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Albert Pujols: An MLB Draft Retrospective

Albert Pujols's recent appearance on 60 Minutes did a fine job of illuminating, among other things, just how frequently every team in Major League Baseball passed up on the best player of the last 10 years: 12 times or more, generally speaking. For those of you who haven't been reveling in the St. Louis Cardinals' good fortune ever since, it's worthwhile to show just how much teams missed by not choosing him in the first 12 rounds of the 1999 MLB Draft. 

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Let's start backwards and work our way up: with the 401st pick of the 1999 draft, just one ahead of Albert Pujols, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim selected Alfredo Amezaga, strictly for assonance purposes. Amezaga was actually a fine pick for a 13th-rounder—he was a decent utility-man prospect for a while and hung around as a super-sub for several years with the Florida Marlins. He's one of five players to spend any time in the Major Leagues from that round. 

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The first-rounders that year, meanwhile... well, Josh Hamilton, who went No. 1 overall to the Tampa Bay [Devil] Rays, was one of the best prospects of the last 20 years, but we all know his circuitous route to last year's MVP Award. Josh Beckett (No. 2) was another superprospect who took a while to come into his own. This was actually a fine first round—it also produced Barry Zito (9), Ben Sheets (10), Brett Myers (12), Jason Jennings (16), and Alex Rios (19). 

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Of course, it also produced 16 players who never caught a whiff of the Major Leagues, including the Cardinals' first-rounder, pitching prospect Chance Caple. The Cardinals managed to take 15 players before they reached Pujols, and only Chris Duncan (46th overall) and Coco Crisp (222) spent significant time in the Major Leagues. After Pujols the draft was even more barren, producing only memory-holed reliever Mike Crudale and folk hero Bo Hart

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So it's hard to say the Cardinals were any smarter than the rest of the field, that year—they just found themselves in the right place on their draft board at the right time. And as for Brent Spooner (12th round) and Matt Vincent (14th round)—well, you only have to get one right, when that one is Albert Pujols.

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