After breaking down baseball's biggest busts since 2000, it only felt right to determine each team's best draft-day steal over the last 20 years.
With first-round picks completely off the table, here's a look at who we selected for every American League team. Stats are taken only from the player's performance with the team that drafted him. The National League edition will be published Saturday.
32nd round (979th overall) in 2011
The Blue Jays haven't exactly struck late-round gold in the draft over the last 20 or so years, but even if Pillar proved to be a frustrating hitter with outstanding defensive skills, snagging him 21 picks shy of the 1,000th selection in 2011 is a remarkable win. Dubbed "Superman" by Blue Jays fans for his stunning diving catches, Pillar never won a Gold Glove but probably should have at his peak.
3rd round (85th) in 2006
While Britton didn't stick in the rotation after a few bumpy seasons, he found his true calling as one of the best relievers in baseball from 2014-17. The ground-ball machine converted an AL record 60 consecutive save opportunities during this time, with his peak coming during an otherworldly 2016 when he posted a 0.54 ERA across 67 innings.
The Orioles had a couple later picks in subsequent years emerge into eventual stardom, too, but they happened to find success with different teams. Jake Arrieta was the Orioles' fifth-round selection in 2007 while current Brewers closer Josh Hader was taken by Baltimore in the 19th round in 2012.
16th round (466th) in 2000
While his more recent - and more disastrous - tenure with the Padres is fresher in everybody's mind, Shields was a key piece to the rotation that took the Rays to the 2008 World Series. He went 14-8 with a 3.56 ERA that season and was the winning pitcher in the franchise's only World Series victory. He finished third in Cy Young voting in 2011 and ended his tenure in Tampa as a picture of durable effectiveness, throwing more than 200 innings in six consecutive seasons.
The Rays have made a habit out of finding great value late in drafts. While Shields is our selection, there is an excellent case to be made for Kevin Kiermaier, who was a 31st-round pick in 2010 (941st).
5th round (172nd) in 2011
While the likes of Kevin Youkilis certainly outperformed his draft slot, Betts became part of an extremely exclusive group of elite players during his time with Boston. A four-time All-Star, Betts won the 2018 AL MVP, four Gold Gloves, a batting title, and a World Series championship before being dealt to the Dodgers. With the benefit of hindsight, it's insane to think 171 players were selected ahead of him. Remember, this was the year Boston had three top-60 picks and took Matt Barnes, Blake Swihart, and Henry Owens.
17th round (524th) in 2006
This came down to Robertson and Dellin Betances. While Betances is probably the more exciting name, Robertson was just as effective in the bullpen, did it longer, and was taken nine rounds later. Although Robertson left the Bronx to become a frontline closer for the White Sox (84 saves, 3.28 ERA), he was at his best as a bridge to various Yankees closers.
23rd round (698th) in 2011
It might be easy to forget how dominant Allen was given the last two campaigns. However, after becoming the team's primary closer in 2014 until 2017, Allen was one of three relievers with at least 250 innings pitched and 120 saves, joined only by Robertson and Kenley Jansen. While Andrew Miller's contributions to the Indians were incredible during their pennant run, Allen is an unforgettable cog in the 2016 club that came so close to a title, memorably pitching two scoreless innings in that ill-fated Game 7. Not bad for hearing your name called after 697 others.
10th round (306th) in 2007
While second baseman Whit Merrifield is worthy of consideration, he didn't come into his own as a major leaguer until fairly recently, and it's easy for people outside Kansas City to forget just how important Holland was in the Royals' bullpen. Though he was injured for the Royals' 2015 run to a championship, Holland was a key contributor for years before he got hurt. In particular, he posted a 1.32 ERA and 93 saves across 129 1/3 innings in his two All-Star seasons (2013-14).
3rd round (80th) in 2002
Compared to others on this list, Granderson didn't really plummet that far in the draft. But every team that passed on him - except for the Royals, who took Zack Greinke sixth overall - would likely rather have had Granderson. The outfielder called it quits this past winter, ending a storied 16-year career spent on seven different teams. While he wasn't good enough for enshrinement into Cooperstown, the three-time All-Star was so well-liked he's likely not a one-and-done, either.
8th round (252nd) in 2009
Since 2000, Dozier is third among all Minnesota position players with 22.5 WAR, trailing only first overall draft pick Joe Mauer and Twins legend Torii Hunter. Dozier rarely hit for a high batting average, but when he made contact, it counted. He hit more home runs and stole more bases than anyone else in a Twins uniform over the last decade. The 2009 draft is rightly remembered as the year the Angels took Mike Trout, but Dozier was just one of several stars who dropped.
30th round (915th) in 2006
Landing Santiago in the 30th round isn't going to get any rival scouts fired, but finding even a one-time All-Star that low is definitely a steal. Chicago couldn't give up on him, either, bringing him back on two different occasions for three total stints with the club. The lefty had one noteworthy season when, in 2013, he authored a 3.56 ERA over 149 innings. Santiago was the team's third-best player that year behind Chris Sale and Jose Quintana, according to Baseball Reference WAR.
10th round (294th) in 2002
Kendrick has had a late-career surge, memorably winning NLCS MVP en route to a 2019 World Series victory with the Nationals. However, before that, Kendrick established himself as one of the most reliable second basemen in baseball. In his final four seasons with the Angels, Kendrick hit .291 while amassing 14.5 WAR and receiving downballot MVP votes in 2014.
7th round (221st) in 2009
Keuchel simply isn't sculpted the way modern scouts prefer. In his final year with the University of Arkansas, the left-hander owned a 3.92 ERA over 108 innings, allowing more than one hit per inning while posting a ho-hum 5.75 K/9. Well, Keuchel proved them all wrong, winning the AL Cy Young in 2015 and finishing fifth in MVP voting. The two-time All-Star has other hardware to accompany his Cy Young on the mantel, as it's likely flanked by his four Gold Glove Awards.
24th round (727th) in 2004
Braden's career was not especially long but it certainly was storied. When a team makes a 24th-round selection, "future perfect game thrower" is not a term that jumps to mind. However, the A's left-hander threw the 19th perfecto in MLB history on Mother's Day of 2010. To make matters even more poetic, Braden's grandmother, who raised the pitcher after his mother died of cancer, was in attendance for the historic contest.
4th round (132nd) in 2010
There's an old adage in scouting: Draft hitters from the south and pitchers from the north. The theory goes, regular reps help develop hitters while colder weather prevents pitchers from throwing year round and burning out their arm. Well, the Mariners executed it perfectly in 2010, selecting a lefty from Canada. Injuries have hobbled Paxton throughout his career but, when pitching, he's among the best in the league, as evidenced by his stellar no-hitter against the Blue Jays in 2018. He racked up 16 strikeouts despite needing fewer than 100 pitches in Toronto.
17th round (496th) in 2003
Before being shipped out of town in exchange for Prince Fielder, Kinsler was considered one of the faces of the Rangers' franchise. It didn't take long for the now-retired second baseman to earn a positive reputation in Texas, either. Less than three years after being selected in the 17th round, Kinsler was on the major-league roster and received AL Rookie of the Year votes. Ultimately, Kinsler retired a four-time All-Star and two-time Gold Glove winner who left the Rangers with a 111 OPS+.
(WAR source: FanGraphs)