Friday, December 21, 2018

Who Was the Lowest Drafted Signee to Make the Majors?

Drafting in professional sports, as we all know, is an inexact science. History is littered with "can't-miss" prospects who did just that, and unheralded players who rose to stardom. The general trend, however, is in the direction of higher draft picks succeeding more often than lower ones.

The vast majority of players drafted in baseball never make it to the majors, and some choose not to play professional baseball at all. But of those late-rounders who ended up signing with the teams that drafted them, which ones actually defied the odds and made it to the big leagues?

That was the question on my mind when I compiled the following list. I went year by year to find out who the lowest drafted signee to make the majors was. There are some cases where a future major leaguer was drafted later than the player on the list, but he's disqualified because he didn't sign that year.

1965Otis ThorntonAstros68-0.2
1966Rusty TorresYankees54-0.5
1967Roger HambrightYankees670.0
1968Tim PlodinecCardinals33-0.1
1969Al CowensRoyals7515.3
1970Bake McBrideCardinals3722.7
1971Keith HernandezCardinals4260.4
1972Butch AlbertsPirates28-0.1
1973Eric RasmussenCardinals325.1
1974Bobby CuellarRangers290.2
1975LaRue WashingtonRangers23-0.2
1976Jay HowellReds3115.0
1977Neil FialaCardinals320.0
1978Vance LawPirates3910.6
1979Joel SkinnerPirates370.0
1980Walt TerrellRangers3310.7
1981Glen CookRangers24-1.2
1982Mike YorkYankees40-0.7
1983Joe KlinkMets360.6
1984Tom GillesYankees470.0
1985Rico RossyOrioles331.4
1986Doug LintonBlue Jays43-0.7
1987Jeff ConineRoyals5819.5
1988Mike PiazzaDodgers6259.6
1989Mike GarciaTigers55-0.6
1990Danny YoungAstros83-0.4
1991Charles GipsonMariners630.8
1992Anthony ChavezAngels500.4
1993Jason MaxwellCubs74-0.1
1994Jose SantiagoRoyals701.2
1995Gabe KaplerTigers578.7
1996Travis PhelpsDevil Rays890.8
1997Orlando HudsonBlue Jays4330.9
1998Scott AtchisonMariners493.5
1999Jason BottsRangers460.3
2000Anthony FerrariExpos440.0

As one quickly observes via the WAR column, most of these guys didn't have very noteworthy careers. Only eleven finished their careers with more than five wins above replacement, as many as finished with a negative value. Still, you have to hand it to these guys, proving every doubter wrong and outplaying the apparent better choices. One of them, Mike Piazza, is even in the Hall of Fame, and the WAR leader is Keith Hernandez, who has a good case of his own.

I stopped the list at 2000 because I wanted to give any late-drafted guys who might have a late-career major league debut a chance to get to the Show. I may update this thing in the future.

Since this'll probably be my last post of the year, I want to wish everyone a Merry Christmas!