James Rice was MLB Draft Pick #1525. The last pick of the draft, the last pick of the defending World Series champion New York Yankees.
When people look at the draft, they pay attention to the first three to four rounds, as that's obviously where the big names are. A cosmic dance between agents and players, agents and team officials. One trying to sign the most lucrative contract possible, while the other side building their roster for the future.
Those die-hards fans can probably name the best all-time number one picks: Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Hamilton, Joe Mauer, Ken Griffey Jr., Bryan Bullington (whoops), I mean Chipper Jones, and maybe Bryce Harper.
What about the other 49 rounds?
What about the player that scouts looked over or passed up because they did not meet a specific number on a scale that maxes out to 80?
What about those players that cross-checkers moved aside because they were too small or did not project to a five-tool or even a three-tool player?
Sometimes those late-round picks are the diamonds in the rough, the superstars that all teams want to find, the franchise player that can turn around an organization.
Nate McLouth, despite having a horrendous year (let us chalk that up to injuries) was one of those late-round surprises. How late? 25th round.
The Evil Empire plucked Mike Lowell, a cornerstone of the Red Sox since 2006, out of the 20th round in 1995.
Personally, I am not sure what Orlando Hudson has to do to become one of the poster boys of this game. Every year Hudson puts up numbers comparable to any second baseman in the game, and his defense ranks up with the best of the best, evidenced by four Rawlings Gold Gloves. Despite these numbers, Hudson has played for four different teams in his eight seasons, yet has made the playoffs with each team (assuming the Minnesota Twins make it) except the Toronto Blue Jays.
Where was he drafted? 43rd round, 1,280th overall by the Jays in 1997.
Finally, the best late-round pick ever is a 62nd rounder, or the 1,390th pick, quite possibly the most prolific power-hitting catcher of all-time: Mike Piazza.
That brings me back to James Rice.
It is well known that once the picks are completed, those players are assigned to their minor league teams. The player's dream is still is alive, but in the offices those players chosen in late rounds are simply selected to fill roster spots; plain and simple.
However, occasionally a blue-chipper is one of those fill-ins, proving all the naysayers wrong. Will James Rice, the Western Kentucky Hilltopper, become the next Ben Davis or the next Mike Piazza?
Odds are neither, but it is very fun watching how this all plays out.
This article can be found on The GM's Perspective