Bruce Sutter Captains All-Undrafted Team
Bruce Sutter is the only nondrafted free agent to make the Hall of Fame since the advent of the draft. (Photo by Focus On Sport/Getty)
The draft came to its conclusion on June 14 with the selections in the final 30 rounds of what is now a 40-round process every spring.
Some 1,215 were chosen by the 30 clubs, but the work of the amateur scouts isn’t over.
Now comes the real challenge. Now they start checking out the college summer leagues, looking for players who will emerge as coveted selections next June.
Along the way, they will come across a few chunks of coal with diamond potential, players who went undrafted but are eligible to sign.
It was in the summer of 1971 that the Cubs came across a righthander who had been a 21st-round draft pick of the Washington Senators one year earlier out of high school but had opted to attend Old Dominion instead of signing. Then he dropped out of school after his freshman year.
And in September 1971, the Cubs signed Bruce Sutter, who 35 years later became the only nondrafted free agent since the advent of the draft in 1965 to be enshrined in the Hall of Fame.
Make Sutter the captain of the all-undrafted team.
Closer: Bruce Sutter
He saved 300 games in his career, during which he was a six-time all-star and the National League Cy Young Award winner in 1979.
Starting pitcher: Danny Darwin
He wasn’t selected in the January 1976 draft, but after a dominant spring at Grayson County (Texas) JC, the Rangers signed him for $37,500 prior to the June draft that year. Darwin went on to win 171 games during a 21-year big league career highlighted by an ERA title in 1990, when he worked as a starter and reliever for the Astros.
First base: Kevin Millar
He went undrafted out of Lamar in 1993, leading him to sign with the independent St. Paul Saints. He hit just .260 that summer, but the expansion Marlins signed him because they needed bodies to fill their farm system. Millar embarked on a 12-year big league career in 1998, highlighted by his role on the World Series-champion 2004 Red Sox.
Second base: Frank White
He signed with the Royals in 1970 out of the organization’s experimental Baseball Academy, which developed good athletes without strong baseball backgrounds. White was in the big leagues three years later, embarking on an 18-year career in which he won eight Gold Gloves and made five all-star teams.
Third base: Toby Harrah
He was passed over in the 1966 draft because scouts assumed he was going to go to college. Phillies scout Tony Lucadello found out Harrah was working in a factory and signed him for $500. Harrah wound up playing 17 years in the big leagues and made four all-star teams, three times as a shortstop.
Shortstop: Larry Bowa
He couldn’t make his high school team but finally got a chance to play at Sacramento JC, where Phillies scout Eddie Bockman showed interest and signed Bowa for $2,000 in October 1965. He wound up spending 16 seasons in the big leagues, earning five all-star selections and two Gold Gloves. He led all shortstops in games played at the position (2,222) when he retired.
Outfield: Bobby Bonilla
He was undrafted out of Bronx (N.Y.) High in 1981, but Pirates executive Syd Thrift had seen Bonilla and signed him for $3,000. He went on to spend 16 years in the big leagues, earning six all-star selections and three Silver Slugger awards. He was the highest-paid player in the National League from 1992-94.
Outfield: Kevin Mitchell
Overlooked in the 1980 draft because scouts were concerned about his personality, Mitchell signed with the Mets in November 1980 on the recommendation of scout Harry Minor, who was fascinated with Mitchell’s athleticism. He wound up playing for eight teams in a 13-year career. Mitchell won the NL MVP award for the Giants in 1989 and earned two all-star selections.
Outfield: Dan Gladden
MiLB Top 10 Prospects Flashback: 1983 Carolina League
The Carolina League class of 1983 stands out for its breadth of talent, with five players who accumulated 10 or more WAR.
A native of San Jose who played at Fresno State, Gladden was never drafted but signed with the Giants for no bonus after pleading for a chance to play for their Class A Fresno affiliate. He played 11 seasons in the big leagues, hitting .270 and stealing 222 bases.