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Late can be great: Each team's lowest-drafted player

MLB.com @williamfleitch

The MLB Draft begins in a week. Understandably, we will focus on the first round, or even the first 10 rounds. But there's a reason the Draft goes 40 rounds: You have to populate your organization with players. Many -- most -- of those players will never reach the Majors, or even approach them. But the later rounds have had their hidden jewels. Albert Pujols went in the 13th round, Ryne Sandberg in the 20th, John Smoltz in the 22nd, and of course, Mike Piazza in the 62nd. There is always value to be added.

Thus, we look at the lowest-drafted player on every current team's active roster. The odds of making it to the big leagues are better if you're a first-round pick, obviously, but these players are proof that even if you're drafted late, there's still hope for you. The odds were deeply against these players. And yet here they are.

The MLB Draft begins in a week. Understandably, we will focus on the first round, or even the first 10 rounds. But there's a reason the Draft goes 40 rounds: You have to populate your organization with players. Many -- most -- of those players will never reach the Majors, or even approach them. But the later rounds have had their hidden jewels. Albert Pujols went in the 13th round, Ryne Sandberg in the 20th, John Smoltz in the 22nd, and of course, Mike Piazza in the 62nd. There is always value to be added.

Thus, we look at the lowest-drafted player on every current team's active roster. The odds of making it to the big leagues are better if you're a first-round pick, obviously, but these players are proof that even if you're drafted late, there's still hope for you. The odds were deeply against these players. And yet here they are.

:: 2018 Draft coverage ::

AMERICAN LEAGUE EAST

BLUE JAYS: John Axford, RHP

Drafted: 42nd round, 1,259th overall, 2005, Reds

Axford grew up in the Canadian province of Ontario and went to a high school that didn't have a baseball team. The Reds drafted him a year after he'd had Tommy John surgery, saw him pitch for Canisius College in Buffalo and decided, "Nope, never mind, we're not offering you a contract." After that, Axford spent a year selling cell phones in Canada before working his way back, signing with the Brewers in 2008. He now has 144 career saves and once finished ninth in Cy Young voting. And he's still bouncing around at 35.

ORIOLES: Brad Brach, RHP
Drafted: 42nd round, 1,275th overall, 2008, Padres

Like Axford (and many other players on this list), Brach was drafted in a round that no longer exists. A Jersey kid, Brach struggled his senior season at Monmouth University, leading to his fall in the Draft. He might just be the top bullpen arm at this season's trade deadline.

RAYS: Kevin Kiermaier, OF
Drafted: 31st round, 941st overall, 2010, Rays

Kiermaier was recruited to play football but chose baseball instead, playing at tiny Parkland College in Champaign, Ill. Three years later he was making his Major League debut in the 2013 Wild Card tiebreaker game.

Video: BOS@TB: Kiermaier robs Betts of extra bases in 1st

RED SOX: J.D. Martinez, OF
Drafted: 20th round, 611th overall, 2009, Astros

Martinez made a quick rise through the Astros organization, but struggled in the Majors, with Houston ultimately releasing him ... right after he'd changed his swing in a way that, today, makes him one of the best hitters in the Majors.

Video: Diamond Demo: J.D. Martinez's power swing

YANKEES: David Robertson, RHP
Drafted: 17th round, 524th overall, 2006, Yankees

Robertson came up with the Yankees, left to sign a four-year, $46 million contract with the White Sox in 2012, and then returned to the Yankees last July in a trade. He can be a free agent after this season.

AL CENTRAL

INDIANS: Rajai Davis, OF
Drafted: 38th round, 1,134th overall, 2001, Pirates

Davis is one of just a small number of players still around from the 2001 Draft. And we all know that he was nearly the hero in Game 7 of the 2016 World Series, belting a game-tying homer off Aroldis Chapman in the eighth inning.

ROYALS: Tim Hill, LHP
Drafted: 32nd round, 963rd overall, 2014, Royals

It's difficult to find a more unlikely, inspiring story than Hill's -- he was diagnosed with colon cancer the year after the Royals drafted him and had to undergo intense chemotherapy that caused him to lose 70 pounds. He worked his way all the way back, and now the submarining lefty is second on the team in appearances.

TIGERS: Mike Fiers, RHP
Drafted: 22nd round, 676th overall, 2009, Brewers

Fiers is one of the few pitchers to have thrown a no-hitter and an immaculate inning.

TWINS: Matt Magill, RHP
Drafted: 31st round, 937th overall, 2008, Dodgers

If Magill is sent down to Rochester, where he has already spent time this year, the selection here would be Logan Morrison, drafted 666th overall in 2005.

Video: CWS@DET: Santiago K's Hicks to strand a pair in 5th

WHITE SOX: Hector Santiago, LHP
Drafted: 30th round, 915th overall, 2006, White Sox

The White Sox traded Santiago in 2013 in a deal that also involved Adam Eaton, Tyler Skaggs and Mark Trumbo, but, two teams later, he's back.

AL WEST

ANGELS Martin Maldonado, C
Drafted: 27th round, 803rd overall, 2004, Angels

The Angels released him two years after drafting him ... and then traded back for him nearly 10 years later to the day; he'd win his first Gold Glove with them last year.

Video: TB@LAA: Maldonado smashes a solo homer to left-center

ASTROS: Tony Sipp, LHP
Drafted: 45th round, 1,333rd overall, 2004, Indians

Sipp had already been drafted twice before 2004, begging out each time before sticking around, working his way up to the bigs, rattling around with four teams and ultimately winning a World Series ring last year.

ATHLETICS: Ryan Dull, RHP
Drafted: 32nd round, 979th overall, 2012, A's

Perhaps inevitably, Dull has not had the most riveting career so far.

MARINERS: Chasen Bradford, RHP
Drafted: 35th round, 1,062nd overall, 2011, Mets

Bradford spent six years in the Minors for the Mets, finally made the bigs in 2017, was waived and subsequently grabbed by the Mariners.

RANGERS: Jake Diekman, LHP
Drafted: 30th round, 923rd overall, 2007, Phillies

Diekman went to a high school too small for a baseball team, so he played golf and mowed lawns before playing at a junior college, where the Phillies threw him a bone and drafted him in the 30th round. He gave up a chance to play at his local University of Nebraska and has now made nearly $8 million in the Majors.

NATIONAL LEAGUE EAST

BRAVES: Tyler Flowers, C
Drafted: 33rd round, 1,007th overall, 2005, Braves

Flowers is a great reminder that talent can come from out of nowhere and emerge at any time. Known most of his career as a power hitter with contact issues and severe defensive limitations, Flowers bounced around the Minors for a decade until mastering pitch framing at the same time his bat matured into that of a big league hitter. He's now one of the best catchers in baseball and one of the more unappreciated players in the game.

MARLINS: Justin Bour, 1B
Drafted: 25th round, 770th overall, 2009, Cubs

Bour is 6-foot-3 and 265 pounds with a picture-perfect left-handed power swing and had a dominant college career at George Mason. How in the world did it take him this long to be drafted?

Video: WSH@MIA: Bour clobbers a homer to dead center field

METS: Seth Lugo, RHP
Drafted: 34th round, 1,032nd overall, 2011, Mets

The pitcher with the notoriously intense spin rate on his curveball may have finally found his place in the Mets bullpen ... though he's been so good there, we might see him in the rotation again after all.

NATIONALS: Brandon Kintzler, RHP
Drafted: 40th round, 1,182nd overall, 2004, Padres

The Padres released Kintzler in 2006 and he bounced around the independent leagues for a half-decade before emerging with the Brewers. He has been a steady relief pitcher ever since.

PHILLIES: Drew Hutchison, RHP
Drafted: 15th round, 460th overall, 2009, Blue Jays

Hutchison is the youngest Opening Day starter in Blue Jays history.

NL CENTRAL

BREWERS: Brent Suter, LHP
Drafted: 31st round, 965th overall, 2012, Brewers

Suter was drafted out of Harvard, one of three members of the Brewers' current rotation to be taken in the ninth round or later.

CARDINALS: Luke Gregerson, RHP
Drafted: 28th round, 856th overall, 2006, Cardinals

Like many players on this list, Gregerson is a guy his original team made sure to get back after they drafted him and let him go.

CUBS: Carl Edwards Jr., RHP
Drafted: 48th round, 1,464th overall, 2011, Rangers

Considered too skinny to stick when drafted, Edwards went on to become the first African-American to pitch in a World Series game for the Cubs.

Video: MIA@CHC: Edwards Jr. K's Anderson, the side in 8th

PIRATES: Steven Brault, LHP
Drafted: 11th round, 339th overall, 2013, Orioles

Second on this list: David Freese, who had himself a moment despite being drafted in the ninth round.

REDS: Tony Cruz, C
Drafted: 26th round, 802nd overall, 2007, Cardinals

More proof that backup catcher is one of the loveliest, most secure jobs in the world.

NL WEST

D-BACKS: Jarrod Dyson, OF
Drafted: 50th round, 1,475th overall, 2006, Royals

One suspects someone with the game-changing speed and defensive prowess of Dyson would go a little higher in the Draft today -- and not just because the 50th round doesn't exist anymore.

Video: ARI@MIL: Dyson turns, leaps to rob a home run

DODGERS: Erik Goeddel, RHP
Drafted: 24th round, 722nd overall, 2010, Mets

The newest Dodger has been in three organizations in the past three months (and released by two of them).

GIANTS: Derek Holland, LHP
Drafted: 25th round, 748th overall, 2006, Rangers

Buster Posey and Madison Bumgarner were both top 10 picks, so the Giants are maybe not the best advertisement for the latter rounds of the Draft.

PADRES: Matt Strahm, LHP
Drafted: 21st round, 643rd overall, 2012, Royals

Strahm is one of the few Major League players from North Dakota. The best-ever player from North Dakota? Gotta be Roger Maris, right? (Even though he was born in Minnesota.)

ROCKIES: Mike Dunn, LHP
Drafted: 33rd round, 999th overall, 2004, Yankees

Dunn was drafted as an outfielder. One wonders where he might have gone if the Yankees had known he'd end up a lefty specialist.

Will Leitch is a columnist for MLB.com.