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40 late-round MLB Draft picks who have proven themselves

Just because you’re not an early draft pick doesn’t mean you can’t be a great major-leaguer.

MLB: Los Angeles Angels at Detroit Tigers Photo by Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

While the MLB Draft can be a bit of a drag since it lasts 40 rounds (and used to be even longer than that), it does have an upside from a storytelling perspective since a relatively large number of late-round draft picks end up reaching the majors at some point. While just like in any other sport, baseball’s first-rounders tend to be its most successful players, plenty of late selections have gone on to have spectacular careers. Nearly every baseball fan knows the story of Mike Piazza, who was one of the final selections of the 1988 MLB Draft (62nd round, 1,390th overall) but eventually became one of the greatest offensive catchers of all time and was elected to the Hall of Fame. In fact, seven players have been selected in Round 10 or beyond and eventually reached Cooperstown, including two in this year’s class, Trevor Hoffman and Jim Thome.

Without further ado, here are 40 late-round draft picks — all active players, one each from round 10 and on — who have vastly outperformed their draft status in the majors:

Greg Holland, 10th round, 2007: Over an eight-season career, Holland has reached the All-Star game three times, received Cy Young and MVP votes twice (an impressive feat for a closer), and served as the closer for the 2014 AL Champion Royals.

Adam Duvall, 11th round, 2010: While he was a bit of a late bloomer, Duvall was a 2016 NL All-Star and is now on pace for his third straight 30-homer season while ranking as one of the top defensive left fielders in the majors on an annual basis.

Stephen Vogt, 12th round, 2007: Vogt is a two-time All-Star and made significant contributions to a pair of Athletics teams that reached the postseason in 2013 and 2014.

Albert Pujols, 13th round, 1999: No explanation is really necessary here. With the possible exception of Barry Bonds, Pujols was the most dominant hitter of the 2000s. The 10-time All-Star and three-time MVP will go down as one of the greatest players in major-league history.

Dexter Fowler, 14th round, 2004: Fowler has enjoyed a successful 11-year career, reaching the All-Star Game in 2016 while playing a crucial role for a Cubs team that went on to win the World Series.

Chris Carter, 15th round, 2005: Carter posted an above-average OPS+ in five consecutive seasons from 2012-16 and was the co-NL home run leader when he hit 41 for the Brewers in 2016.

Tommy Pham, 16th round, 2006: The 30-year-old Pham is perhaps the ultimate definition of a late bloomer, but he’s made a major surge during the later part of his career. He received MVP votes while posting a .931 OPS, hitting 23 homers, and stealing 25 bases last season, and he looks to be on track for his first-ever All-Star Game appearance this season.

Ian Kinsler, 17th round, 2003: Kinsler, a four-time All-Star, has a solid shot of reaching the Hall of Fame after his playing days are done. He’s recorded 11 double-digit-homer seasons — including two with 30 or more — at a traditionally low-power position, and he’s posted an impressive .848 OPS over 161 postseason plate appearances.

Mark Trumbo, 18th round, 2004: Trumbo, a two-time All-Star, may be a one-trick pony, but he has a really good trick. He’s hit 20 or more homers in six of his seven full major-league seasons, and he led the majors with 47 home runs in 2016.

Adam Eaton, 19th round, 2010: While Eaton doesn’t really excel in one particular category, his strong combination of power, speed, plate discipline, and defensive ability led him to average 5.1 bWAR over a three-year stretch from 2014-16.

Jose Bautista, 20th round, 2000: Joey Bats was arguably the most consistent power hitter of the last decade, hitting 288 homers (and leading the majors in two seasons) over 10 years with the Blue Jays. He posted a fantastic 136 OPS+ over that stretch, and despite the fact that the six-time All-Star didn’t really become a force until his age-29 season, he should have at least an outside shot at reaching the Hall of Fame once his career is over.

AJ Ramos, 21st round, 2009: Ramos, a 2016 All-Star, recorded back-to-back 30-plus save seasons in 2015-16, and he’s still capable of being one of the most dominant relievers in the majors if he’s healthy and his mechanics are in check.

Jaime Garcia, 22nd round, 2005: Garcia has been a consistent performer for a decade, helped the Cardinals win a World Series in 2011, and has enjoyed two seasons with an ERA under 3.00.

Cody Allen, 23rd round, 2011: Allen is one of the best closers in baseball today, having posted an ERA under 3.00 in five straight seasons while recording 30 or more saves in each of the last three campaigns. He’s been a key contributor in the Indians’ last two postseason runs.

Dan Straily, 24th round, 2009: Straily has been a durable starter for seven seasons and was a key rotation member for a 2013 A’s team that reached the postseason.

Chris Devenski, 25th round, 2011: Devenski has become one of the top relievers in the majors and enjoyed a fantastic 2017 season, posting a 2.68 ERA and 0.94 WHIP over 80.2 innings, reaching his first All-Star Game, and helping the Astros to their first-ever World Series victory.

Zach Davies, 26th round, 2011: Despite his lack of size, Davies has been a consistent, durable member of the Brewers’ rotation for the past three seasons now, having posted an above-average ERA+ in each year from 2015-17.

Martin Maldonado, 27th round, 2004: Maldonado broke out after being given his first starting opportunity at the age of 30 with the Angels last year, hitting 14 homers over 471 plate appearances and winning his first Gold Glove.

Sergio Romo, 28th round, 2005: Romo has been one of the top relievers of his era, posting a 2.84 ERA and 1.00 WHIP over 594 appearances spanning 11 seasons. He was a member of the Giants’ bullpen for all three of their World Series victories from 2010-14, recording the final out in 2012, and he was an NL All-Star in 2013. Most recently, he’s further etched his name into history by serving as the guinea pig for the Rays’ “opener” experiment.

Jakob Junis, 29th round, 2011: The 25-year-old Junis has broken out as one of the top starters in the American League this season, posting a 3.61 ERA and 1.14 WHIP while averaging six innings per start in his first full big-league campaign.

Jonny Venters, 30th round, 2003: Venters has been the most inspiring comeback story of 2018, posting a 1.00 ERA and 0.67 WHIP in his first big-league action since 2012. The three-and-a-half-time Tommy John recipient was one of the most dominant relievers in the majors prior to his injury issues, posting sub-2.00 ERAs in two straight seasons while making a combined 164 appearances in 2010-11.

Kevin Kiermaier, 31st round, 2010: Kiermaier has established himself as one of the best defensive center fielders in the majors, winning two Gold Gloves while averaging 6.0 bWAR per season from 2015-17.

Kevin Pillar, 32nd round, 2011: The early 30s are prime rounds to find elite defensive center fielders, apparently. While Kiermaier’s success has prevented him from winning a Gold Glove, Pillar ranked second among major-league center fielders with 50 defensive runs saved from 2015-17.

Tyler Flowers, 33rd round, 2005: Already well-respected for his pitch-framing skills behind the plate, Flowers came out of nowhere to become one of the majors’ top offensive catchers starting in 2016, posting an above-average OPS+ in each of the past two seasons. He’s on pace for his best season yet in 2018, as he’s posted a .286/.412/.482 line over his first 68 plate appearances.

Seth Lugo, 34th round, 2011: Lugo has been a dependable option both in the rotation and out of the bullpen for the Mets since 2016, posting a 111 ERA+ over 198 innings.

Rajai Davis, 38th round, 2001: Davis has enjoyed a long, successful career, stealing double-digit bases in each of his 11 full big-league seasons, including more than 40 in five of them. Of course, he also hit one of the most memorable home runs in World Series history in Game 7 of the 2016 Fall Classic.

Brandon Kintzler, 40th round, 2004: Kintzler was a late bloomer on multiple levels. He was forced to establish himself in independent ball after being released by the Padres after the 2005 season and not reaching the majors for seven seasons after he was drafted. After becoming the Twins’ closer late in the 2016 season, he reached his first All-Star Game last summer, and though he’s now returned to middle-relief duty after being traded to the Nationals, he’s one of the top right-handed relievers in the majors.

Brad Peacock, 41st round, 2006: Peacock, a seven-year major-league veteran, developed into a dependable option for the Astros at the age of 28 and has been a very effective swingman since the 2016 season. He was arguably their most dependable reliever during the World Series last year and truly earned his first championship ring.

Brad Brach, 42nd round, 2008: Brach has been one of the most effective middle relievers in the majors since 2012, earning a spot on the AL All-Star team in 2016 and garnering ninth-inning opportunities for the Orioles both last and this season as Zach Britton has dealt with injuries.

Tony Sipp, 45th round, 2004: Sipp has been one of the most durable lefty relievers in the majors over the last 10 seasons, posting a 3.82 ERA and 1.26 WHIP over 540 games while making six scoreless postseason appearances for the 2015 Astros.

Carl Edwards Jr., 48th round, 2011: Though he’s been somewhat inconsistent, Edwards has at times been one of the most dominant bullpen arms in baseball since reaching The Show in September 2015, and he helped the Cubs to a World Series victory in 2016.

Jarrod Dyson, 50th round, 2006: Dyson has improbably gone on to enjoy a nine-year big-league career after being selected in the last of the rounds that don’t even exist anymore. Despite being restricted to bench or platoon roles for nearly all of his time in the big leagues, he’s stolen 213 bases and been thrown out just 39 times, swiping at least 20 bags in each season from 2012-17.

Since there were several rounds that we didn’t cover due to there being no notable selections from those rounds currently in the big leagues, here are some honorable mentions who were selected from the 10th round on:

Howie Kendrick, 10th round, 2002: Kendrick has been exceptionally consistent over a 13-year career, reaching the 2011 All-Star Game while posting a 107 career OPS+ and moving all over the field.

Matt Joyce, 12th round, 2005: Though he’s never been a true superstar, per se, Joyce has consistently been an above-average performer over his 11-year major-league career, accumulating 14.1 career bWAR and posting an above-average OPS+ in eight of his 11 seasons. He has seven double-digit-homer seasons and was an AL All-Star in 2011.

Matt Carpenter, 13th round, 2009: Carpenter has been one of the top hitters in the majors this decade, posting a 127 OPS+ over 3,836 career plate appearances. The three-time All-Star has also become an imposing power hitter in recent seasons, hitting more than 20 homers in each of the past three seasons.

Chris Young, 16th round, 2001: Outfielder Chris Young, one of two players by that name who enjoyed a long career starting in the early 2000s, has been a durable and consistent performer since 2006 — albeit usually in a fourth outfielder role. He hit double-digit homers in nine straight seasons from 2007-15 and has enjoyed three 20-homer/20-steal seasons.

Lorenzo Cain, 17th round, 2004: Clearly there were high standards for the 17th round if Cain wasn’t the top choice — he’s posted 29.7 bWAR over his career and hasn’t had a below-average OPS+ since the 2012 season. Cain was crucial as the Royals reached back-to-back World Series in 2014-15, and his combination of contact, power, speed, and defensive ability has allowed him to remain one of the best center fielders in the majors into his 30s.

Russell Martin, 17th round, 2002: Martin, a four-time All-Star, has stuck around the majors as a starting catcher for 13 seasons now, winning a Gold Glove and Silver Slugger along the way while also providing depth at third base (and, very recently, shortstop and the outfield). While a handful of poor offensive seasons both during the middle and the twilight of his career have negatively affected his career numbers, he’s posted an above-average OPS+ in six different seasons.

Josh Hader, 19th round, 2012: Hader doesn’t have a ton of experience under his belt, but he’s developed into the most dominant reliever in the majors this season with a 1.09 ERA, a 0.67 WHIP, and 66 strikeouts over 33 innings and is already being mentioned as an NL Cy Young Award candidate.

J.D. Martinez, 20th round, 2009: Martinez is quite simply one of the best hitters in the majors leagues today. He’s currently in the midst of his fifth straight double-digit-homer season, and he hasn’t posted an OPS+ lower than 139 (that’s 39 percentage points above league average!) dating back to 2014.

Unfortunately, despite some of the names over those last 10 rounds being big ones, MLB shortened the draft to 40 rounds in 2012, perhaps depriving some talented players of opportunities. With that said, there are still plenty of players selected the late rounds outperforming their draft status on an annual basis, so it’ll be fun to watch the late-round picks who find success this year and in the future.