Lance Berkman, who played 15 seasons with the Astros, Yankees, Cardinals and Rangers, said Wednesday he is retiring.
“Physically, I’ve gotten to the point where I don’t think I can compete at a level I’m used to competing at,” Berkman told Houston TV station Fox 26. “I’m excited about it to be honest. I think it’s going to be great.”
The switch-hitter finishes his career with a .293 average and 366 homers. He spent his first 12 years in Houston before a midseason trade to the Yankees in 2010. He reached the ALCS with New York that season but returned to the National League with St. Louis and was rejuvenated, batting .301/.412/.547 and helping the Cardinals win the World Series.
But knee injuries limited him to 32 games in 2012 and he played in only 73 games for the Rangers in 2013.
Berkman was the Astros’ first-round pick in 1997, No. 16 overall, and signed for $1 million.
After not being drafted out of high school, Berkman rose to prominence at Rice, where he led the NCAA with 41 home runs and 134 RBIs as a junior before joining his hometown organization.
Here is what BA wrote at that time:
(Berkman) has dominated minor league pitching the same way he dominated college pitching. Barely a year after signing, Berkman was promoted to Triple-A and in his third game at New Orleans, he hit three home runs. He turned the same trick again in the clinching game of the inaugural Triple-A World Series, a series in which he was the MVP.
Strengths: Berkman has shown just about every offensive skill you would want to find in a run producer. He is a switch-hitter with well above-average raw power from both sides of the plate. His swing is still quick and compact, enabling him to make consistent contact and maintain a high batting average. Berkman’s patience at the plate is extraordinary for a young hitter and in his first full year he finished fifth in the minor leagues with 97 walks. Defensively, Berkman’s conversion to left field from first base has been successful. He gets good jumps on fly balls, has an average left-field arm and is surprisingly sure-handed.
Weaknesses: Berkman is a much stronger hitter from the left side, where he is more patient and benefits from having more at-bats. He played with a sore right ankle throughout much of 1998, which made him more of a front-foot hitter from the right side and took away his power. While Berkman is mobile in the outfield and a good straight-ahead runner, he’s primarily a station-to-station runner on the basepaths.
The Future: The master plan is for Berkman to take over in left field, with Moises Alou moving to right. When this will happen depends on Derek Bell’s status. Bell enjoyed the best year of his career last season but this is the last year of his contract. Even if any trade rumors involving Bell are unfounded, it would not be a surprise if Berkman’s production didn’t surpass Bell’s and give the already high-powered Astros offense another potent weapon.
|Major League Totals||.293||1879||6491||1146||1905||422||30||366||1234||1201||1300||.406||.537||.943|