The 2020 MLB Draft will be reduced to five rounds, rather than the usual 40 rounds, according to reports Friday, because of the financial impact caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
A shortened draft was inevitable, though there was a possibility this year’s draft could have been 10 rounds instead of five. Ultimately, according to reports, MLB and the players association had reservations about a proposed 10-round setup.
The decision to go five rounds could have major implications down the road as teams regularly find hidden gems later in the draft. Dodgers outfielder Mookie Betts, the 2018 AL MVP with the Red Sox, was selected in the fifth round of the 2011 draft, narrowly missing the cutoff for Sporting News’ list of the best active players drafted in the sixth through 10th rounds.
A look at the top eight players drafted in Rounds 6 through 10, ordered by their ranking in MLB.com’s list of the top 100 players:
Jacob deGrom, No. 8 (Ninth round, Mets, 2010)
DeGrom clearly stands out as the best of the recent players taken. The Mets probably didn’t expect to draft a soon-to-be starting pitcher in the ninth round, let alone an ace, but deGrom made his debut just four years later and was named NL Rookie of the Year that season. He has gone on to post a career 2.62 ERA and 35.5 bWAR. His win-loss record isn’t impressive, but that’s more on the Mets than him; he posted an MLB-best 1.70 ERA to win his first Cy Young award in 2018 and the racked up 255 strikeouts in 2019 to go back-to-back.
Marcus Semien, No. 30 (Sixth round, White Sox 2011)
Semien’s first six seasons in the majors were only so-so, especially for a player who was promoted just two seasons after being drafted. He posted a .249 batting average, 75 home runs and 12.9 WAR in two seasons with the White Sox and four with the Athletics. The Oakland shortstop finally broke out in 2019 with career-best numbers: a .285 batting average, 33 home runs, 92 RBIs, 123 runs scored and 8.1 WAR. Semien finished third in AL MVP voting last season.
Anthony Rizzo, No. 39 (Sixth round, Red Sox, 2007)
Rizzo never did play for the team that drafted him; Boston traded him San Diego in 2010. He made his debut with the Padres in 2011 and was traded to the Cubs the following offseason. The deal worked out all right for him. In eight seasons in Chicago, Rizzo has batted .277 with 217 home runs, 729 RBIs and 33.9 WAR. His best season came in 2016 when he hit .292 with 32 homers, 109 RBIs and 94 runs scored to help lead the Cubs to a drought-ending World Series championship.
Michael Brantley, No. 44 (Seventh round, Brewers, 2005)
Few left-handed hitters have wreaked havoc on the American League over the past decade the way Brantley has. The Indians called him up in 2009, a year after he was acquired from Milwaukee in the trade that sent CC Sabathia to the Brewers. He broke out in 2014, hitting .327 with 20 homers, 97 RBIs and 23 stolen bases. He finished third in AL MVP voting that year. Over the last three seasons between Cleveland and Houston, he has hit .307/.366/.476 with 48 homers, 224 runs scored, 218 RBIs and 10.9 WAR.
Paul Goldschmidt, No. 46 (Eighth round, Diamondbacks, 2009)
Goldschmidt’s .260/.346/.476 slash line last year in his first season with the Cardinals was his worst since his rookie season in 2011, but 33 homers and 97 RBIs at 31 years old are nothing to scoff at. Goldschmidt has consistently been one of the league’s best hitters since coming up with Arizona in 2011. In nine seasons, the first baseman has posted a .292 career batting average with 243 home runs, 807 RBIs and 43.1 WAR. Not bad for an eighth-round pick.
Justin Turner, No. 54 (Seventh round, Reds, 2006)
Health has been an issue for Turner in recent years, but his production has not. In six seasons with Los Angeles, he has posted a .302 batting average with 112 home runs, 383 RBIs, 394 runs scored and 27.5 WAR despite missing time with injuries in four of those seasons. He never played a game for the Reds, who traded him to the Orioles in 2008. He had three decent seasons with the Mets, who claimed him off waivers in 2010, before breaking out with the Dodgers in 2014.
Whit Merrifield, No. 56 (Ninth round, Royals, 2010)
Today’s baseball may be played primarily by pull-happy sluggers who hit dingers or strike out trying, but the Royals were able to find a quintessential leadoff man in Merrifield. He didn’t make his major league debut until he was 27, but he has been brilliant in his four seasons thus far: a .296/.344/.445 slash line, 107 stolen bases, 317 runs scored and 13.3 WAR. He has led MLB in hits in back-to-back seasons, with 192 in 2018 and 206 in 2019.
Mitch Garver, No. 89 (Ninth round, Twins, 2013)
Garver, 29, is just three seasons into his career, but he has already established himself as one of MLB’s best-hitting catchers. In just 93 games last season, he slugged 31 home runs to go with a .273/.365/.630 slash line, 67 RBIs and 4.1 WAR.
Notable players in MLB.com’s 100 drafted in the 11th round or later, or undrafted
J.D. Martinez, No. 27 (20th round, Astros, 2009)
Jeff McNeil, No. 49 (12th round, Mets, 2013)
Nelson Cruz, No. 51 (undrafted, Mets, 1998)
Tommy Pham, No. 68 (16th round, Cardinals, 2006)
Kirby Yates, No. 73 (undrafted, Rays, 2009)
Josh Hader, No. 74 (19th round, Orioles, 2012)
Ramon Laureano, No. 84 (16th round, Astros, 2014)
Joc Pederson, No. 98 (11th round, Dodgers, 2010)