The MLB Draft came to its conclusion on Wednesday with the selections in the final 30 rounds of what is now a 40-round process every June.The work of the amateur scouts, however, isn't over.:: 2017 MLB Draft coverage ::Now comes the real challenge. Now they start checking out the summer
The MLB Draft came to its conclusion on Wednesday with the selections in the final 30 rounds of what is now a 40-round process every June.
The work of the amateur scouts, however, isn't over.
:: 2017 MLB Draft coverage ::
Now comes the real challenge. Now they start checking out the 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 right-handed pitcher who had been a 21st-round Draft choice of the Washington Senators one year earlier out of high school but had opted to attend Old Dominion instead of signing, then dropped out of school after his freshman year.
And in September 1971, the Cubs signed Bruce Sutter, who 35 years later became the only non-drafted signee since the advent of the MLB Draft in 1965 to be enshrined in the Hall of Fame.
Make Sutter the captain of the All-Undrafted Team.
Closer: Sutter saved 300 games in his career, during which he was a six-time All-Star, was selected the National League Cy Young Award winner in 1979 and received NL MVP votes six times.
Starting pitcher: Danny Darwin wasn't selected in the January 1976 Draft, but after a dominant spring at Grayson County (Texas) College, he caught the attention of the Rangers, who stepped up with a $37,500 bonus to sign him prior to the June Draft that year. Darwin went on to win 171 big league games during a 21-year career highlighted by a 1990 season in which he split time between the Astros' rotation (17 starts) and bullpen (31 appearances) to work 162 2/3 innings, win an NL ERA title (2.21) and go 11-4 with two saves.
First base: Kevin Millar went undrafted when he came out of Lamar University in the spring of 1993, leading him to sign with the independent St. Paul Saints so he could continue to play baseball. He hit only .260 that summer, but the expansion Florida Marlins needed bodies to fill out their Minor League system, purchased his contract and sent him to Class A Kane County to start a four-year journey through the Minors that eventually brought him to the big leagues and the start of a 12-year career highlighted by his leadership role on the 2004 Red Sox, who ended the 86-year Curse of the Bambino with the team's first World Series championship since 1918.
Second base: Frank White was a product of an experimental Baseball Academy created by the Kansas City Royals and was designed to take good athletes without a strong baseball background and develop them into big leaguers. Signed by the Royals in July 1970, White was in the big leagues three years later, embarking on an 18-year career with the Royals in which he won eight Gold Gloves, was a five-time All-Star and hit cleanup for the World Series champion Royals in the 1985 Fall Classic.
Third base: Toby Harrah was passed over in the 1966 Draft because scouts assumed he was going to go to college. Phillies scout Tony Lucadello, however, found out Harrah was working in a factory and signed him for $500. Harrah wound up playing 17 years in the big leagues -- 2,155 games, ranking 165th on the all-time list. A five-time All-Star who also saw regular duty at shortstop and second base, Harrah hit .264 with 195 home runs and 918 RBIs.
Shortstop: Larry Bowa couldn't make his high school team in Sacramento but finally got a chance to play at Sacramento City College, where one scout, Eddie Bockman of the Phillies, showed interest and eventually signed Bowa for a $2,000 bonus in October 1965. Bowa wound up spending 16 seasons in the big leagues, earning five All-Star selections and two Gold Gloves. At the time of his retirement, he was the all-time leader in games played at shortstop (2,222) and had the NL career fielding percentage record at shortstop (.980).
Outfield: Bobby Bonilla was undrafted out of Bronx (N.Y.) High School in June 1981, but Pirates executive Syd Thrift had seen Bonilla and liked what he saw enough that he signed Bonilla for $3,000. Bonilla went on to spend 16 years in the big leagues, earning six All-Star selections and winning three Silver Slugger Awards. He was the highest-paid player in the NL from 1992-94.
Outfield: Kevin Mitchell was overlooked in the 1980 Draft, with scouts concerned about his personality. Mets scout Harry Minor, however, was fascinated with the athleticism of Mitchell and eventually signed him as an undrafted player in November 1980. Mitchell wound up playing with eight teams over a 13-year career shortened by non-playing issues, but he was the NL Most Valuable Player Award winner with the Giants in 1989 and earned two All-Star selections.
Outfield: Dan Gladden, a native of San Jose, Calif., who played for high-profile baseball programs at DeAnza College and Fresno State, was never drafted but signed with the Giants without a signing bonus after pleading with the NL team to give him a chance to play for its Class A affiliate in Fresno. He played 11 seasons in the big leagues, hitting .270 and stealing 222 bases, becoming a core member of Twins teams that won the World Series in 1987 and '91.
Tracy Ringolsby is a columnist for MLB.com.