77 record with a 4.15 ERA in a 12-year big league career, though he was traded to the Yankees for Tommy John prior to making his debut. Notable names going after this included four guys who are more notable for their post-playing careers: Rick Renteria, Terry Francona, Billy Beane and John Gibbons.

In the second round, the Reds selected high school pitcher Jim Pettibone with Houston’s pick. He would never reach the majors, only briefly making it to Double-A. Players taken after this included longtime reliever Tim Burke.

With their third round pick, the Astros took Ole Miss left-hander Jeff Calhoun, who would post a 2.64 ERA in parts of three seasons pitching out of the Houston bullpen. Players they missed here included Danny Tartabull and Doug Drabek (who did not sign).

The Astros drafted UNLV pitcher Kenneth Elsee with their fourth round pick. He pitched only two seasons in the minors, never advancing beyond A-ball. There weren’t any particularly notable major league players taken between this pick and the team’s next one.

Then in the fifth round, the team went with Arizona State right-hander Tom Hawk. Like Elsee, he pitched just two minor league seasons and did not make it to Double-A. Yet again, there weren’t any particularly notable major leaguers taken after this pick.

Notable Later Picks

For the Astros, Calhoun was basically the extent of their draft. He was the only player they drafted who would end up reaching the major leagues. He had a successful, if relatively short, career, so it certainly could have been worse.

Related Story: Revisiting the 1981 MLB Draft

Other players they missed later in this draft included Eric Davis, Darren Daulton, Don Slaught, Jim Eisenreich, Walt Terrell, Oil Can Boyd, Randy Ready and Craig Lefferts.

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