Mike Piazza, John Smoltz, Dusty Baker, Roy Oswalt, Andy Pettitte, Jorge Posada, Keith Hernandez. What do these names have in common? A) They were/still are MLB stars, and B) they were all drafted after the 21st round.
This is mentioned because Oregon outfielder Brett Thomas was taken in the 21st round by the Seattle Mariners yesterday, which is a pretty big fall for the 318th-ranked player on Baseball America‘s top 500 draft prospects list (Conor Glassey expected him to go off the board somewhere in rounds 8-12).
While it’s disappointing that Thomas was drafted so low, it’s really not that big of a deal. Great MLB players, like the ones mentioned above, have been selected in lower rounds than Thomas (Piazza was a 62nd-round pick), so a major-league career from Thomas would not be unprecedented. The key thing is that he was drafted, and he’ll have just as many opportunities to make the big leagues as any other minor leaguer.
Thomas ended up as the last Duck taken. The St. Louis Cardinals selected shortstop J.J. Altobelli in the 18th round (the 545th overall pick), and pitcher Christian Jones was taken by the San Francisco Giants just seven picks later.
The Cardinals are one of the best organizations at developing young players, so Altobelli is already a step ahead of other draftees. As long as his defense remains elite, he only has to be a decent hitter to make some noise in pro ball.
Jones’ arm injury before the 2012 season is the only reason he wasn’t drafted in the top 10 rounds. He has a ton of talent and bounced back nicely this season, plus he’s going to a weak farm system. An ascent to the major leagues would be an incredible story for the lefty. Keep an eye on him, Hollywood.