MLB drafts: 10 best selections from 2012-16

SECAUCUS, NJ - JUNE 03: A general view of the completed first round draft board during the 2019 Major League Baseball Draft at Studio 42 at the MLB Network on Monday, June 3, 2019 in Secaucus, New Jersey. (Photo by Alex Trautwig/MLB via Getty Images)
SECAUCUS, NJ - JUNE 03: A general view of the completed first round draft board during the 2019 Major League Baseball Draft at Studio 42 at the MLB Network on Monday, June 3, 2019 in Secaucus, New Jersey. (Photo by Alex Trautwig/MLB via Getty Images) /
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(Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
(Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images) /

MLB draft: 10 best selections from 2012-16

8. Paul DeJong, (2015 draft) 2.65 average WAR

DeJong is the best product of the majors’ most effective draft-development system, the one in St. Louis. It’s a system whose notable recent products include Harrison Bader, Michael Wacha, Tommy Edman, Jack Flaherty, and Dakota Hudson.

DeJong is one of only two players on this list who was not a first-round selection. The Cardinals took him with the131st selection in the fourth round of the 2015 draft, one round after they landed reliever Jordan Hicks and two rounds after they got Bader.

One question about DeJong was signability; the Pirates had taken him in the 38th round one year earlier, but he opted to stay at Illinois State one additional season. He batted .333 in that additional season and played 250 minor league games in the Cardinal system, batting .283.

The Cardinals called DeJong to the majors in May of 2017, and he fit in from the start. As a rookie, he batted .285, good enough to finish second behind Cody Bellinger in Rookie of the Year voting.

In the process of helping the Cardinals to the 2019 National League Central title, DeJong earned a berth on the NL All-Star team, although he had an off-year offensively, batting just .233. DeJong’s power surge offset his average decline; he slammed 30 home runs.

A bargain? You bet. Through three seasons, the Cards have reaped 10.6 WAR in exchange for just $2.83 million. The Cardinals have since extended DeJong through the 2025 season in a deal that will pay him $15 million by 2025.