Major League Baseball's best players selected after fifth round of amateur draft

Sure, some sports are back. But "sports" as we know them are largely still on pause due to the coronavirus pandemic. Today is Day 64 Without Sports ⚾️.

Major League Baseball’s decision to cut its amateur draft from 40 rounds to five was a cost-cutting measure the league deemed necessary during the coronavirus pandemic.

But along with it comes a lot of controversy about what will happen to the nearly 1,000 players who would've been drafted from a class that was considered one of the deepest in many years. Consider that 493 of the 1,082 players who appeared in a big-league game in 2019 were taken after the fifth round, according to the commissioner's office.

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In addition, several of the game's best all-time players weren't even taken in the first five rounds. These are the top 10 we simply can't imagine never having been drafted.

Five biggest steals

Mike Piazza strikes a pose for the camera in 1997.

Mike Piazza, Dodgers (Round 62, 1988) — Piazza is arguably the most valuable selection in draft history. The Hall of Fame catcher was drafted with the 1,390th pick and might have slid even further if Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda wasn't his godfather. Piazza's 427 career home runs are the most by a backstop in major-league history.

John Smoltz, Tigers (Round 22, 1985) — Smoltz spent almost two seasons in Detroit's minor-league system before being traded to the Braves for pitcher Doyle Alexander in August 1987. He went on to play 21 seasons — 20 with Atlanta, where he was part of a formidable pitching staff that included Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine and helped produce 14 division titles, five National League pennants and a World Series title.        

Jim Thome, Indians (Round 13, 1989) — Thome wasn't highly regarded coming out of Illinois Central College, and didn't even hit a home run during his first professional season in the minors. But over his 22-season career, Thome went on to become one of the best power hitters of his era by blasting 612 home runs, one of nine players in the game's history to surpass 600 homers.

Albert Pujols, Cardinals (Round 13, 1999) — Pujols wasted no time giving all those who passed on him headaches. In each of the first 10 years of his career he hit at least 30 homers, drove in at least 100 runs and batted at least .300. The 2020 season will be his 20th, and along the way he's racked up three MVP awards, two World Series titles and has hit more home runs than any other first baseman in major-league history. There's little doubt he'll be a first-ballot Hall of Fame selection.  

Nolan Ryan, Mets (Round 12, 1965) — A total of 225 players were drafted ahead of Ryan, who went on to become one of the best and fiercest pitchers of all-time. He played until he was 46 years old, a career that spanned 27 seasons and produced seven no-hitters (three more than any other pitcher) and a firm seat on the throne as baseball's career strikeout king. Oh, and let's not forget about that mean uppercut. (More on that later.)

Five more great grabs

Ryne Sandberg, Phillies (Round 20, 1978)  

Don Mattingly, Yankees (Round 19, 1979)

Andre Dawson, Expos (Round 11, 1975) 

Trevor Hoffman, Reds (Round 11, 1989)

Wade Boggs, Red Sox (Round 7, 1976)

Video of the day

About that Nolan Ryan uppercut ...

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What to watch

NFL: 1992 AFC wild-card game, "The Comeback", Houston Oilers at Buffalo Bills, NFL Network, 1 p.m. ET; 1986 regular-season game, New York Jets at Miami Dolphins, NFL Network, 2:30 p.m. ET; 2004 NFC division-round game, Green Bay Packers at Philadelphia Eagles, FS1, 8 p.m. ET.

MLB: 1975 World Series, Game 7, Cincinnati Reds at Boston Red Sox, MLB Network, 11 a.m. ET; 2019 season, Cubs at Cardinals, MLB Network, 5 p.m. ET; 2015 NLDS, Game 4, Cardinals at Cubs, MLB Network, 8 p.m. ET.

NHL: 2010 Eastern Conference Semifinals, Game 7, Philadelphia Flyers at Boston Bruins, NBC Sports, 6 p.m. ET    

Golf: 2017 PGA Championship, ESPN2, noon ET; 2014 PGA Championship, ESPN2, 2:30 p.m.

College football: 1991, Miami vs. Florida State, ESPNU, 1 p.m. ET; 2004 Orange Bowl, Florida State vs. Miami, ESPNU, 5 p.m. ET; 2002, Florida State vs. Miami, ESPN, 7 p.m. ET.

Day in history

2018 — The Supreme Court clears the way for states to legalize betting on sports.

1977 – Montreal Canadiens beat the Boston Bruins in overtime to conclude a four-game sweep in the Stanley Cup Final, winning the franchise’s second consecutive championship.

1913 – Walter Johnson of the Washington Senators has his scoreless-innings streak end at 56.

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