Per reader request, a Prospect Retro for Richard Hidalgo
Richard Hidalgo was signed by the Houston Astros as a free agent in 1991, out of Venezuela. He made his debut for the Gulf Coast League Astros in '92, hitting .310/.360/.397 at age 17, very credible performance. Moved up to Asheville in the Sally League for '93, he hit just .270 but with 10 homers and 21 steals in 111 games. Not bad at all for an 18-year-old, and scouts were starting to praise him due to his tools and youth. At this point, he'd be something like a B- prospect, with higher potential.
Hidalgo repeated low-A ball in '94 as the Astros sent him to Quad City in the Midwest League, where he hit .292 with 47 doubles and 12 homers. The large number of doubles was a sign of more power to come. Although his walk rate was below average, he didn't strike out that much, just 80 whiffs in 476 at-bats. Again, he'd rate at B- or perhaps B, depending on exact scouting reports. Eddie Epstein gave him a Grade B+ in the first edition of the Minor League Scouting Notebook, but that might have been a touch aggressive.
Hidalgo jumped up to Double-A in '95, hitting .266 with 14 homers. But he was just 20 years old. Scouts were drooling over his tools by now, particularly a very strong throwing arm, and he held his own offensively in Double-A at a young age. Although I had some concerns about his low walk rate, I still gave him a Grade B+ in the '96 book.
Returning to Jackson for 1996, he hit .294 with 14 homers and 11 steals. His walk rate declined, but so did his strikeout rate. I left him at Grade B+ . At Triple-A in '97, he hit .279/.330/.432 with just 11 homers, though he did contribute 37 doubles. Once again, I gave him a Grade B+, seeing him as a Seven Skill guy, pending the development of more power.
Hidalgo hit .303/.355/.474 in 74 games for the Astros in 1998, and hasn't returned to the minors. He is a frustrating player, brilliant at times (2000, 2003) but only mediocre at others, and prone to injury. He has not aged particularly well for a tools guy. Hidalgo's PEAK seasons have been better than his minor league record, but he lacks consistency. It is interesting to speculate what could have happened in Houston if they had let Richard Hidalgo, not Bobby Abreu, unprotected in the '97 expansion draft.
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