Someone posed this question to me this evening: "Are there really any noteworthy players who have been picked after the 32nd round of the Major League Baseball Draft?"
First of all, some of this is misleading because often times later-selected players turn out to be high school players who reject the signing and go onto college. Therefore they would be a swing-and-miss.
A quick search on baseball-reference.com (best... website... ever) finds that in the 40th round of the 2002 draft that Jonathan Papelbon, Hunter Pence, and Matt Garza were all selected. 3 solid major leaguers to be sure, but the other 27 have yet to make it to The Show.
I took the query a bit further, and decided to look up the Phillies draft history, wondering who the best "hidden gem" was.
The latest a Phillies' draftee was picked that ended up in the majors was 1988 53rd Round Pick LHP Steve Cooke, who went 26-34 with the Pirates and Reds. The 1988 draft went 65 rounds, the only one to stretch that long (the current draft lasts 50).
If you are a Phillies pick in the 30th, 35th, 38th, 42nd, 43rd, 44th, 48th, 49th, or 50th round you have a chance to make history, no Phillies' draftee from any of those rounds has put on a major league uniform.
The best player by round includes such luminaries as Michael Crotta (2003 - 47th), Paul Fletcher (1988 - 40th), Jose Flores (1994 - 34th) and Toby Borlan (1987 - 27th).
The top player to be taken after the 30th round? 31st round pick Bruce Ruffin in 1982, who went on to a 60-82 career as a pitcher.
In the 21-30th range, the best player is clearly the 1980 25th round pick - Darren Daulton. "Dutch" was a vital part of the 1993 World Series team, and ended up winning a ring his final season in Florida.
Perhaps the best later round for individual talent would be the 20th. The Phillies have had 8 players end up in the majors from that round, but no two better than Ryne Sandburg and Vince Coleman.
Sandburg had a short-stint with the Phillies before following manager Dallas Green to the Cubs, and ultimately the Hall-Of-Fame. Coleman ended up leading the NL in steals his first six seasons, with the Cardinals.
As you work into the teens, some names get a little more familiar (Chuck Knoblauch and Bobby Higginson - both 18th rounders, Casey Blake - 11th), while some were historical footnotes Mike Brumley (16th), Todd Frohwirth (13th), and Dave Rucker (19th). The 15th round has not been a great slot to be selected though, Geoff Geary made it out of the 1998 draft, but the other 45 players selected in that round were stuck in the minors at best.
As you enter the top 10 rounds, it is still hit-and-miss. Marlon Byrd is one of 6 10th-rounders to get to the majors, while Steve Jeltz and Ryan Madson are the top names from the 9th slot to don a top-level uniform.
The best 8th rounder was left-hander Chuck McElroy, who might be more famous for being the prototypical left-hander who tossed for 10 teams. Keith Moreland played 1,306 games to get the 7th round note.
The 6th and 5th round picks were pretty easy, Bob Boone and Ryan Howard. Boone played 2,264 games (2nd on the list), while Howard is well on his way to a Hall-Of-Fame career.
There is a dip in the 4th slot where while 14 players have played at least a game (30%), the most is by Jason Michaels, hardly an elite name. Michael Bourn, Dickie Noles, and George Vukovich also land here.
Unquestionably the worst drafting the Phillies have done is the 3rd round picks. Just 9 players (19%) have made the majors, and only Kim Batiste played in as many as 251 games.
Being a top 2 pick is still no guarantee to the Big Leagues however. Phillies 2nd round picks like Mike Schmidt, Jimmy Rollins, and Scott Rolen still have just a 44% historical chance of even playing one game in the majors.
Your odds improve to 2 out of 3 to make it as a top pick. Chad McConnell, Jeff Jackson, and Michael Biko who were stuck in the minors join names like Greg Luskinski, Cole Hamels, Brett Myers, and Pat Burrell who went onto solid-at-worst major league careers.
What lesson can be learned by all of these stats? It's awful hard to make the majors, let alone have a great career, but it can be done... as long as you're not the Phillies 3rd pick.
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