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Top Nine Best MLB Draft Longshots

Mike Piazza's new book, Longshot, a memoir that discusses his journey from Pennsylvania schoolboy to perhaps the best offensive catcher in MLB history and all the rises and falls in between, hit the shelves last Tuesday in bookstores and at online retailers nationwide.

There have been a lot of hints, allegations, and things left unsaid about Piazza's career, but one thing that is true about him is that he was a 62nd round draft pick by the Dodgers in 1988, taken as a favor from then-Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda to his childhood friend, Mike's father, Vince.

The MLB Draft has shrunk from 100 rounds down to 50 these days, but there are still plenty of players like Piazza who were taken ridiculously late and ended up worth the longshot -- and these nine below are living proof that those late-round picks aren't always just roster filler.

  • OF MARVIN BENARD (1992, 50th round)
    The Giants took Benard out of Lewis-Clark State College, and he ended up being one of their starting outfielders for most of nine seasons. His best? 1999, when he posted a .290-16-64 line with 27 steals, 100 runs, and an OPS of .816 in 149 games.
  • IF/OF JEFF CONINE (1987, 58th round)
    Conine was the 1,225th overall pick by the Royals in 1987 and went on to hit .285 with two All-Star appearances in a 17-year career. And, five years after he was picked by Kansas City, he moved up 1,203 spots in his next eligible draft: the 1992 Expansion Draft.
  • OF GABE KAPLER (1995, 57th round)
    Taken as a third baseman by the Tigers, Kapler converted to the outfield in the Minors, and while he was never an All-Star, he was a career .268 hitter and one of those "glue guys" on the 2004 Red Sox team that broke the Curse of the Bambino.
  • 2B MARCUS GILES (1997, 53rd round)
    You may better know him as "Brian's younger brother," but the junior Giles rewarded the Braves' faith with six solid seasons as their starting second baseman. Later, he got to play with his brother, finishing out his MLB career alongside Brian on the 1997 Padres.
  • P KYLE FARNSWORTH (1995, 49th round)
    When the Cubs took Farnsworth out of high school in 1994, they hoped he could be a top of the rotation starter; that didn't pan out, but he has carved out a 13-year (and counting) MLB career as a late-inning reliever and wearer of some pretty awesome Rec-Specs.
  • P HEATH BELL (1997, 69th round)
    You know Bell as the closer for the Padres, Marlins, and now Diamondbacks, but 16 years and 154 saves ago, the Rays actually drafted him as a shortstop. That's not a typo: The same Heath Bell who runs 6-foot-2, 260 pounds and looks like a linebacker was once a shortstop.
  • C BRAD AUSMUS (1987, 48th round)
    The Yankees took a flier on local boy Ausmus in 1987, and the Cheshire, Conn. native turned that into an 18-year MLB career that included three Gold Gloves, one All-Star appearance, and the anecdote that in 1996, he was traded from San Diego to Detroit for another famous Yankees catcher: John Flaherty.
  • OF AL COWENS (1969, 75th round)
    These days, the 1,026th overall pick comes much earlier, but when the Royals took California prep star Cowens there in 1969, he was a 75th round pick. All Cowens did was spend 13 years in the Majors with four teams, hitting .270 and finishing second in the 1977 AL MVP race to some dude named Carew.
  • C MIKE PIAZZA (1988, 62nd round)
    Since you knew he'd be No. 1, here's a fun fact about the Dodgers and the 1988 Draft: they got both Piazza and Eric Karros (sixth round), but their top overall pick, pitcher Bill Bene, was the only player drafted in the top 5 overall that year who never made the Majors.
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