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Astros History: The Legend of Billy Spiers

I've mentioned this before here, but my favorite Astros player from those late '90s teams was one William James Spiers.

Drafted 13th overall by the Milwaukee Brewers, Spiers played regularly for his first three seasons, debuting with the Brew Crew at 23. He wasn't particularly good but played shortstop decently. Injuries kind of derailed his career a bit, and he spent three more scuffling seasons in Milwaukee before signing a one-year deal with the New York Mets.

That season was also washed out, so the Astros got him on a one-year league minimum deal before the 1996 season. He was signed as a backup/platoon option at third base, since Houston had traded Ken Caminiti before the season and had a hole at the position.

Spiers didn't distinguish himself that first season, but went on to be a great part-time player in his six seasons with Houston. He hit .288/.375/.408 in almost 1,900 plate appearances with the Astros. Included in that is 21 home run (which is why he's featured before Game No. 21) and had a great, great 1997 season for Houston.

That's because Spiers hit a career-high .320 with a .438 on-base percentage and a .481 slugging percentage. Only two players in franchise history have posted OBPs higher than that mark in at least 350 plate appearances. Once name rhymes with Mance and the other is Jeff Bagwell.

Though never really a great full-time player, Spiers played his role on that squad perfectly. He came in tough spots, provided good defense off the bench. For a playoff contender, he was everything you could want and Larry Dierker used him perfectly for the next four seasons.

The other reason why I liked Spiers so much is he was one of the first players that Gerry Hunsicker brought in under the radar that became such a key part of those playoff clubs. Hunsicker made a ton of these little moves that payed off bigger later on, but Spiers was the first and I'm fond of him for that too.