I received an email from the blog founder, Chip Bailey, who had some brainstorms on posts, but no time to write them and passed a few ideas to me. Being the off-season and being that the Astros’ news is evaporating a bit, new ideas are always welcome and here is the first one.
Chip was thinking that it might be fun to follow up on some players, who looked like they might be a big “thing” here in Houston, but never quite were. One thing I found is that some of these guys go underground when their career is done. So here we go…..
Brett Wallace. Ol’ Moon Pie was a pretty highly considered prospect as he was chosen 13th overall in the 2008 draft by the Cardinals out of Arizona State. Wallace was a two time Pac 10 Player of the Year. The last Arizona St. player before him to be Pac 10 Player of the year? Some schmuck named Dustin Pedroia. Prior to the 2010 season, Brett was ranked as the 27th overall prospect in all of baseball by Baseball America. But even though he was producing so well in the minors, why wasn’t he an untouchable? Thirteen months after he was drafted he was included in the package for Matt Holiday from the A’s. Five months later he was traded straight up for outfielder Michael Taylor from Toronto. Seven months later he was traded for the “pass-through” outfielder Anthony Gose, who the Astros pulled in from the Phillies in the Roy Oswalt trade. Far from being an untouchable, Brett Wallace seemed like the ultimate hot potato.
Over parts of four seasons, Wallace never rose above the meh level with the Astros. His slash line over 311 games was .242 BA/ .313 OBP/ .704 OPS. He combined a poor K% (29.5%) with low power numbers (<8% XBH) and after the 2013 season he was released. After spending 2014 in the minors with Baltimore and Toronto, he was signed by the Padres before the 2015 season and had a partial year that was most similar to the success he enjoyed in the minors as he slashed .302 BA/ . 374 OBP/ .895 OPS in 64 games. This was possibly buoyed by an unsustainably lucky .400 BAbip (batting average on balls in play). He crashed back to earth with San Diego in 2016 and after a similarly bad Spring Training in 2017, he left the game for good.
Wallace is only 34 years old (2 years younger than Yuli Gurriel). In Houston, he will always be remembered as the poster boy for the AAAA player. The guy who hit well in the high minors and never translated that to the majors.
Interesting fact. His LinkedIn page shows that Wallace is back in the Phoenix, Arizona area and works as a Self Employed hitting instructor. Yes, you read that right.
Jordan Lyles. Lyles’ pitching career has had one of the most unusually long MLB careers for someone who a) Has such poor numbers and b) Is not left-handed. He was drafted out of high school by the Astros in 2008, the 38th overall pick in that draft. He may have been badly hurt by how crummy the Astros farm system was in those days. He rose quickly as the sole bright pitching star in their organization and made his debut as a 20-year-old. He probably could have used some more seasoning or development, but he was thrown into the fray and over three seasons he put up a 14-29 record with a 5.35 ERA. He was then sent to the Rockies after the 2013 season with Brandon Barnes in exchange for OF (oops, I should say CF) Dexter Fowler.
Lyles working as a part-time starter/ part-time reliever posted similarly below-average stats at a number of stops along the way – Colorado (13-16, 5.22 ERA), San Diego (3-7, 5.53 ERA) and Pittsburgh (5-7, 5.36 ERA). His only true success came in two shortstops in Milwaukee. In the second stop after a trade from the Pirates at the 2019 trade deadline, he put in a strong showing in the Brewers’ starting rotation and playoff run, toting up a 7-1 record with a 2.45 ERA. This earned him a 2 year, $16 million contract with the Rangers for 2020-2021. He was not quite what they hoped for in 2020 as he went 1-6 with a 7.02 ERA and led the majors in most earned runs allowed (45).
The Rangers are stuck with him for another season and $8 million more bucks. But the 30-year-old Lyles (how can he be that young) may turn it around for them and even if he doesn’t he will have more than $28 MM in career earnings to fall back on in his “old” age.
Interesting fact. Lyles was a top football player in high school, holding receiving records at Hartsville High back in South Carolina. He turned down Division 1 football scholarships to join the Astros’ organization.
Matt Dominguez. Unlike the two gentlemen above, Dominguez ended his career with a positive WAR rating, though it was a modest 1.2. He had been drafted 12th overall in the first round of the 2007 draft by the then Florida (now Miami) Marlins. He made his debut with the Marlins in Sept. 2011. He was then sent to the Astros with Rob Rasmussen (who never played for the Astros and was soon traded for John Ely who never played for the Astros) in exchange for Carlos Lee.
He showed sparks of a decent glove and at times a powerful bat for the Astros in 2012 through 2014, but by the off-season after the 2014 season, articles such as this one were popping up…..
By mid-2015 the Astros DFA’d him and he was picked up by the Brewers organization. Between 2015 through 2017 he had 5 hitless major league games with the Blue Jays, while mostly playing in the minors for the Brewers, Blue Jays and Red Sox. In 2018, he tried to rejuvenate his career by heading to Japan. He had similar poor hitting numbers in Japan and then disappeared from the radar screen.
He is only 31 years old and a corner infielder who can’t hit consistently is not much in demand these days. After fairly extensive searching, I could not pick up a sniff on where he is now, though a good guess is that he is back in California, where he grew up. Any tidbits about Matt would be welcome here.
So, a few questions for you…..
- Did you think these guys had a chance to be valuable Astros back in the day?
- Who else would you like a little review on? I have quite a list of the “almosts” from the dark days of the team?
- Do you like this type of article?