First Pitch: Late Round Draft Picks Making it to the Majors

The other day in the history section of First Pitch, we noted that pitcher Paul Miller (1991-93) was a 53rd round pick of the Pittsburgh Pirates. That’s rare to hear about anyone making it after the 50th round. Obviously under the recent rules that wasn’t even possible. The draft now looks like it will be 20 rounds in the future, while it’s been 40 rounds since 2012 and was also capped at 50 rounds for a time.

Using that most recent cap of 40 rounds for the cutoff, I wanted to look at the players drafted after the 40th round, who signed that same year, and then eventually made it to the majors. There have been players who were drafted late out of high school or JUCO and didn’t sign, then moved up significantly in the draft as they got older. I’ll note those players separately below.

Here’s the all-time list of Pittsburgh Pirates draft picks after the 40th round, who made the majors (The amateur draft began in 1965):

1987: Paul Miller, 53rd round

1989: Mark Johnson, 42nd round

1992: Marc Wilkins, 47th round, Adrian Brown, 48th round

1996: Rob Mackowiak, 53rd round (pictured above, photo credit: Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

2001: Shane Youman, 43rd round

Here are the players who didn’t sign, but eventually made the majors:

1979: Mike Sharperson, 41st round

1991: Jim Brower, 56th round, Paul Wilson, 57th round (was eventually a 1st round pick)

1994: Brandon Larson, 46th round (eventually 1st round pick)

1996: Chris Capuano, 45th round

2003: Rhyne Hughes, 50th round

2007: Cameron Rupp, 43rd round

2008: Scott McGough, 46th round

2010: Connor Sadzeck, 45th round

As you could see, it’s rare that a team was able to sign and develop a draft pick taken after the 40th round. The Pirates signed just six of them who made the majors, including the impressive scouting job they did in 1992 when they scored future big leaguers in back-to-back rounds late in the draft.

As for the nine other picks who didn’t sign, that 1991 drafting in the 56th and 57th rounds really did a great job of identifying talent. I remember the Scott McGough pick being a bit disappointing for the draft fans because he was at Plum HS in Pittsburgh at that time. His big league career didn’t amount to much, so it wasn’t a big loss, but that’s as local as you can get and they couldn’t find a way to sign him. McGough actually pitched well in Japan last year, so his big league time might not be done.

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The Baseball Bunch, featuring Willie Stargell

THIS DATE IN PIRATES HISTORY

By John Dreker

Three former Pittsburgh Pirates born on this date including the man they called Scrap Iron. Plus one game of note from 133 years ago.

Phil Garner, infielder for the 1977-81 Pirates. The Pirates acquired Garner from the Oakland A’s in a nine-player deal on March 15, 1977. Prior to joining Pittsburgh, he had played two full seasons with the A’s and was named to the American League All-Star team during the 1976 season. He was the third overall pick in the 1971 amateur draft, one spot behind outfielder Robert Jones, who was picked by the Pirates second overall, and whose minor league career lasted just 34 games. Garner saw most of his time at third base for the Pirates in 1977, but he also played 50 games at second base and saw some time at shortstop as well. He played 153 games and hit .260 with 17 homers, 77 RBIs, 32 stolen bases, 35 doubles and 99 runs scored. The home run total, as well as his runs scored, doubles and RBIs were all career highs.

In 1978 Garner split his time evenly between second base and third base, playing 81 games at each spot (some games he played both positions). That year he had a .261 average and really liked the number sixty-six. He had 66 walks, 66 runs scored and 66 RBIs on the season. The 1979 season was obviously a special one for the Pirates and Garner did his part in helping the team get their fifth World Series title. He again split his time between 2B/3B and hit .293 with 76 runs scored and 59 RBIs in 150 games. In the playoffs he was even better, hitting .417 with a home run in the NLCS against the Reds and .500 in the World Series, with five RBIs against the Orioles. In 1980, he became the Pirates regular second baseman, playing 151 games at the spot and making his second All-Star team.

In 1981, Garner was hitting nearly .300 through the end of May, but as the strike deadline approached he began to slump and his poor hitting continued through the month of August after the players returned from the 49-day strike. Luckily for Garner, the All-Star game was held right after the strike ended so he was able to make the team for a third time in his career. On August 31, 1981, the Pirates traded Garner to the Houston Astros in exchange for pitcher Randy Niemann, minor leaguer Kevin Houston and another minor league player, who went right to Pittsburgh to fill Garner’s spot at second base. That player turned out to be Johnny Ray, who made his Major League debut just two days later. Garner ended up playing in the majors until 1988, finishing his career with a .260 average, 738 RBIs, 225 stolen bases and 780 runs scored in 1,680 games. After retiring as a player, he managed for 15 seasons in the majors.

Jeff Reboulet, infielder for the 2003 Pirates. Prior to signing with Pittsburgh as a free agent on April 18, 2003, Reboulet had played 11 seasons in the majors, spending time with four different teams. He had played over 900 games at that point and had seen action in over 230 games at three different positions, second base, shortstop and third base. In 2002, Reboulet played 38 games for the Dodgers, hitting .208 with two RBIs in 58 plate appearances. He also saw his first action in the minors since July of 1992. The Pirates started him out in the minors, recalling him in mid-May. He played 93 games for Pittsburgh, spending most of his time at second base, where he played 76 games. He hit .241 with 25 RBIs and 37 runs scored in 299 plate appearances. He retired from baseball after 2003 with a .240 career average in 1,018 games.

Tony Brottem, catcher for the 1921 Pirates. During Spring Training of 1921, the Pirates thought Brottem was going to be a member of their team but the commissioner of baseball, Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis stepped in and awarded his rights to the Washington Senators. He had trained with the Pirates prior to the decision by Landis. On June 29th, the Pirates purchased Brottem from the Senators after he played just four games over the first two full months of the season. For Pittsburgh, he played 30 games, starting 25 behind the plate and he batted .242 with nine RBIs. That would end up being his last season in the majors and sadly, his career had a tragic ending. After playing four seasons (1922-25) for the Louisville Colonels of the American Association, records of Brottem’s playing days are spotty but it is known that in 1929 he played for the Daytona Aviators of the Central League. Just two weeks after being released, and believing his baseball career was over, Brottem committed suicide on August 5, 1929. Prior to 1921, his Major League career consisted of 28 games for the 1916-18 St Louis Cardinals.

On this date in 1887, the Pittsburgh Pirates (then known as the Alleghenys) played their first National League game. For five seasons, the franchise played in the American Association, which was a rival Major League to the NL at the time. The Alleghenys switched leagues for the 1887 season and opened up against the Chicago White Stockings (now the Cubs). The Alleghenys played at Recreation Park and 10,000 fans showed up for that first NL game to see Pittsburgh take a 6-2 victory. The starting pitchers were a pair of 300-game winners, Pud Galvin (Alleghenys) and John Clarkson.

John started working at Pirates Prospects in 2009, but his connection to the Pittsburgh Pirates started exactly 100 years earlier when Dots Miller debuted for the 1909 World Series champions. John was born in Kearny, NJ, two blocks from the house where Dots Miller grew up. From that hometown hero connection came a love of Pirates history, as well as the sport of baseball.

When he didn't make it as a lefty pitcher with an 80+ MPH fastball and a slider that needed work, John turned to covering the game, eventually focusing in on the prospects side, where his interest was pushed by the big league team being below .500 for so long. John has covered the minors in some form since the 2002 season, and leads the draft and international coverage on Pirates Prospects. He writes daily on Pittsburgh Baseball History, when he's not covering the entire system daily throughout the entire year on Pirates Prospects.

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