You may know about Mr. Irrelevant, the last pick of the NFL Draft. The idea being that he is the equivalent of the last person picked on the playground, doomed to be an afterthought. Of course, even the last person picked in a professional draft is still far more talented than you, me, or almost anyone else on the planet. And, indeed, some Mr. Irrelevant picks have gone on to have good careers.
But what of baseball? After all, until very recently the MLB Draft was hilariously long. In fact, at one point there was no set ending. Even once more structure was added, it could still last 40 rounds. Only recently has it truly been downsized, going all the way down to five rounds in 2020 for COVID/labor reasoning before being increased again somewhat to 20 in 2021.
That, as well as the fact that all but the very best of prospects must spend at least some time in the minors, mean many baseball Mr. Irrelevants never even played professionally. But of those who did, who did the best? Given that this year’s draft is currently in full swing, I have a rundown under the jump:
First off, a note: I’m not going to list every Mr. Irrelevant. I’m only going to include those that are historically significant, otherwise notable, or who actually played professionally after signing with the team that drafted them as Mr. Irrelevant. In addition, I’m only going to go with the traditional June draft, not any of the other drafts that once existed or still exist.
Here we go:
- The very first Mr. Irrelevant in MLB history was Reggie Thomas, picked as the lone selection in the 72nd round of the inaugural 1965 June draft, 824th overall. He ended up having a pretty good minor league career, playing primarily outfield while slashing .270/.391/.413 in 2854 career plate appearances across various levels. Perhaps his biggest claim to fame is being a member of the independent Portland Mavericks that were the subject of the documentary The Battered Bastards of Baseball.
- 1966’s Mr. Irrelevant also ended up having a long baseball career. Infielder Matt Galante was picked in the 63rd round as 833rd overall by the Yankees. After 8 seasons in the minors (including several at AAA), he became a scout, coach, and manager. In 1999 he briefly was acting manager of the Astros when Larry Dierker was out with an illness. During his time in the Astros organization, he helped Craig Biggio transition from catcher to second base, for which he was given a shoutout in Biggio’s Hall of Fame speech. He also managed the 2006 Italian team in the World Baseball Classic.
- The first Mr. Irrelevant who didn’t end up having a long baseball career was 1967’s Donald Van Deusen. Taken by the Yankees in the 77th round (975th overall), the middle infielder played two years in the low minors before his career came to an end.
- The first Mr. Irrelevant to not sign and never have a professional career was 1968’s Carl Amendola, taken by the Dodgers in the 71st round (913th overall).
- James Beal (90th round and 1044th overall in 1969) would be the first Mr. Irrelevant to not sign with the team that drafted him only to play later. Instead of signing with the Royals, he went to college and was drafted again by the Cardinals in 1973. He never got above A-ball but did play in Mexico in 1975.
- After a few years of Mr. Irrelevant not signing, Carl Wesley signed with the Giants after being drafted with the only pick of the 46th round (761st overall) in 1972. The outfielder out of East Texas Baptist University failed to reach base in any of his 10 plate appearances as a pro.
- Pitcher Bertram Francks was drafted by the Cardinals as the second (and final) pick of the 52nd round of the 1973 draft (747th overall). He went 2-4 with a 2.66 ERA in 13 games (including seven starts) with the Cardinals Gulf Coast League team. Which isn’t bad, but clearly it wasn’t good enough because he never played a professional game after that.
- Ron Degrande was the second (and final) pick of the 41st round of the 1974 draft (689th overall). Selected by the Orioles, he had four plate appearances with Bluefield, never reaching base and striking out twice.
- Al Arthur was drafted by the Twins with the second (and final) pick of the 37th round of the 1975 draft (679th overall). A relief pitcher, he played parts of three seasons, finishing with three games in AAA Tacoma in 1977.
- With the only pick of the 44th round of the 1980 draft (832nd overall), Cleveland selected infielder Shanie Dugas. Dugas actually had a pretty good career, getting high enough to play seven seasons of AAA baseball while being named to three all-star teams before going into the oil business.
- With the only pick of the 44th round of the 1981 draft (853rd overall), San Francisco selected pitcher Mark Winters. He pitched for parts of four seasons but ultimately couldn’t get past A-ball. There is an umpire named Mark Winters who has worked college and international games, but they do not appear to be the same person.
- With the only pick of the 47th round of the 1982 draft (832nd overall), the Yankees selected infielder Bob Woodcock. Woodcock would play 33 games with Oneonta, hitting .173 before presumably being released.
- The lone selection of the 51st round of the 1984 draft (839th overall) was Don Wakamatsu. He didn’t sign with the Yankees that year and thus I don’t consider him a true contender for greatest Mr. Irrelevant, but he is notable for being the first player picked with the final selection to actually make it to the majors.
- We’d be remiss if we didn’t mention the 1988 draft, which famously saw Mike Piazza get drafted in the 62nd round (1390th overall) by the Dodgers simply as a favor because Tommy Lasorda was a longtime friend of Mike’s father. The Mr. Irrelevant that year was Robert LeFebre, drafted by the Yankees with the lone pick of the 75th round (1433rd overall). He never signed.
- With the lone pick of the 87th round (1490th overall) of the 1989 draft, the Astros selected Desi Wilson. Wilson didn’t sign with them but did sign with Texas after being taken in the 1991 draft, eventually appearing in 41 games with the Giants in 1996. While he’s not eligible for being the greatest Mr. Irrelevant, he is notable for being an MLB player who was at one point Mr. Irrelevant.
- In 1998, the draft was finally given a hard limit as far as rounds with 50. This was a good thing because the unlimited nature of the draft before then had been causing them to run longer and longer (the 1997 draft, for example, ended in the 92nd round). This didn’t allow us to have our first signed Mr. Irrelevant since 1982, however, as Lucas Gruner (15th pick of round 50, 1446th overall) didn’t sign with the Diamondbacks.
- Finally, in 2007, came the first Mr. Irrelevant to sign and play for the organization that drafted him last since 1984. It was Larry Day, a catcher out of UConn taken by the Yankees with the 21st pick of the 50th round (1453rd overall). He played parts of two minor league seasons, hitting a career .177 between rookie and A-ball. He later became a manger in the Cleveland organization and a coach with some college teams.
- It wouldn’t be long before the next one, as the Red Sox signed Kyle Stroup after taking him with the 27th pick of the 50th round (1504th overall). He pitched part of four seasons in the Boston organization.
- With the 30th pick of the 50th round (1521st overall) of the 2009 draft, the Angels took Alibay Barkley. He played six games and hit .389 in the Arizona League but never played again professionally after that. He’s also notable for playing in the Little League World Series in 2002 and for being the older brother of New York Giants RB Saquon Barkley.
- The draft was cut to 40 rounds in 2012. The final pick that year was the 30th selection of the 40th round (1238th overall): Eric Hanhold by the Phillies. He didn’t sign, but later on he was drafted and signed with the Brewers. He’s since made the majors, but since he wasn’t signed when he was Mr. Irrelevant he’s ineligible to be considered the best Mr. Irrelevant.
- The next year, Shaun Anderson was taken with pick 30 of round 40 (1216th overall). Like Hanhold, Wakamatsu, and Desi Wilson, he’s notable as a Mr. Irrelevant who has made the majors, albeit not as Mr. Irrelevant since he didn’t sign.
- With the 30th pick of the 40th round in 2014 (1215th overall), the Cardinals selected Davis Ward, who pitched in their system until 2016, reaching as high as high-A.
- With the 30th pick of the 40th round in 2015 (1215th overall), the Angels selected Jake McDavid. He signed and played two seasons professionally, never getting above A-ball.
- With the 30th pick of the 40th round in 2017 (1215th overall), the Cubs selected pitcher Jeffrey Passantino. He’s still an active pitcher, currently in the Pirates organization. He’s reached as high as AAA at times but has spent this season in A-ball and AA.
- As mentioned earlier, in 2020 the draft went all the way down to five rounds due to reasons that included the COVID pandemic. As a result, it’s possible that that Shay Whitcomb (drafted by Houston 29th in the fifth round, 160th overall) has the best chance of anyone to become the first Mr. Irrelevant in history to reach the majors after being signed as Mr. Irrelevant. The infielder out of UC San Diego has struggled in AA this year but is still only 23.
- In 2021, the draft expanded back up somewhat to 20 rounds. The first Mr. Irrelevant of the 20-round era was Charlie Connolly, taken with the 30th pick of the 20th round (612th overall). He didn’t sign, which wasn’t too surprising given that he is a graduate of the Naval Academy and his application for a waiver from service was denied, something that also happened with football player Cameron Kinley.
So, who was/is the best Mr. Irrelevant?
Ultimately, it is subjective. Since we aren’t counting people who didn’t sign as Mr. Irrelevant, the few that have made the majors are ineligible. Still, that leaves some good candidates.
If we’re going strictly by playing career, the three with the best claim are Reggie Thomas, Matt Galante, and Shanie Dugas, with players like Jeffrey Passantino and Shay Whitcomb having a shot at one day reaching them. Personally, I’d give the title to Dugas. To play seven seasons in AAA is no joke, and he made three all-star teams during his career.
As far as importance to baseball overall, however, I have to go with Galante. In addition to having a pretty good playing career for a signed Mr. Irrelevant, he then had a long and influential career as a coach and even briefly managed on the big league level. A first-ballot Mr. Irrelevant Hall of Famer, all the way.