Beyond Round 5: The Best Later-Round Draftees, Part 2

Picking up where I left off from Part 1, this is my round-by-round look at the best players drafted in each round beyond the fifth since the amateur draft was instituted in 1965. It’s an exercise intended to highlight the numerous quality major league players who might slip through the cracks with a shorter draft, not only this year’s absurdly curtailed five-rounder but also future years, particularly with minor league contraction looming.

With the database help of Ben Clemens, we’ve assembled top-five WAR rankings for rounds six through 25, plus a top-10 ranking for those chosen in later rounds. I’ve attempted to summarize the career highlights of each player in concise fashion (hat-tip to Baseball America’s Ultimate Draft Book for some of the tidbits on why draftees slipped to later rounds). Additionally, I’ve highlighted one active player who may or may not have cracked the leaderboard yet, but who’s also noteworthy.

16th Round

16th Round Career WAR Leaders
Player Team Year WAR
Buddy Bell Indians 1969 61.7
James Shields Devil Rays 2000 32.3
Dave Stewart Dodgers 1975 27.4
Mike Stanley Rangers 1985 21.4
Oscar Gamble Cubs 1968 20.6

Bell, whose father (outfielder Gus Bell) and sons (infielders David Bell and Mike Bell) also played in the majors, reached the majors at age 20 in 1970, made four All-Star teams, and inherited the mantel of the AL’s top defender at third base once Brooks Robinson retired. He won six Gold Gloves and ranks fourth in Baseball-Reference’s fielding runs (174) and 15th in JAWS at the position.

A workhorse who averaged 221 innings from 2007-15, “Big Game James” Shields was a key rotation member of two playoff teams in Tampa Bay and one in Kansas City, pitching in two World Series and making one All-Star team. Stewart, who compiled just 4.4 WAR in seven seasons during his 20s, emerged as the A’s staff ace at age 30 in 1987, and helped the team to three straight pennants in ’88-90. He won 20 or more games in those four seasons, placing among the top four in the AL Cy Young voting while averaging 4.5 WAR and 265 innings, and on June 29, 1990, he no-hit the Blue Jays.

Stanley was a bat-first backstop who helped the Yankees and Red Sox to four playoff berths from 1995-99. On August 13, 1997, he was traded between the two teams in their only deal between 1994 and 2014. Gamble, best known for his spectacular Afro, was a lefty-swinging outfielder who wielded a potent bat, largely in platoon roles; he posted a 127 wRC+ in 17 seasons, during which he nonetheless only qualified for one batting title.

Notable active player: Tommy Pham (2006 Cardinals, 15.5 WAR). A late bloomer who didn’t debut until age 26 (2014) and who due to injuries didn’t make 400 plate appearances in a professional season until age 29, Pham has averaged 22 homers, 22 steals, and 4.5 WAR over the past three seasons while helping the Cardinals and Rays make playoff appearances. He’s now the Padres’ starting left fielder.

17th Round

17th Round Career WAR Leaders
Player Team Year WAR
Kenny Lofton Astros 1988 62.4
Russell Martin Dodgers 2002 55.2
Brian Giles Indians 1989 54.8
Orel Hershiser Dodgers 1979 48.0
Ian Kinsler Rangers 2003 47.7

Lofton was a point guard on four University of Arizona basketball teams, most notably backing up Steve Kerr on their 1988 Final Four squad; he played just five baseball games and had a single official at-bat at Arizona, but his speed and athleticism impressed Astros scout Clark Crist. He went on to rack up 2,428 hits, 622 steals, six All-Star appearances, four Gold Gloves and the number 10 ranking in JAWS among center fielders in a 17-year career worthy of Cooperstown. Martin converted to catching during his second season in the minors, became an elite pitch framer, and was selected to four All-Star teams while starting for nine playoff teams, including drought-busters in both Pittsburgh (2013) and Toronto (’15), each of which returned to the postseason the next year as well. Giles, who couldn’t crack the Indians’ outfield until age 25, compiled an even .400 on-base percentage in his 15-year career, making two All-Star appearances.

Hershiser won over 100 games on each side of a landmark 1990 anterior capsule reconstruction by Dr. Frank Jobe (more famous for pioneering Tommy John surgery). He set a record with 59 consecutive scoreless innings in 1988 en route to the NL Cy Young award, and earned NLCS and World Series MVP honors while leading the Dodgers to upsets of the Mets and A’s.

Kinsler just hung up his spikes after a 14-year career during which he made four All-Star teams, helped the Rangers to two pennants, and compiled the number 18 ranking in JAWS among second basemen.

Notable active player: Lorenzo Cain (2004 Brewers, 28.8 WAR). Cain didn’t even take up baseball until his sophomore year of high school, that after failing to make the basketball team, and then he was a draft-and-follow who didn’t sign until he’d spent a year at Tallahassee Community College. While helping the Royals and Brewers to four playoff berths (including two pennants and a championship for the former), he’s since emerged as an outstanding defender whose 125 DRS over the past 10 seasons is second among all outfielders.

18th Round

18th Round Career WAR Leaders
Player Team Year WAR
Mike Cameron White Sox 1991 50.6
Ken Forsch Astros 1968 26.2
Bob Moose Pirates 1965 21.5
Ron Hassey Indians 1976 16.9
Kirk Rueter Expos 1991 14.2

Concerns about his offensive ability caused Cameron to slide in the 1991 draft despite an otherwise outstanding collection of tools. While he struck out a lot (1,901 times, 11th all-time) and hit for just a .249 average during his 17-year career, his power, patience, and defense made him a valuable contributor who won three Gold Gloves and helped the Mariners, Padres, and Brewers to the playoffs.

An All-Star for both the Angels and Astros, Forsch is the older brother of Bob Forsch, who was taken eight rounds later in the same year by the Cardinals and compiled 23.2 WAR. They’re the only brothers to throw no-hitters in the majors; Ken authored his on April 7, 1979 against the Braves, the earliest date in MLB history. Moose started for three straight NL East-winning Pirates teams, including the 1971 World Series winners, but his career was cut short when he died in a car crash on his 29th birthday. Hassey served mainly as a backup catcher during his 14-year career, starting more than half of his team’s games just four times, but he shared catching duties with Terry Steinbach during Oakland’s 1988-90 run. Rueter helped the Giants to four playoff berths during his nine-year run with the team, most notably throwing six shutout innings in the NLCS clincher against the Cardinals in 2000; he’s perhaps more famous for being nicknamed “Woody” for his resemblance to the Toy Story cowboy.

Notable active player: Collin McHugh (2008 Mets, 12.0 WAR). His career in Queens lasted just 11 games, but after being traded to the Rockies and eventually waived, he emerged as a reliable rotation contributor for the Astros. Most notably, he posted 19 wins and 3.5 WAR for their AL Wild Card-winning 2015 club, and contributed to the team’s 2017 championship and ’18 division winners as well.

19th Round

19th Round Career WAR Leaders
Player Team Year WAR
Bret Saberhagen Royals 1982 55.3
Don Mattingly Yankees 1979 40.7
Placido Polanco Cardinals 1994 38.4
Bob Tewksbury Yankees 1981 31.3
Chris Hoiles Tigers 1986 24.8

Saberhagen missed most of his senior year of high school with a sore arm, but almost certainly would have been drafted higher had his no-hitter in the Los Angeles City championship game at Dodger Stadium been before the draft rather than after. Two years later, he was pitching for the Royals, and a year after that, he won the first of two AL Cy Young awards (1989 was the other) and World Series MVP honors while leading the franchise to its first championship. Mattingly slipped to the 19th round due to his commitment to Indiana State University, and surprised his family by agreeing to a $23,000 bonus. A nine-time Gold Gloves winner, six-time All-Star, and the 1985 AL MVP, he fell off drastically after back woes sapped his power in his late 20s.

Polanco, who came to Miami Dade College from the Dominican Republic via a student visa, started for five playoff teams and was a rangy, sure-handed defensive whiz who became just the second player to win Gold Gloves at multiple positions (second base in 2007 and ’09, third base in ’11). Tewksbury only struck out a meager 4.0 per nine innings, but stuck around the majors for 13 years thanks to a cerebral, contact-oriented approach; he made the 1992 NL All-star team, ranked second in ERA (2.16), and finished third in the Cy Young voting. Hoiles hit .262/.366/.467 in an injury-curtailed 10-year career, all with the Orioles; he was the starting catcher on the franchise’s 1996 and ’97 playoff teams.

Notable active player: Adam Eaton (2010 Diamondbacks, 19.3 WAR). Scouts overlooked the Miami of Ohio outfielder because of his size (5-foot-9, 180 pounds), but Eaton reached the majors in two years, and has developed into a top-of-the-lineup spark plug. Traded twice, he was beset by injuries in his first two seasons with the Nationals, but hit .320/.433/.560 with two homers in the 2019 World Series.

20th Round

20th Round Career WAR Leaders
Player Team Year WAR
Ryne Sandberg Phillies 1978 60.9
Jeff Kent Blue Jays 1989 56.0
Gene Tenace Athletics 1965 45.0
José Bautista Pirates 2000 35.6
Mike Lowell Yankees 1995 26.1

Sandberg’s commitment to play football at Washington State scared most teams away, but the Phillies took a chance, and landed him for a $25,000 signing bonus. They ended up trading him to the Cubs, for whom he made 10 All-Star appearances, won nine Gold Gloves, and an MVP award while helping the team to two division titles, the first of which (1984) gave the team its first postseason berth in 39 years. In 2005, he was elected to the Hall of Fame. Kent suffered a season-ending broken wrist as a junior at the University of California, but the Blue Jays drafted him nonetheless, and signed him for $15,000; three trades later, he emerged as a centerpiece for the Giants, winning an MVP award and helping the team to a pennant. A five-time All-Star, he set the all-time record for home runs by a second baseman with 351.

Tenace only had three seasons as a regular catcher, but his power and patience made many managers find spots for him; he drew at least 100 walks six times, posted a career .388 on-base percentage, and was the 1972 World Series MVP on the strength of his four homers against the Reds. Bautista was 29 years old and on his fifth major league team when he shocked the baseball world with an AL-best 54 homers. His 227 from 2010-15 was 28 more than any other major leaguer during that span. In those years, he made six straight All-Star teams and helped the Blue Jays to two playoff berths, their first since 1992.

Lowell only played eight games for the Yankees before being traded, then went on to torment them as the starting third baseman for both the 2003 Marlins (who beat the Yankees in the World Series) and ’07 Red Sox; he was the MVP of the latter World Series, and made four All-Star teams in his 13-year career.

Notable active player: J.D. Martinez (2009 Astros, 24.1 WAR). Drafted out of Division II Nova Southeastern University, Martinez was sub-replacement level in parts of three seasons with the Astros, but thanks to a revamped swing, he emerged as an elite slugger after being picked up by the Tigers, and became a poster boy for the launch angle revolution. His .581 slugging percentage since the start of 2014 is second only to Mike Trout, while his 207 homers ranks fifth.

21st Round

21st Round Career WAR Leaders
Player Team Year WAR
Nick Punto Phillies 1998 15.1
David Palmer Expos 1976 14.9
Eddie Milner Reds 1976 11.8
Dave Dravecky Pirates 1978 10.6
Jim Deshaies Yankees 1982 8.4

Sandwiched between rounds headed by future Hall of Famers is this one, topped by a utility infielder famous for his insistence upon sliding head-first into first base, and jokingly referred to as the centerpiece of a 2012 blockbuster involving the Dodgers and Red Sox. Though not much of a hitter, Punto’s glovework helped him find a home on five postseason teams during his 14-year career.

Palmer demonstrated considerable promise for the Expos, but endured an endless series of arm troubles that limited him to 1,085 innings from 1978-89, including an elbow surgery that cost him the entire ’81 season, Montreal’s lone year reaching the playoffs, as well as Tommy John surgery two years later. Milner was a speedy center fielder who spent eight of his nine seasons with the Reds and stole as many as 41 bases in a year, but cocaine problems resulted in an 81-day suspension and hastened the end of his career. Deshaies spent six of his 12 major league seasons as a rotation regular for the Astros, whom he helped to the NL West flag in 1986. On September 23 of that year against the Dodgers, he set a record by striking out the first eight batters he faced; Jacob deGrom and German Márquez have since matched the feat.

As for Dravecky, the lefty out of Youngstown State University didn’t reach the majors until age-26, but within two years he earned All-Star honors and helped the Padres to the World Series. After a cancerous desmoid tumor was discovered in his pitching arm in 1988, half of his deltoid muscle was surgically removed, and his humerus frozen to kill cancerous cells. He made it back to the mound on August 10, 1989, pitching eight innings, but in his next outing, the humerus snapped mid-delivery. He never pitched again, and eventually lost the arm to another bout of cancer, but found success as a motivational speaker.

Notable active player: Trevor Rosenthal (2009 Cardinals, 7.1 WAR). A bullpen mainstay for the Cardinals, Rosenthal saved 93 games in 2014-15, making one All-Star team, and helping the Cardinals to four straight postseason appearances from 2012-15, during which he struck out 42 and allowed just two runs in 26 innings. After undergoing Tommy John surgery in August 2017, he signed a free agent deal with the Nationals, but failed to retire a single batter in any of his first four appearances of the season, setting an unenviable record. After being released and passing through two more organizations, he was on track to make the Royals before the pandemic hit.

22nd Round

22nd Round Career WAR Leaders
Player Team Year WAR
John Smoltz Tigers 1985 79.5
Andy Pettitte Yankees 1990 68.2
Jeff Fassero Cardinals 1984 30.6
Jason Bay Expos 2000 21.5
Freddie Patek Pirates 1965 20.4

As noted in Part 1, Smoltz was (in)famously traded to the Braves in 1987 for 1968 ninth-round pick Doyle Alexander, by that point a grizzled veteran who wound up helping the Tigers sneak into the playoffs. The price for that appearance was high, as Smoltz, who reached the majors in 1987, wound up spinning a Hall of Fame career featuring a Cy Young award, a World Series ring, eight All-Star selections, 213 wins, and 3,084 strikeouts. He was still available in the 22nd round because he was committed to Michigan State, but a bonus of $60,500 — $500 more than second-round pick Randy Johnson received from the Expos — changed his mind.

Smoltz pitched in four World Series, and in the 1996 Fall Classic, he matched up twice with Pettitte, getting the win in a 12-1 rout in Game 1 but coming up on the short end in a 1-0 classic for the ages in Game 5.

Pettitte was taken in the 22nd round because he was weighing scholarship offers, including one from Louisiana State. Instead he became a draft-and-follow, spending a year at San Jacinto Junior College, where coach Wayne Graham called him “a left-handed Roger Clemens,” a comparison that resonated because Graham had coached the Rocket at San Jacinto nine years earlier. The Yankees signed Pettitte for an $80,000 bonus, and while he never matched Clemens, he did win 256 games in the regular season and a record 19 more in the postseason while helping the Yankees to five championships.

The lefty-throwing Fassero didn’t reach the majors until age 28, after passing through the hands of three teams. He wound up pitching for nine different teams in his 16-year career, helping the Mariners, Rangers, and Cardinals to playoff berths. Bay was traded twice before reaching the majors and a third time before landing a regular job with the Pirates, for whom he won NL Rookie of the Year honors in 2004. He made three All-Star teams and was part of the big Manny Ramirez three-way deal in 2009, but a subsequent free-agent deal with the Mets turned sour due to a pair of poorly-managed concussions and other injuries. Patek, all 5-foot-5 of him, came to the attention of Pirates scouts while playing ball on a San Antonio Air Force base. He made three All-Star teams as the starting shortstop for the Royals, whom he helped to three straight AL West titles from 1976-78.

Notable active player: Logan Morrison (2006 Marlins, 5.4 WAR). Injuries and inconsistency have bedeviled Morrison at times during his 10-year major league career, but he did have a monster 2017 season with the Rays, swatting 38 homers to go with his 3.2 WAR.

23rd Round

23rd Round Career WAR Leaders
Player Team Year WAR
Roy Oswalt Astros 1996 52.6
Brett Butler Braves 1979 42.2
Ted Lilly Dodgers 1996 26.5
Rick Wilkins Cubs 1986 14.2
Mitch Webster Dodgers 1977 13.3

Measuring up at just 5-foot-10 and 150 pounds as a high school senior in Weir, Mississippi, Oswalt struggled to get the attention of scouts, but while spending a year at Holmes Community College in Goodman, Mississippi, he grew two inches, gained 20 pounds, and boosted his fastball from the low 90s to 97-98 mph. The Astros chose him in the 23rd round as a draft-and-follow, and signed him for a $475,000 bonus in May 1997. Though he made just three All-Star teams, he was the majors’ third-most valuable pitcher for the 2002-11 span, a perennial Cy Young contender who received votes six times, and the MVP of the 2005 NLCS, in which the Astros clinched their first World Series berth.

Butler, unable to obtain a scholarship at Arizona State despite a strong freshman season, transferred to Southeastern Oklahoma State University, and signed for just a $1,000 bonus. He went on to become an outstanding leadoff hitter, pairing a .377 career on-base percentage with 558 steals, and overcoming a 1996 bout of throat cancer to return for his 17th and final MLB season. Lilly, an undersized and feisty lefty, was chosen in the 13th round by the Blue Jays in 1995 but returned to Fresno City College, and his draft stock fell. He eventually pitched for six teams, made two All-Star teams and 11 trips to the disabled list while helping the A’s and Cubs to a total of four postseason appearances. Wilkins spent only three of his 11 seasons as a regular catcher, and never came close to matching his monster 1993 season (.303/.376/.561, 30 homers, 6.7 WAR). Webster, a fleet-footed switch-hitter, spent the bulk of his career as a fourth outfielder before moving into the coaching and scouting ranks.

Notable active player: Cody Allen (2011 Indians, 6.8 WAR). His past couple of seasons have been rough, but from 2013-17, he was one of the game’s most valuable relievers, helping the Indians to three playoff berths. During the 2016 postseason, he threw 13.2 scoreless innings with 24 strikeouts as the Indians came within one win of their first championship since 1948.

24th Round

24th Round Career WAR Leaders
Player Team Year WAR
Mark Grace Cubs 1985 45.5
Jorge Posada Yankees 1990 40.4
Rich Aurilia Rangers 1992 25.8
Steve Renko Mets 1965 24.4
Richie Sexson Indians 1993 16.8

After playing for two years at Saddleback Community College, Grace hit .395 in his lone year at San Diego State, but was overlooked in the draft because he only homered twice. In his 16-year major league career, he ranked among the top 10 in batting average eight times and in on-base percentage seven times, won four Gold Gloves, made three All-Star teams, and was the starting first baseman on the 2001 World Series-winning Diamondbacks. The switch-hitting Posada, a Puerto Rico native, was first drafted in the 43rd round by the Yankees in 1989 while at Calhoun Community College in Alabama, then again the following year. He signed for a $30,000 bonus, converted from second base to catching in the minors, and became part of the Yankees’ “Core Four” along with Pettitte, Derek Jeter, and Mariano Rivera, starting for four World Series winners and making five All-Star teams on the strength of his combination of power and plate discipline.

Aurilia spent 15 years in the majors, most notably helping the Giants to a pennant and two other postseason berths; in 2001, he collected an NL-high 206 hits with 37 homers and 7.1 WAR, making his lone All-Star team. Renko, chosen by the Mets in the same draft in which they picked Nolan Ryan, spent 15 years in the majors, the first eight of which came with the expansion Expos, who didn’t crack .500 once in that span. Sexson, a 6-foot-7 first baseman, planned to play basketball and baseball at the University of Portland, so he slipped to the 24th round; after getting schooled at an elite basketball camp by the likes of Jason Kidd and Chris Webber, he chose baseball, and went on to hit 30 or more homers six times while making two All-Star teams.

Notable active player: Dan Straily 스트레일리 (2009 Athletics, 3.6 WAR). He’s currently pitching for the KBO’s Lotte Giants after a dreadful season in which he served up 22 homers in just 47.2 innings, but Straily is far more experienced than the average foreign-born hurler in that circuit, where he’s currently dominating. He put up solid seasons in the rotations of the A’s, Reds, and Marlins, outpitching his peripherals and striking out a total of 332 batters in 2016-17.

25th Round

25th Round Career WAR Leaders
Player Team Year WAR
Paul Splittorff Royals 1968 31.7
Mike Hargrove Rangers 1972 31.0
Darren Daulton Phillies 1980 25.0
Paul Lo Duca Dodgers 1993 15.8
Tanner Roark Rangers 2008 14.7

A durable and cerebral lefty, Splittorff spent his entire 15-year career with the Royals, setting franchise records for starts (392), innings (2554.2), and wins (166) while helping the team to four AL West titles in the 1976-80 span, though he retired a year short of their 1985 World Series win. Hargrove, known as “The Human Rain Delay,” for his epic between-pitch routine, went to a high school that didn’t even field a baseball team, but excelled as a walk-on and then a semipro player before the Rangers drafted him. He was the AL Rookie of the Year in 1974, made his lone All-Star team in ’75, and placed among the top 10 in on-base percentage nine times.

Daulton, an all-state wrestler and potential Division I defensive back, caught in high school, but a string of major knee and shoulder injuries prevented him from getting even 200 plate appearances in a major league season until age 27. Once healthy, he made three All-Star teams, helped the 1993 Phillies to a pennant, and got a World Series ring as a reserve with the Marlins four years later. Lo Duca, despite winning The Sporting News College Player of the Year award in his lone year at Arizona State, slipped to the 25th round but went on to make four All-Star teams.

Notable active player: Roark. Ruled academically ineligible before his senior season at the University of Illinois-Urbana-Champaign, where he had been a Friday night starter the year before, Roark spent time in the independent Frontier League before being drafted by the Rangers. Traded to the Nationals for Cristian Guzman, he never cracked a Baseball America Top 30 team prospect list, but helped Washington to three division titles, and topped 180 innings four times.

26th Round and Beyond

26th Round and Later WAR Leaders
Player Team Year Round WAR
Mike Piazza Dodgers 1988 62 63.7
Keith Hernandez Cardinals 1971 42 59.4
Mark Buehrle White Sox 1998 38 52.3
Kenny Rogers Rangers 1982 39 42.5
Dusty Baker Braves 1967 26 37.9
Ken Griffey Reds 1969 29 32.1
John Denny Cardinals 1970 29 27.9
Darryl Kile Astros 1987 30 27.1
Corey Koskie Twins 1994 26 26.7
Doc Medich Yankees 1970 30 26.6

Piazza’s father Vincent was nothing if not well connected; a friendship with Dodgers scout Ed Liberatore brought Ted Williams to the family house to evaluate the teenage Piazza’s swing, and a friendship with Tommy Lasorda (godfather to Tommy Piazza) led to Mike being drafted as a favor, but only upon an agreement that he would learn to catch in the minors. While his throwing was never much to write home about, he became the best-hitting catcher ever in terms of wRC+ (140), a skilled pitch framer, and the lowest draft pick (1,390th overall) ever elected to the Hall of Fame.

Hernandez didn’t play during his senior year of high school in the wake of a dispute with a coach, but after a season at College of San Mateo, he signed for a $30,000 bonus, the same amount as Jim Rice received as the 15th player drafted. An elite defender at first base, he went on to win 11 Gold Gloves, a batting title, an MVP award (shared with Willie Stargell) as well as World Series rings with the Cardinals and Mets. Buehrle, a draft-and-follow out of Jefferson College, was a durable southpaw who notched at least 200 innings in 14 straight seasons while making five All-Star teams, throwing a perfect game as well as a no-hitter, and helping the White Sox break an 88-year championship drought.

Rogers played just one year in high school, as a right fielder, and was only 5-foot-9 and 140 pounds when he graduated, but scouts from the Rangers liked his arm strength enough to draft him. He lasted 20 years in the majors, overcoming thoracic outlet syndrome and making four All-Star teams, three of them from ages 39-41, and pitching for four playoff teams, including the pennant-winning 2006 Tigers. Baker, despite being drafted so low, reached the majors at age 19 in 1968, though he didn’t stick for good until four years later. He started for three pennant-winning Dodgers teams, taking home NLCS MVP honors in 1977, and winning a World Series in 1981; additionally, he made two All-Star teams and was part of the first quartet of teammates to hit 30 home runs in a season.

Griffey bypassed football scholarship offers to sign with the Reds. He played right field for the “Big Red Machine” 1975 and ’76 champions, made three All-Star teams, and placed among the NL’s top 10 in batting average and on-base percentage three times apiece. Of course, he’s even more famous for fathering a Hall of Fame center fielder, with whom he made history when both father and son homered in the same game — back-to-back, even — for the Mariners on September 14, 1990 against the Angels.

Denny had a hard time staying healthy, making 30 starts in a season just five times in a 13-year career, but he claimed an ERA title in 1976 for the Cardinals and then rebounded off a 6-13, 4.87 ERA season to win the NL Cy Young in 1983 by going 19-6 with a 2.37 ERA for the Phillies, whom he helped to the NL pennant. Kile, a draft-and-follow, made three All-Star teams and pitched in three postseasons before dying of a heart attack at age 33. Koskie, who was drafted out of Kwantlen College in Manitoba, played third base for three straight AL Central-winning Twins teams, but his career was cut short by a 2006 concussion. Medich graduated from the University of Pittsburgh with a degree in chemistry, and cut short his first professional season to begin medical school. He pitched well for the Yankees near the tail end of the “Horace Clarke Years,” completed his degree by the sixth of his 11 major league seasons, and went on to become an orthopedic surgeon after his career ended in 1982, though he had multiple run-ins with the law stemming from an addiction to painkillers.

Notable active player: Tyler Flowers (2005 Braves, 33rd round, 20.1 WAR). Flowers was chosen as a draft-and-follow out of Chipola College (the alma mater of late-round picks Jose Bautista and Russell Martin as well). While he reached the majors in 2009, he didn’t make more than 200 PA in a season until four years later, but he’s since emerged as a solid hitter for the position as well as an outstanding defender who’s fifth in our framing runs metric since the start of the 2011 season.

Brooklyn-based Jay Jaffe is a senior writer for FanGraphs, the author of The Cooperstown Casebook (Thomas Dunne Books, 2017) and the creator of the JAWS (Jaffe WAR Score) metric for Hall of Fame analysis. He founded the Futility Infielder website (2001), was a columnist for Baseball Prospectus (2005-2012) and a contributing writer for Sports Illustrated (2012-2018). He has been a recurring guest on MLB Network and a member of the BBWAA since 2011, and a Hall of Fame voter since 2021. Follow him on Twitter @jay_jaffe... and BlueSky

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3 years ago

Goodness. These articles are fun and so informative. But this time confirmed it: I will stop whatever I’m doing and watch that Bautista HR every time. It’s possibly the best hitting moment from that entire season.