Major leaguers come from everywhere. Brandon Beachy was a nondrafted free agent, Travis Hafner is from North Dakota and Mariano Rivera is from Panama. However, they are the exceptions. Where do the rest of the players come from?
To take an in-depth look, we cast a wide net. With the help of Baseball America IT extraordinaire Tim Collins, I created a spreadsheet with biographical and professional information on 1,293 players—every player on a 40-man roster as of Dec. 7, as well as the top 150 unsigned free agents (according to Baseball-Reference WAR) on that date. This gives us a pool of players that are major leaguers, have recently been major leaguers or could soon be major leaguers.
First, let’s look at the percentage of draft-eligible players vs. international players in the group: Of the 1,293 players, 968 (75 percent) are from the U.S., Canada or Puerto Rico. The other 325 (25 percent) are signed internationally.
The Dominican Republic has produced the most players in this group of any international country with 155, followed by Venezuela (98), Cuba (12), Mexico (12), Japan (11), Panama (8), Australia (6), Colombia (6), Curacao (4), Nicaragua (4), Taiwan (4), the Netherlands (4), Italy (1) and South Korea (1). Puerto Rico has one in this group, as well, because Ivan Rodriguez was signed before Puerto Rico was a part of the draft.
For comparison’s sake, Major League Baseball did a similar study in 2007, using Opening Day rosters with a total of 849 players as the snapshot. At that time, 29 percent of players on Opening Day rosters were international signees, near the record high of 29.2 percent in 2005. A similarly timed study, spearheaded by the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport, found a 27 percent Latino population on Opening Day rosters in 2011, the lowest percentage since 1999 (26 percent). So the ratio of international players in the game appears to have plateaued in the 25-30 percent range.
Click here to see a graphic on how many 40-man roster players each organization has produced.
The most surprising part of that list would seem to be the Rays, who rank last despite having drafted highly for most of their history. From 1999 (following their first major league season) to 2008 (the year of their first American League pennant), the Rays selected no later than eighth in the first round of the draft. Tampa Bay’s current roster is built around several of those high picks such as first-rounders Jeff Niemann (2004), Evan Longoria (2006) and David Price (2007), but the Rays have been just as good at getting other teams’ useful players such as Matt Joyce (Tigers) and even Ben Zobrist from the Astros, who rank just ahead of Tampa in fewest players developed. Milwaukee’s successful run in recent years, with its two playoff appearances since 1982, also was built more on quality homegrown players (Prince Fielder, Corey Hart, Yovani Gallardo, Rickie Weeks) rather than quantity.
Splitting that group up a little more, the teams that originally signed the most of the 326 international players are the Mets (21), Yankees (21), Mariners (20), Red Sox (17), Rockies (16) and Tigers (16). The teams that signed the fewest international players are the Orioles (2), Cardinals (3), Royals (3), Brewers (4) and Rays (4). The Orioles’ low rank looks worse when breaking down the two players—righthander Koji Uehara, a Japanese free agent, and infielder Pedro Florimon, whose major league resume includes all of 10 plate appearances. The Cardinals’ top Latin players over the years were drafted—Dominican Albert Pujols moved to the U.S. as a teenager, catcher Yadier Molina was drafted out of Puerto Rico, and lefthander Jaime Garcia moved between Mexico and the U.S. and signed as a draft pick. (Coincidentally, he was drafted by the Orioles out of a Texas high school in the eighth round in 2004 but didn’t sign with them.)
Of the 968 draft-eligible players, 946 of them were actually drafted. The other 22 were signed as non-drafted free agents, a group highlighted by Heath Bell, John Axford and Beachy. Of the 946 drafted players, 514 (54 percent) came from a four-year college, 324 (34 percent) signed out of high school and 106 (11 percent) came from junior college. The other two were drafted without a school—Yunel Escobar and Garcia.
Let’s look at how the drafted players split up by round. . .
|PLAYERS BY ROUND|
|1st round||197||6th round||40|
|Supp. 1st round||54||7th round||35|
|2nd round||98||8th round||24|
|3rd round||74||9th round||20|
|4th round||62||10th round||24|
That’s pretty linear progression and it’s interesting to see that almost 21 percent of the drafted players we studied are from the first round. Now, let’s look at the drafted players split into groups of five rounds. . .
|1—5||544||Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter, Chipper Jones, Roy Halladay, Justin Verlander & Dustin Pedroia|
|6—10||143||Matt Kemp, Ben Zobrist, Matt Holliday, Matt Moore, Kevin Youkilis & Howie Kendrick|
|11—15||81||Mat Latos, Dan Uggla, Matt Joyce, Jordan Walden, Albert Pujols, Jim Thome, Dexter Fowler & Jake Peavy|
|16—20||68||Mark Reynolds, James Shields, Chris Young, Russell Martin, Brandon McCarthy, Mike Napoli & Jose Bautista|
|21—25||34||Jason Bay, Jaime Garcia, Tommy Hanson, Logan Morrison, Roy Oswalt, Jorge Posada & Brian Wilson|
|26—30||33||Phil Coke, Jonathan Sanchez, Sergio Romo, Nick Blackburn & Jonny Venters|
|31—35||17||Travis Hafner, Nyjer Morgan, Jason Frasor, Mike Dunn & Dan Wheeler|
|36—40||13||Raul Ibanez, Mark Buehrle, Randy Wells & Bryan LaHair|
|41—45||11||Brad Peacock, Kyle Blanks, Orlando Hudson, Jason Isringhausen & Tony Sipp|
|46—50||4||Kyle Farnsworth, Bobby Wilson, Scott Atchison & Jarrod Dyson|
What if the players are split up by position? Some have glaring splits between sources. Of the 18 regular shortstops who qualified for the batting title last year, just three of them came from a four-year colleges: Long Beach State’s Troy Tulowitzki, Texas A&M’s Cliff Pennington and Oklahoma’s Jason Bartlett. Four came from high school (Derek Jeter, Jimmy Rollins, J.J. Hardy and Ian Desmond) and 11 of them are international players (with Escobar included). Let’s look at breakdown of where the 1,285 players (not including the eight players listed as a designated hitter) come from, position-by-position. For this breakdown, players like J.D. Drew, Luke Hochevar and Aaron Crow were counted as college players.
|Other||3 non-drafted free agents|
It’s a pretty even split between the top three sources there, and the same is true of the best players at the position. Some of the top catchers in the major leagues are college draft picks like Matt Wieters (Georgia Tech) and Alex Avila (Alabama), some are high school picks like Joe Mauer, Brian McCann or Yadier Molina and some are international signings such as Carlos Santana or Miguel Montero. Russell Martin replaced the previous top junior-college alum, Jorge Posada, as the Yankees’ catcher.
|FIRST BASE||62 players|
For first basemen, the college group and high school group are equal. But when it comes to production, the high school players (Joey Votto, Adrian Gonzalez, Prince Fielder and Paul Konerko) have more current impact over the four-year guys (Mark Teixeira, Ryan Howard and Todd Helton). Pujols, of course, stands out as the main junior college name on the list and Miguel Cabrera is the most significant international first baseman, though he’s now playing third base. The other three are Jesus Guzman, Kendry Morales and Angel Villalona.
|SECOND BASE||76 players|
|Other||1 non-drafted free agent|
College players such as Dustin Pedroia and Chase Utley dominate the second base crop. The current second basemen to come out of four-year schools includes guys like Dustin Pedroia, Chase Utley, Dan Uggla, Rickie Weeks and Dustin Ackley. Brandon Phillips is the best second baseman drafted out of high school, Robinson Cano leads the international group and Howie Kendrick was drafted out of St. John’s River (Fla.) JC.
|THIRD BASE||80 players|
Like catcher, big league third basemen are split pretty evenly between the three main groups. The college ranks boast players like Evan Longoria, Ryan Zimmerman and Kevin Youkilis. The international group includes Adrian Beltre, Aramis Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval. The high school list includes aging superstars Chipper Jones, Alex Rodriguez and Scott Rolen, with Rodriguez famously moving to third from short seven seasons ago. The prep alumni also include David Wright and Brett Lawrie.
As much as second base leans toward college players, shortstop evens it out with international signings. There’s a reason scouts covet “Latin actions” at the position, as the international group includes players like Jose Reyes, Hanley Ramirez, Alexei Ramirez, Elvis Andrus, Asdrubal Cabrera, Starlin Castro, Jhonny Peralta and Yunel Escobar (who was counted as an international player here). Tulowitzki is the only star from the college ranks, while the high school group includes Jeter, Rollins and Hardy.
|Other||3 non-drafted free agents|
Outfield is another spot where premium talent comes from all sources. The college group includes Ryan Braun, Jacoby Ellsbury and Curtis Granderson. The international side, other than the Rockies’ Carlos Gonzalez, skews older, such as Nelson Cruz, Bobby Abreu, Vladimir Guerrero and Ichiro. The high school alumni have more star power now and going forward with an impressive group that includes 2011 BA Player of the Year Matt Kemp, Justin Upton, Andrew McCutchen, Matt Holliday, Carlos Beltran (out of Puerto Rico) and Giancarlo (nee Mike) Stanton. Even the junior college ranks have star power in players like Jose Bautista, Desmond Jennings and Bryce Harper.
|Other||9 non-drafted free agents|
With the positions that have larger numbers of players, it isn’t a surprise to see top names in all the categories. The college righthander group includes Tim Lincecum, Dan Haren, Stephen Strasburg, Justin Verlander and Jered Weaver. The high school list boasts Roy Halladay, Josh Beckett and Zack Greinke, while the top international righthanders include Felix Hernandez and Neftali Feliz. Some of the biggest names to come out of junior colleges are pitchers—guys like Clay Buchholz, Tommy Hanson, Craig Kimbrel and Roy Oswalt.
|Other||6—5 non-drafted free agents and Jaime Garcia (no school)|
It’s a similar story for lefthanders. The college group features Cliff Lee, David Price and C.J. Wilson. The high school group has Cole Hamels, Clayton Kershaw, Jon Lester and Matt Moore, to name a few and Johan Santana, Francisco Liriano and Aroldis Chapman are the biggest names on the international side. Mark Buehrle, Erik Bedard, Ted Lilly and Derek Holland are the standout names from the junior college crop.
Ok, now to look at the draft from a geographical perspective. Of those 946 drafted players, here’s how they breakdown, state-by-state. The states credited are the ones where the player was signed out of. So, for a player like Buster Posey, who went to high school in Georgia, but played at Florida State, he counts as being “from” Florida for this research.
|PLAYERS BY STATE|
That means six states have no representation: Alaska, Delaware, Montana, South Dakota, Vermont and Wyoming.
Finally, here are the top 10 colleges with the most players on the list. . .
LONG BEACH STATE (15)
John Bowker, Drew Carpenter, Danny Espinosa, Marco Estrada, Jason Giambi, Jared Hughes, Evan Longoria, Cesar Ramos, Bryan Shaw, Troy Tulowitzki, Jason Vargas, Nick Vincent, Jered Weaver, Adam Wilk & Vance Worley.
Yonder Alonso, Ryan Braun, Pat Burrell, Yasmani Grandal, Aubrey Huff, Jon Jay, Scott Maine, Jason Michaels, Chris Perez, Gaby Sanchez, Blake Tekotte, Danny Valencia & Jemile Weeks.
ARIZONA STATE (12)
Willie Bloomquist, Brooks Conrad, Colin Curtis, Ike Davis, Andre Ethier, Jason Kipnis, Mike Leake, Dustin Pedroia, Andrew Romine, Eric Sogard, Josh Spence & Brett Wallace.
John Baker, Geoff Blum, Brennan Boesch, David Cooper, Allen Craig, Conor Jackson, Brandon Morrow, Tyson Ross & Josh Satin.
LOUISIANA STATE (9)
Louis Coleman, Mike Fontenot, Charlie Furbush, Brad Hawpe, Aaron Hill, D.J. Lemahieu, Ryan Theriot, Ryan Verdugo & Brian Wilson.
Jason Castro, Sam Fuld, Jeremy Guthrie, Jed Lowrie, John Mayberry, Cord Phelps, Carlos Quentin, Drew Storen & Michael Taylor.
CAL STATE FULLERTON (8)
Reed Johnson, Mark Kotsay, Mike Lamb, Vinnie Pestano, Brett Pill, Ricky Romero, Kurt Suzuki & Justin Turner.
Joba Chamberlain, Brian Duensing, Steve Edelfsen, Alex Gordon, Daniel Jennings, Dan Johnson, Zach Kroenke & Tony Watson.
NORTH CAROLINA (8)
Dustin Ackley, Daniel Bard, Andrew Carignan, Tim Federowicz, Chris Iannetta, Andrew Miller, Kyle Seager & Alex White.
Brandon Belt, J.P. Howell, Sam LeCure, Chance Ruffin, James Russell, Huston Street, Drew Stubbs & Taylor Teagarden.