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Stars Can Be Found On MLB Draft's Final Day

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It’s no secret that most of baseball’s biggest stars were first-round picks. Even those passed over were largely drafted by the end of the top 10 rounds.

But there are still gems to be found in rounds 11-40, even if they are fewer and further between. Here’s a look at some of the top 11th- to 40th-rounders in the majors, and the hope they provide for the nearly 1,000 players who will be picked today.

 J.D. Martinez
20th round, 2009, Nova Southeastern (Fla.)

Why he fell: Corner bats from Division II schools aren’t exactly a desired demographic. Even though Martinez hit .428 with 15 homers, 57 RBIs and a 1.300 OPS for the Sharks in 2009—and evaluators saw it while watching his teammates Miles Mikolas and Mike Fiers pitch for Nova Southeastern—they couldn’t get past Martinez's profile and unorthodox swing. The Astros drafted and signed him for just $30,000.

What changed: Martinez added 20 pounds after signing to get even stronger and mashed immediately. He won the New York-Penn League batting title in his pro debut, won the South Atlantic League MVP award his first full season in 2010 and was in the majors the following year. Though he needed a swing makeover to succeed in the majors—and the Astros famously released him before giving him that chance—his long track record of hitting based on good natural timing eventually won out over any profile questions.

Lorenzo Cain
17th round, 2004, Madison County (Fla.) HS

Why he fell: Cain didn’t start playing baseball until the 10th grade and was understandably raw as result. Even the Brewers weren’t 100 percent convinced when they drafted him—they took Cain as a draft-and-follow and let him attend Tallahassee (Fla.) JC for a year before signing him.

What changed: Cain proved a quick study and was the Arizona League MVP in 2005 in his first professional season. Still, he wasn’t a fast mover—it took him six years to reach the majors—but the patience paid off, and that extended time in the minors allowed him to turn his raw athleticism into baseball skills.

Daniel Murphy
13th round, 2006, Jacksonville

Why he fell: Injuries and poor defense overshadowed Murphy’s excellent track record of hitting in college. Knee and arm injuries his junior year largely limited him to designated hitter duty, and his defense—then at third base—was poor. Those concerns kept Murphy from going in the top 10 rounds despite hitting .398 his junior year.

What changed: Murphy’s bat rendered those concerns moot. He ranked second in the Florida State League in hits in first full season in 2007, raced through Double-A and was in the majors by 2008. Above all else, the bat played.

Kevin Kiermaier
31st round, 2010, Parkland (Ill.) JC

Why he fell: Kiermaier won MVP of the Division II Junior College World Series in 2009 and had clubs interested, but teams were scared off by a perceived strong Purdue commitment. The Rays discovered otherwise and signed him for $75,000.

What changed: Not much. Kiemaier was identified immediately as a potential late-round steal with his performance, athleticism and work ethic. He did exactly what he was expected to do, playing excellent center field defense while developing as a hitter.

Russell Martin
17th round, 2002, Chipola (Fla.) JC

Why he fell: Martin starred for the Canadian junior national team as a teenager but was still out of sight for most clubs. Growing up playing suspect competition in Canada, followed by only two years of junior college ball, didn’t leave much track record for teams to go on.

What changed: Martin converted from third base to catcher and took to the position defensively. His development was still a slow burn — he didn’t play above A-ball until his fourth season as a professional — but he broke out in a big way as a 22-year-old in Double-A and began his track to a long big league career.

Matt Carpenter
13th round, 2009, Texas Christian

Why he fell: Carpenter was a fifth-year senior limited to a corner infield spot back at a time when TCU was a mid-major program playing in the Mountain West Conference. He hit .333 with 11 homers, 47 RBI and 13 stolen bases in his final year with the Horned Frogs, but concerns about his age, profile and competition level overshadowed that production. He signed for just $1,000.

What changed: Carpenter hit as he always did, producing high averages with double-digit home runs every year in the minors. He made his major league debut in 2011, solidified his roster spot in 2012 and has been one the Cardinals’ top players this decade.

Justin Bour
25th round, 2009, George Mason

Why he fell: A 250-pound, first-base only prospect from a mid-major is rarely in demand, even though Bour hit .339 with 17 home runs and 66 RBIs as a junior and led the Patriots to the NCAA Tournament.

What changed: Profile questions dogged Bour even after he got into pro ball—thus the Cubs leaving him exposed in the minor league portion of the Rule 5 draft—but he almost always performed. He had an OPS over .810 each of his first three full minor league seasons and was an all-star in both the high Class A Florida State League and Double-A Southern League. Bour continued to rake in Triple-A after the Marlins scooped him up in the Rule 5 draft, and eventually they couldn’t keep him down in the minors any longer.

Adam Eaton
19th round, 2010, Miami (Ohio)

Why he fell: Another mid-major star with profile questions, Eaton displayed some of the best tools in the Midwest in the 2010 draft class, but evaluators couldn’t get past his 5-foot-9 frame. He signed with the Diamondbacks for just $35,000.

What changed: Eaton’s big tools showed up immediately in pro ball, with his plus speed, above-average outfield defense and gifted natural feel to hit helping him rocket up the ladder. He hit .347 in the minors and reached the majors by the end of the 2012 season.

Robbie Ray
12th round, 2010, Brentwood (Tenn.) HS

Why he fell: Ray starred on the showcase circuit but was plagued by inconsistent velocity and performances the spring of his senior year. Even though he fell out of the top 10 rounds, the Nationals still gave him a $799,000 signing bonus—second-round money.

What changed: Ray proved the flashes he showed on the showcase circuit were more indicative of his talent level than his inconsistent spring, although he struggled with his control in the low minors. Ray made the necessary mechanical fixes, added velocity as he got stronger, and blossomed into the top two-rounds talent he was projected to be.

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Scooter Gennett
16th round, 2009, Sarasota (Fla.) HS

Why he fell: Gennett was considered a top five-rounds talent out of high school, but a strong commitment to Florida State scared teams off. The Brewers went well over slot and signed Gennett for $260,000 as a 16th-rounder.

What changed: Gennett’s polished bat was even better than its reputation, and the Brewers skipped him over Rookie ball and sent him straight to the Midwest League, rare for a high schooler. Gennett quickly showed the prognostications that said he was a third- to fifth-round talent were accurate and made many teams regret not going overslot to sign him.

Josh Hader
19th round, 2012, Old Mill HS, Millersville, Md.

Why he fell: Hader sat just 84-87 mph in high school and didn’t even have a Division I college commitment. Orioles scout Dean Albany convinced the team to draft Hader after a 13-strikeout complete game, but even though the O’s drafted him, they still weren’t sure whether to sign him. Only after Hader pitched well in a high school all-star game at Camden Yards after the draft did the Orioles offer him $40,000.

What changed: The Orioles player development staff helped Hader gain weight, straighten out his delivery and get on a long-toss program. Hader was throwing 89-94 mph by the fall of his draft year, and he struck out 48 in 28.2 innings in his pro debut. Hader kept adding strength and velocity, and the rest is history.

Kevin Pillar
32nd round, 2011, Cal State Dominguez Hills

Why he fell: Pillar hit. 329, .379 and .369 his final three years at Cal State Dominguez Hills—including an Division II-record 54-game hitting streak as a junior—and played a sterling defensive center field. But his lack of physicality and Division II pedigree cooled evaluators’ interest. Even the Blue Jays were hardly all-in—they gave Pillar just $1,000 as a senior sign.

What changed: Pillar kept playing a stellar defensive center field and immediately proved he could hit in pro ball. He won the Midwest League MVP award in his first full professional season in 2012, hit .307 between Double-A and Triple-A in 2013 and made his ML debut as a September callup that fall.

Tanner Roark
25th round, 2008, Illinois

Why he fell: Roark was Illinois’ Friday night starter as a junior but was ruled academically ineligible before his senior season and was dismissed from the school. He pitched that spring for the Southern Illinois Miners in the independent Frontier League before the Rangers drafted him.

What changed: The talent that made Roark one of the Big Ten Conference’s best starters and showed up quickly in pro ball. He went 10-0, 2.70 at high Class A Bakersfield and earned a promotion to Double-A in his first full professional season. Though Roark hit some speed bumps at the higher levels after being traded to the Nationals—he needed to repeat both Double-A and Triple-A—his stuff continued to tick up until he was touching 95-96 mph, and he reached the majors to stay in 2013.

And, of course, the all-timer: Albert Pujols.

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