Draft day is comprised of players that fit into select categories. There are those that are sure fire first round picks that are to be selected within the first few overall picks, just as Bryce Harper and Kris Bryant were respectively. Then there are those that are selected just as high that end up being colossal busts (we’re looking at you, Matt Bush).
We also see players that end up dipping a little a la Max Scherzer and Jacoby Ellsbury but still end up playing pivotal roles for their organizations both present and past. While players selected in these early slots are generally expected to contribute almost instantaneously, players selected in later rounds generally aren’t expected to contribute to the degree that players selected with high picks are.
On the contrary, these players are practically exempt to the word bust. Instead, if these players excel, they are accredited as being draft steals. The MLB has no shortage of draft day steals and here we take a look at some of the most notable current MLB players that were draft day steals.
15. Albert Pujols – 13th Round, 402nd Overall
The thirty-six year old is viewed by most as being past his prime and highly overpaid. Both sentiments are hard to argue, especially the latter. However, while Pujols has declined ever since he decided to depart the St. Louis Cardinals for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in the 2011 offseason, he has still been able to provide a spark of offense for his ball club in the five years he has spent in the City of Angels. The former thirteenth round selection and 402nd pick overall hit 31 HRs, provided 119 RBIs and collected 159 hits in the 2016 season. Pujols is not only still a offensive spark plug sixteen years into his career; he is a sure fire hall of fame when he hangs up his cleats.
14. Edwin Encarnacion – 9th Round, 274th Overall
A ninth round pick in 2000 by the Texas Rangers, Encarnacion never played in the majors for the Rangers. Instead, he debuted in 2005 for the Cincinnati Reds. While Encarnacion spent 5 1/2 seasons in Cincinnati, he has spent the years since North of the Border with the Toronto Blue Jays. It’s with the Blue Jays where Encarnacion has really shined. Encarnacion has hit at least 34 dingers since the 2012 season. He has collected 100+ RBI seasons in four of the last five seasons and just came up short of the mark in 2014 when he collected 98 RBIs for the year. He has also made three all-star games during that span and has been an integral piece for the Blue Jays who sport one of the most intimidating “heart of the lineups” along with former AL MVP Josh Donaldson and slugger Jose Bautista.
13. Mookie Betts – 5th Round, 172nd Overall
Right fielder Mookie Betts fell to the fifth round where he was selected 172nd overall by the Boston Red Sox in the 2011 MLB Draft. Betts didn’t debut for the BoSox until 2014, but he has impressed since his promotion to the majors. Betts belted 31 jacks out of the park in the 2016 season opposed to the 18 he hit past the warning track in 2015. He also upped his RBI total from 77 to 113 and increased his SB total from 21 to 26. Perhaps most impressive was the bolstering of his average from .291 to .318 this season. Betts has only been around for a tad under 2 1/2 seasons, but he has certainly proven to be a steal for the Red Sox.
12. Corey Kluber – 4th Round, 134th Overall
The pitcher nicknamed “Klubot” was originally drafted in the forth round by the San Diego Padres in 2007; yet he never sported a Padres uni as he was dealt to the Cleveland Indians on July 31, 2010. Kluber debuted in 2011 for the Tribe but didn’t hit his stride until the 2014 season. In the 2014 campaign Kluber went 18-9 with a 2.44 ERA en route to claiming the 2014 AL Cy Young award. Kluber replicated his win total in 2016 as he once again went 18-9 with a 3.12 ERA. While he was unable to add some more hardware to his collection in reference to a Cy Young award, Kluber did reach his first All-Star game. Kluber has gone from an end of the rotation guy in 2012, to the ace of the Indians pitching staff.
11. Paul Goldschmidt – 8th Round, 246th Overall
The Arizona Diamondbacks’ first baseman and Wilmington, Delaware native fell to the eighth round in 2009 where the D’Backs swooped him up with the 246th overall pick. Despite playing on some dismal Arizona teams, Goldschmidt has been a sight for sore eyes for the 2001 World Series Champions. Goldschmidt has been selected as an all-star for four years running, has two Gold Gloves to his name (2013, 2015) and two Silver Slugger awards in the forenamed years as well. Goldschmidt’s best season came in 2013 when he hit a career-high 36 jacks and contributed 125 ribbys. Goldschmidt is not only a threat at the plate due to his hitting power, but he also has quite a pair of wheels on him as evidenced by his career-high 32 stolen bases in the 2016 MLB season.
10. Jake Arrieta – 5th Round, 159th Overall
A fifth-round pick of the Baltimore Orioles in 2010, Arrieta struggled during his tenure in Baltimore from 2010 to the first half of 2013. Arrieta was hard to watch in Baltimore as his season ERA was never better than 4.66. Yet, upon being traded to the Cubs, Arrieta has been a sight to marvel at. Arrieta has completely reinvented himself, most evident by his 2015 NL Cy Young award. In addition, Arrieta finished ninth in NL Cy Young voting in 2014 and collected his first trip to baseball’s mid-summer classic in 2016. Arrieta has been a dominant force for the Cubs posting a 2.52 ERA, a .720 win percentage with 54 victories and 21 losses and perhaps post impressive, has two no-hitters on his resume with one coming in 2015 against the Los Angeles Dodgers and one coming in 2016 against the Cincinnati Reds.
9. Ian Kinsler – 17th Round, 496th Overall
The current Detroit Tiger provided the Texas Rangers with quite the steal for the first eight years of his career (2006-2013). Texas may still miss him; Detroit is fortunate to have him. Kinsler found himself fall all the way to the seventeenth round in 2003 where the Rangers selected him four spots ahead of 500 with the 496th pick. Kinsler has been selected as an All-Star in 2008, 2010, 2012 and 2014 along with being a 30-30 cub member not once, but twice in 2009 and 2011. The 2016 season saw Kinsler more than double his HR output from the 2015 season as he upped his 11 HR total to 28. Kinsler boasts a career average of .277, 212 HRs, 787 RBIs and 211 SBs.
8. Anthony Rizzo – 6th Round, 204 Overall
A former sixth-round pick of the Boston Red Sox in 2007, Rizzo didn’t hit the big leagues until 2011 as a member of the San Diego Padres. One year later, Rizzo found himself on the Northside of Chicago as a member of the Chicago Cubs where he currently still plays. Rizzo has reached the All-Star game three years running with appearances in 2014, 2015 and 2016. He’s served as quite the power hitter for the Cubbies as he’s hit 30+ balls past the warning track for three straight years and has put together two straight 100+ RBI seasons. Rizzo has 134 HRs for his career, 738 hits, and 425 RBIs in the 751 games he has played. Rizzo looks to be a pivotal player for a number of years to come for the Cubs. Rizzo ended up being a steal, just not for the Red Sox.
7. Kyle Hendricks – 8th Round, 264th Overall
The former Ivy League attendee (Dartmouth University) obviously excelled in the classroom, yet baseball pundits didn’t necessarily think he’d excel on the diamond as evidenced by Hendricks dropping to the eighth round in the 2008 MLB Draft where he was selected by the Texas Rangers. Hendricks never played for the Rangers. Instead, he began his career with the Chicago Cubs in 2014. Hendricks has been in the majors for three years and makes up 1/3 of the Cubs three-headed monster at the top of the rotation along with Jake Arietta and Jon Lester. Hendricks has a career ERA of 2.92 in 3 seasons along with a 1.07 WHIP to go along with 7.7 strikeouts per 9 innings. The man who goes by the moniker of “the Professor”, appears to be as staunch on the diamond as he was in the classroom.
6. Jacob deGrom – 9th Round, 272nd Overall
“The deGrominator”, like Hendricks, is part of an impressive starting rotation in his own right as a member of the New York Mets with fellow pitchers Matt Harvey and Noah Syndergaard. The ninth round selection and Ormond Beach, Florida raised deGrom has been a key cog for the Queens, New York franchise since he debuted in 2014. deGrom has a career ERA of 2.74, he averages 9.2 strikeouts per 9 innings and sports a 1.095 WHIP. deGrom picked up the 2014 National League Rookie of the Year award in 2014 and added an All-Star appearance to his resume in 2015 as well. The twenty-year old may gotten his start in the majors a little late at the age of twenty-five; but it’s likely that he becomes a headache for batters in the batter’s box for years to come.
5. Daniel Murphy – 13th Round, 394th Overall
The former New York Met and current Washington National was selected in the thirteenth round with the 394th pick in the 2006 Draft. Murphy sported orange, white and blue from 2008 to 2015 in New York and traded those colors in for the red, white and navy blue of the Nationals in 2016. Murphy has shown that a change of scenery hasn’t reduced his output. Murphy contributed his highest HR and RBI total in the nation’s capital with 24 and 104 respectively. Murphy also hit a scorching red hot .347 from the plate. Murphy’s proven to be quite the snag for the Nats and quite the regret for the Mets. The two-time All-Star, “Murph” was also the 2015 NLCS MVP, showcasing a ridiculous .529 BA, while hitting 4 shots out the park and providing 6 RBIs.
4. Jose Bautista – 20th Round, 599th Overall
It’s hard to believe that Jose Bautista was originally drafted in 2000, where the Pittsburgh Pirates selected him in the twentieth round. Bautista didn’t debut in the majors until 2004, yet he didn’t seem to hit his stride until 2010 as a member of the Toronto Blue Jays. To put into perspective how much of an improvement Bautista made from the 2009 season to the 2010 season let’s take a look at the numbers. Bautista went from belting 13 HRs in 2009 to a MLB league leading 54 in 2010 and from collecting 40 RBIs to collecting 124. Bautista had been selected as an All-Star six years running from 2010 to 2015 prior to not making this season’s AL All-Star team. Bautista has also finished in the top ten in MVP voting in four seasons with his highest finish coming in 2010 where he placed third overall.
3. Yadier Molina – 4th Round, 113th Overall
The life-long St. Louis Cardinal was selected by the franchise in the 2000 MLB Draft where he was swooped up in the forth round. Molina, primarily recognized for his upper echelon defense as a Catcher has been a crucial key to the Cards success since he put on a Cardinals jersey. Molina not only won a Gold Glove from 2008-2015, but he picked up the prestigious honor of receiving the Platinum Glove Award, recognized for the best defensive player at their position in 2011, 2012, 2014 and 2015 as well. He also represented the National League in the All-Star game seven years straight from 2009-2015. Molina also finished forth in NL MVP voting in 2012 and third in 2013.
2. Matt Carpenter – 13th Round, 399th Overall
The Cardinals found themselves a gem when they selected Carpenter out of TCU with the 399th overall pick in 2009 in the thirteenth round. Carpenter has provided the Cards with three All-Star seasons in 2013, 2014 and 2016. Carpenter’s also seen himself garner NL MVP votes as he placed forth in 2013 and twelfth in 2015. In addition, Carpenter is a career .284 hitter and has showcased his infield versatility by playing 1B, 2B and 3B (his everyday position) for the Cardinals. Carpenter is not known for his power necessarily and is more of a player who knows how to get on base as opposed to hitting it out of the park. For instance, he led the league with 55 doubles in 2013 and was eleventh in triples with 7.
1. Sergio Romo – 28th Round, 852nd Overall
The San Francisco Giants reliever was taken in 2005 in the twenty-eighth round with the 852nd pick by the Bay Area ball club. He didn’t debut until 2008 and he has been a pivotal piece for the Giants bullpen ever since. He owns a career 2.58 ERA and 84 saves from 2008-2016. Romo’s made the All-Star game once in 2013, and has added World Series Rings in 2010, 2012 and 2014. His All-Star season was his most impressive statistically as he collected his highest save total with 38. Romo has quite the talent for fanning batters and having them staring at called strike threes as he averages 10.2 Ks per 9 innings. The thirty-three-year-old Brawley, California native has been one of the league’s most impressive relievers for close to a decade now.
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