This year’s baseball draft has been shortened to five rounds, meaning the number of players picked will be significantly smaller than usual. That could leave several potential contributors among the large group of undrafted players.
Although expectations are higher for prospects taken in the first couple of rounds, players drafted much later can and do become major league standouts. Here’s an All-Star team of sorts, comprised only of players taken after the fifth round.
(The career wins above replacement figures listed are from Baseball-Reference.com. Players are put at positions where they flourished as major leaguers – not necessarily the positions they played at the time they were drafted.)
CATCHER: Mike Piazza, Dodgers (62nd round, 1988, 59.6 WAR)
Only seven teams were still making selections by the 62nd round of the 1988 draft, when the Dodgers took Piazza. His father was a friend of manager Tommy Lasorda. Piazza went on to become one of the game’s top hitters, and he is the lowest-drafted player elected to the Hall of Fame.
Others of note: Jorge Posada (24th round, 1990), Russell Martin (17th round, 2002)
FIRST BASE: Albert Pujols, Cardinals (13th round, 1999, 100.8 WAR)
It didn’t take Pujols long to prove himself. He was in the majors by 2001, when he won Rookie of the Year honors and drove in 130 runs. Three MVP awards later, Pujols is closing in on the end of his career – with 656 home runs and counting.
Others of note: Jim Thome (13th round, 1989), Keith Hernandez (42nd round, 1971), Fred McGriff (ninth round, 1981), Don Mattingly (19th round, 1979), Paul Goldschmidt (eighth round, 2009)
SECOND BASE: Ryne Sandberg, Phillies (20th round, 1978, 68 WAR)
Sandberg was originally drafted by Philadelphia but played only 13 games for the Phillies before spending the rest of his Hall of Fame career with the Chicago Cubs. He was the National League MVP in 1984.
Others of note: Ian Kinsler (17th round, 2003), Jeff Kent (20th round, 1989)
THIRD BASE: Wade Boggs, Red Sox (seventh round, 1976, 91.4 WAR)
Boggs made it to the majors in 1982, and the following year he won his first of five batting titles. He hit at least .300 15 times.
Others of note: Sal Bando (sixth round, 1965), Buddy Bell (16th round, 1969), Justin Turner (seventh round, 2006)
SHORTSTOP: Bill Russell, Dodgers (ninth round, 1966, 31.3 WAR)
Russell actually played in the outfield at the start of his career, but he ultimately appeared in over 1,700 games at shortstop. He was part of a famously stable infield in Los Angeles along with Ron Cey, Davey Lopes and Steve Garvey.
Others of note: Marcus Semien (sixth round, 2011), David Eckstein (19th round, 1997)
OUTFIELD: Andre Dawson, Expos (11th round, 1975, 64.8 WAR), Jim Edmonds, Angels (seventh round, 1988, 60.4 WAR), Kenny Lofton, Astros, (17th round, 1988, 68.4 WAR)
Dawson went into the Hall of Fame in 2010, and Edmonds won eight Gold Gloves for the Angels and Cardinals. Lofton played basketball at Arizona and was on the team that made the Final Four in 1988. That same year, the Astros drafted him, although he had his best seasons with Cleveland.
Others of note: Matt Holliday (seventh round, 1998), Brett Butler (23rd round, 1979), Dave Parker (14th round, 1970), Jose Canseco (15th round, 1982), Lorenzo Cain (17th round, 2004)
RIGHT-HANDED PITCHER: Nolan Ryan, Mets (12th round, 1965, 81.3 WAR)
Ryan was taken in the draft’s very first year, and he was still in the majors nearly three decades later. His seven no-hitters and 5,714 strikeouts are records that still stand.
Others of note: Bret Saberhagen (19th round, 1982), Orel Hershiser (17th round, 1979), John Smoltz (22nd round, 1985), Jacob deGrom (ninth round, 2010)
LEFT-HANDED PITCHER: Andy Pettitte, Yankees (22nd round, 1990, 60.2 WAR)
Pettitte won 256 games for the Yankees and Astros, plus 19 more in the postseason. He made 13 starts in the World Series alone – across eight different years.
Others of note: Mark Buehrle (38th round, 1998), Kenny Rogers (39th round, 1982)
RELIEF PITCHER: Goose Gossage, White Sox (ninth round, 1970, 41.1 WAR)
Gossage played for Chicago and Pittsburgh before winning the World Series with the New York Yankees in 1978. The nine-time All-Star finished with 310 saves.
Others of note: David Robertson (17th round, 2006), Josh Hader (19th round, 2012)
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