It’s fun to look into the future, to evaluate prospects and farm systems, to try to find the next star shortstop or predict which teams might be poised for a playoff run in a few years.
Now that we’re in the postseason, we can take a look back at how these eight playoff teams got here. Teams often give lip service to the saying that scouting and player development are the lifeblood of an organization, but how many of these playoff teams are truly homegrown? How many of them have built their 2011 rosters through the draft and international free agency?
We’ve ranked the playoff teams by how much value they received this season from their recent homegrown players, using the following criteria to identify a homegrown player:
• The player had to have originally signed with the team as an amateur, either through the draft, the international market or as a nondrafted free agent.
• Only players with fewer than six years of service time count. Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera and Jorge Posada were all drafted or signed in the international market by the Yankees, but they have all been in the league long enough to have been eligible for free agency. It’s certainly an advantage for the Yankees to have been the teams that originally signed them, but it’s not so useful for our analysis to know they drafted Derek Jeter nearly 20 years ago.
To compare teams, we’ll use Baseball-Reference.com’s version of WAR (Wins Above Replacement), a metric that attempts to quantify how many wins a player contributed to his team above a hypothetical replacement-level player, essentially a typical Triple-A callup. We’re excluding pitchers’ hitting. It’s not a perfect way to measure everything, but it’s a consistent framework and we can point out important exceptions along the way.
8. St. Louis Cardinals, 10.8 WAR (3.6 hitters, 7.2 pitchers)
The Cardinals have gotten the least amount of value from homegrown players of any team in the playoffs, though with one significant caveat. We’re not giving them credit for Albert Pujols or Yadier Molina as homegrown, since Pujols (a 1999 draft pick in his ninth big league season) and Molina (a 2000 draft pick in in his eighth major league season) are both already under contract for extensions that would take them beyond their first six years of service time. The Cardinals were smart to draft them and sign them to those extensions, so it’s certainly worth noting here, since they would be in the middle of the pack here if we counted their value as homegrown.
More recently, the Cardinals drafts and international efforts haven’t yielded any star players for the 2011 team, but the sheer volume of players they used this year who came from the farm system is staggering. Not counting Pujols and Molina, the Cardinals used 21 homegrown players, a mix of 13 hitters and eight pitchers. Allen Craig, Jon Jay and Jaime Garcia were all important to the success of the 2011 Cardinals. Where the organization really got a boost from homegrown talent was in the bullpen, where they got contributions from Fernando Salas, Jason Motte, Mitch Boggs, Eduardo Sanchez and Lance Lynn, along with Kyle McClellan splitting time between the starting rotation and relief.
The Cardinals have helped themselves in free agency without handcuffing themselves with any major sinkhole contracts. Matt Holliday’s contract is one of the biggest in baseball, but he’s also one of the game’s best players. Signing Lance Berkman for $8 million was one of the best signings of the offseason. Chris Carpenter and Kyle Lohse aren’t cheap but combined they delivered 425 innings with the two best ERAs on the team among starting pitchers.
7. New York Yankees, 13.1 WAR (8.2 hitters, 4.9 pitchers)
The Yankees have done a solid job in the amateur talent market, using their resources well in Latin America and finding players in the later rounds of the draft. Robinson Cano, Ivan Nova, Hector Noesi and most recently Jesus Montero are all products of their international program, with lefthander Manny Banuelos not far behind.
In the draft, the Yankees paid $200,000 to David Robertson as a 17th-round pick in 2006, and he’s matured into one of the game’s top setup men. Brett Gardner was a third-rounder whose speed and defense helped him win the everyday left field job with an aytypical profile. Their willingness to pay Austin Jackson $800,000 as an eighth-round pick in 2005 and hitting on 2006 first-rounder Ian Kennedy helped the Yankees net their top-performing position player, Curtis Granderson. Considering that the Yankees consistently pick toward the end of each round and have frequently surrendered first-round picks as compensation for free agent signings, their draft returns have been solid.
Much of their success, particularly on the pitching side, comes from the free agent market, a combination of unmatched resources and impressive talent evaluation. Yes, A.J. Burnett is overpaid, and yes, the signing of Rafael Soriano to a three-year, $35 million deal for what will at most amount to 180 or so innings was a bad deal as soon as Soriano put his signature on the contract, though the push for that deal reportedly came from above general manager Brian Cashman.
For as much criticism as the Red Sox took for not having enough pitching depth on the farm in September, the difference between Boston’s and New York’s pitching isn’t homegrown starters. The Red Sox drafted and developed Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz, as well as their two best relievers, Jonathan Papelbon and Daniel Bard. With Phil Hughes’ regression, the only reliable homegrown Yankees starter this year was Ivan Nova, who signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2004. If the Red Sox had won two more regular season games, they would be the most homegrown team in the playoffs, with a total of 30.6 WAR, almost all of which has come through the draft. In addition to their pitching, the Sox have drafted and developed Jacoby Ellsbury, Dustin Pedroia, Kevin Youkilis and Jed Lowrie, though it’s worth noting that Youkilis and Lester were drafted before Theo Epstein became general manager.
The massive difference between the two teams is that the Yankees have leveraged their big-revenue advantages in free agency, while the Red Sox have come up flat. The Red Sox did well to sign David Ortiz as a free agent back in 2003 when his skill set was undervalued and sign him to an extension, and the trade and subsequent extension for Adrian Gonzalez have been good moves. In free agency, though, the Red Sox have burned money.
Let’s compare the two clubs’ free agent signings, with their 2011 performance and salaries, starting with the Red Sox:
Carl Crawford: 0.0 WAR, $14 million
J.D. Drew: -0.5 WAR, $14 million
Mike Cameron: -1.1 WAR, $7.75 million
Marco Scutaro: 1.4 WAR, $5 million
Total: -0.2 WAR, $40.75 million
In other words, the Red Sox spent as much money on dead weight, replacement level free agent hitters as the Rays had on their 2011 Opening Day payroll. Yet even amidst the carnage, the Red Sox led the majors in runs scored. They had all sorts of problems preventing runs, though, ranking 21st in runs allowed as their pitching collapsed in September.
John Lackey: -1.2 WAR, $15.25 million
Bobby Jenks: -0.4 WAR, $6 million
Matt Albers: 0.2 WAR, $0.875 million
Alfredo Aceves: 2.9 WAR, $0.65 million
Scott Atchison: 0.4 WAR, $0.454 million
Dan Wheeler: 0.3 WAR, $3 million
Total: 2.2 WAR, $26.23 million
In all, that’s $67 million on free agents down the drain for replacement-level performance—not even counting the $10 million the Red Sox paid Daisuke Matsuzka or Tim Wakefield’s perpetually renewed contract—with Aceves the only real success story of the group. M.C. Hammer didn’t blow through money like that.
Now let’s look at the New York’s free agent signings:
Mark Teixeira: 2.4, $22.5 million
Russell Martin: 1.3 WAR, $4 million
Andruw Jones: 0.9 WAR, $2 million
Eric Chavez, 0.0 WAR, $1.5 million
Total: 4.6 WAR, $30 million
A little higher than the going rate of a win on the free agent market (generally considered to be around $5 million per win), thanks mostly to a dip in performance from Teixeira, but the Yankees can afford it. Martin has been a nice signing and filled an important role for the Yankees behind the plate.
C.C. Sabathia: 6.9 WAR, $23 million
A.J. Burnett: 1.1 WAR, $16.5 million
Rafael Soriano: 0.7 WAR, $10 million
Freddy Garcia: 3.4 WAR, $1.5 million
Bartolo Colon: 2.4 WAR, $0.9 million
Luis Ayala: 1.4 WAR, $0.65 million
Total: 15.9 WAR, $52.55 million
(The Yankees also signed Cory Wade as a minor league free agent in June after he exercised an opt-out option with the Rays, and he pitched well out of New York’s bullpen in the second half.)
Only a handful of teams have the resources to sign Sabathia to a seven-year, $161 million deal, but they get credit for making the decision to sign him, which so far has paid off well. Sabathia aside, the Yankees’ ability to find pitching in the free agent market was crucial with Nova the only homegrown starter in their rotation and pitchers like Dellin Betances, Andrew Brackman and Banuelos still not ready for prime time. Any team in the offseason could have thrown a few million dollars combined at Colon and Garcia. Scouts saw Colon touch the mid-90s last winter in the Dominican League, but some said they were afraid he would fall apart, to say nothing of recommending a 38-year-old pitcher who hasn’t been a reliable big league starter since 2005. The Yankees finished third in the American League in runs allowed.
While the Red Sox spent $67 million (or $77 million with Matsuzaka) on two wins in the free agent market, the Yankees bought roughly 20 wins for $82.6 million. The Red Sox have beaten the Yankees in the draft, but they’re sitting at home watching them on TV tonight because the Yankees crushed them in free agency.
6. Arizona Diamondbacks, 13.7 WAR (11.8 hitters, 1.9 pitchers)
Heading into the 2007 season, the Diamondbacks had baseball’s best farm system. A year later, Arizona’s minor league crop checked in at No. 3 overall. Now a handful of those players are key components of the 2011 Diamondbacks.
Arizona has had some success in the draft, taking advantage of having the No. 1 overall pick in 2005 to select Justin Upton and being willing to spend $4 million in 2004 when Stephen Drew dropped to them with the 15th overall pick due to signability. Beyond them, Josh Collmenter has proven to be a 15th-round steal from the 2007 draft, while Paul Goldschmidt (8th round, 2009) has been in the big leagues just two months but earned rave reviews in the minors.
The international market has been a source of success for the Diamondbacks as well, finding Miguel Montero and Gerardo Parra in Venezuela. They could have had more—both from the draft and international markets—had they not dealt Venezuelan outfielder Carlos Gonzalez and 2003 first-rounder Carlos Quentin in separate deals after the 2007 season.
Much of the 2011 Diamondbacks roster was put together in the trade market in deals that will benefit the organization for years, though just how much those trades have helped them in 2011 is debatable. The December 2005 trade with the White Sox that brought Chris Young into the organization along with Orlando Hernandez and Luis Vizcaino in exchange for Javier Vazquez certainly helped the 2011 team. The deal that brought David Hernandez to Arizona and sent Mark Reynolds to Baltimore in the offseason provided a boost for the bullpen, and the August 23 deal that sent Kelly Johnson to Toronto in exchange for Aaron Hill and John McDonald has worked well, with Hill hitting remarkably well for 32 games, though McDonald’s struggles and Johnson’s good post-trade numbers make that a relatively small upgrade.
The most noteworthy trades, though, involve Arizona’s current top three starters—Ian Kennedy, Daniel Hudson and Joe Saunders—each of whom the Diamondbacks acquired in separate deals over the last two years. Yet to get those three pitchers, the Diamondbacks had to give up a considerable amount of pitching in return: Kennedy cost them Max Scherzer and Daniel Schlereth, Saunders was part of the Dan Haren deal and Hudson arrived from the White Sox for Edwin Jackson, although Jackson came the Diamondbacks with Kennedy in the same three-team deal, so we can’t count him on either side of the ledger. Would the Diamondbacks be any worse off this year had they not made those deals?
Pitcher, 2011 WAR
Ian Kennedy: 5.5 WAR
Joe Saunders: 2.6 WAR
Daniel Hudson: 2.5 WAR
Total: 10.6 WAR
Pitcher, 2011 WAR
Dan Haren: 4.1 WAR
Max Scherzer: 2.4 WAR
Daniel Schlereth: 0.7 WAR
Total: 7.2 WAR
That’s simplifying things a bit, but the Diamondbacks did upgrade their 2011 roster with those deals. Where those trades will really pay off is in helping the Diamondbacks get younger and cheaper and providing prospects that will help them for years to come. Jackson made $8.35 million this year and is a free agent this offseason, while Haren made $12.75 million and has one more year on his deal, with a $15.5 million club option for 2013.
Kennedy and Hudson both have four more years of team control and haven’t even hit arbitration yet. The Haren deal also netted the Diamondbacks lefthander Tyler Skaggs, who has become one of the top pitching prospects in the minors, as well as Pat Corbin, another promising young lefty in Double-A. Those trades aren’t the reason why the Diamondbacks won the National League West title this year, but they’re a big reason why the Diamondbacks are in a better place to contend in the future.
5. Texas Rangers, 13.9 WAR (6.3 hitters, 7.6 pitchers)
The Rangers had a top five farm system in baseball from 2008-2010, including the No. 1 system heading into the 2009 season. Yet the reality is that their current big league club is the team that trades built. The Rangers’ two best homegrown players—C.J. Wilson and Ian Kinsler—were drafted in 2001 and 2003, respectively, before Jon Daniels took over as general manager after the 2005 season. Other than Derek Holland, the Rangers have gotten only a token amount of help from players they have drafted or signed as international amateurs and developed under their current administration.
Where the Rangers have excelled is in the trade market, both in acquiring big league talent and prospects. Trades brought the Rangers three of their best hitters:
• Nelson Cruz, who arrived in July 2006 along with Carlos Lee, in exchange for Texas sending Francisco Cordero, Kevin Mench, Laynce Nix and minor league lefty Julio Cordero to the Brewers.
• Josh Hamilton, who became a Ranger before the 2008 season when Texas traded Edinson Volquez and Danny Herrera to Cincinnati.
• Mike Napoli, who joined the club in January in the trade that sent Frank Francisco and cash to Toronto.
The landmark deal, though, remains the 2007 trade deadline blockbuster with the Braves for Teixeira. In exchange for Ron Mahay and the final year and a half of Teixeira before he hit free agency, the Rangers plucked (in addition to Jarrod Saltalamacchia and lefty Beau Jones):
• Elvis Andrus, an 18-year-old shortstop in the high Class A Carolina League
• Neftali Feliz, a 19-year-old flamethrower in the Rookie-level Appalachian League
• Matt Harrison, a 21-year-old lefty pitching for Double-A Mississippi
In all, trades delivered the Rangers four of their seven best position players, their No. 2 starter (at least by performance), their closer and two more relievers—Mike Adams and Koji Uehera—who will help the club beyond the 2011 season. That doesn’t even include Michael Young, who became a Ranger in 2000 when the Blue Jays traded him and righthander Darwin Cubillan for Esteban Loaiza.
4. Detroit Tigers, 16.6 WAR (8.2 hitters, 8.4 pitchers)
More than half of the Tigers’ homegrown value has come from one man: Justin Verlander. The second overall pick in the 2004 draft, Verlander is the favorite for the AL Cy Young award and in the mix for the MVP.
The 2011 Tigers have gotten value from the draft in other places, most notably Alex Avila, a fifth-round pick in 2008 who has put himself in the discussion for the best catcher in baseball. Brennan Boesch, a third-round pick in 2006, has been a pleasant surprise in the outfield. Rick Porcello threw 176 innings and is still just 22, but with a 4.76 ERA he’s Detroit No. 4 starter.
Detroit has used all means of player procurement to build a 95-win team. Beyond those draft picks, the Tigers reaped the benefits of being willing to spend money on players who fell in the draft due to signability to select Andrew Miller and Cameron Maybin. While Miller has struggled and Maybin has finally developed into a quality big league center fielder this year with the Padres, the Tigers used them to trade for Miguel Cabrera before the 2008 season. The Tigers used big leaguers, draft picks and international signings in trades as well to acquire Doug Fister, Max Scherzer, Austin Jackson and Phil Coke. Free agency has also been a major source of talent for the Tigers, with Jhonny Peralta (who they signed as a free agent in November after trading lefthander Giovanni Soto for him at the 2010 trade deadline), Victor Martinez, Jose Valverde and Joaquin Benoit acquired through that market.
3. Philadelphia Phillies, 16.7 WAR (5.7 hitters, 11.0 pitchers)
No, they didn’t draft Cliff Lee, Roy Halladay or Roy Oswalt, and their $172 million Opening Day payroll ranked second in baseball, but the Phillies still have a largely homegrown roster. Our method doesn’t include Jimmy Rollins and Chase Utley, both first-round picks who the Phillies wisely signed to extensions, but Ryan Howard and Carlos Ruiz are homegrown, above-average regulars. Their No. 3 starter, 2002 first-round pick Cole Hamels, would be the ace on many teams, while Vance Worley, a third-rounder in 2008, has been a revelation with a 3.03 ERA in 130 1/3 innings.
Phillies closer Ryan Madson doesn’t qualify as homegrown by our definition—the ninth-round pick in 1998 has too much service time—but their second-best reliever, Antonio Bastardo, signed with the Phillies for $10,000 out of the Dominican Republic in 2005. Kyle Kendrick and Mike Stutes have also been useful arms, while Domonic Brown could be a star but was largely a non-factor this season.
The quality and volume of homegrown players on the 2011 Phillies is impressive. It’s not only having a great scouting and player development operation in both the U.S. and Latin America, it’s knowing how to capitalize on the value of their prospects by flipping them in trades when the opportunity strikes. The Phillies were able to trade for Lee at the 2009 trade deadline, Halladay after the 2009 season and Oswalt last year at the trade deadline because of the depth of their farm system. Even after three major trades, they still had the prospect depth to deal for Hunter Pence in July. Those trades have thinned out the farm system, but the Phillies managed to do it all while retaining Brown and Worley en route to a 102-win season.
2. Milwaukee Brewers, 22.5 WAR (20.0 hitters, 2.5 pitchers)
The 2000-2005 drafts have been a tremendous source of talent for the Brewers’ 2011 offense. With Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik serving as scouting director, the Brewers drafted a pair of MVP candidates—Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder—and their next two best position players, Corey Hart and Rickie Weeks. Jonathan Lucroy, a third-round pick in 2007, has also emerged as the team’s regular catcher.
The Brewers have the gotten the most homegrown value from their position
players in 2011 than any other playoff team, but they’e also gotten the
least production of any of those clubs from their homegrown pitching. The only significant pitcher the Brewers signed as an amateur is Yovanni
Gallardo, a second-round pick in 2004.
Milwaukee’s inability to develop a pitcher internally resulted in the organization trading for Zack Greinke and Shaun Marcum. Those moves came
at a considerable expense of young talent, costing the Brewers Brett Lawrie, Alcides Escobar, Jake Odorizzi, Lorenzo Cain and Jeremy Jeffress
and leaving the farm system on the lighter side. Still, those trades helped the Brewers win the National League Central, and if they win a World Series, there probably won’t be any regret.
1. Tampa Bay Rays, 28.1 WAR (12.1 hitters, 16.0 pitchers)
There should be no surprise here: no team can match Tampa Bay’s homegrown core, which includes a young pitching staff that is the envy of teams around the league.
With David Price, James Shields, Jeremy Hellickson, Jeff Niemann and Wade Davis, their entire starting rotation during the regular season is homegrown, as is Game 1 starter Matt Moore. Alex Cobb, a fourth-round pick in 2006, provided depth as well when the Rays needed him. Evan Longoria, Desmond Jennings and B.J. Upton are all two-way threats, and the Rays have made smart trades to upgrade their lineup in acquiring Ben Zobrist, Matt Joyce and Sean Rodriguez.
The Rays have squeezed the most out of their nickels in free agency to add Johnny Damon, Casey Kotchman and Kyle Farnsworth, but the majority of this team was built through one area: the draft. Finishing last in the AL East for nine of their first 10 seasons of existence gave the Rays several premium draft picks, which certainly helped, but Shields, Hellickson, Davis, Jennings, Moore and Cobb were all picked after the first round.
Tampa Bay has quite a bit in common with the early-2000s Athletics, another small-revenue team built largely on homegrown talent. The A’s had a gifted core of homegrown pitchers (Barry Zito, Tim Hudson, Mark Mulder and Rich Harden), a star Gold Glove third baseman (Eric Chavez), and like Upton, a talented although more advanced offensive homegrown player up the middle (Miguel Tejada).
After making the playoffs for the third time in four years, can the Rays sustain their success or will they follow the same pattern as the A’s? That franchise sets a good blueprint of how things can fall apart for a small-revenue organization.
A’s homegrown WAR, wins by year
2000: 26.1 WAR, 91 wins
2001: 35.8 WAR, 102 wins
2002: 27.6 WAR, 103 wins
2003: 32.8 WAR, 96 wins
2004: 21.9 WAR, 91 wins
2005: 27.5 WAR, 88 wins
2006: 17.7 WAR, 93 wins
2007: 13.8 WAR, 76 wins
2008: 8.1 WAR, 75 wins
2009: 10.7 WAR, 75 wins
2010: 13.2 WAR, 81 wins
2011: 10.3 WAR, 74 wins
The draft and the international market (most notably Tejada and catcher Ramon Hernandez) were tremendous sources of talent for the A’s, who produced teams with even more homegrown talent than the 2011 Rays early in the decade and even more homegrown pitching in 2002 and 2003. The problem for the A’s is clear from the chart: those plentiful drafts and international signings stopped coming, and the franchise stopped producing homegrown talent.
For the Rays to avoid the same pitfalls, they will have to continue to draft well. The international market hasn’t been a factor for the Rays, though they’re improving there at the lower levels of the system. With Longoria, Jennings, Joyce, Price, Hellickson and Moore under control cheaply for several years, they already have an outstanding young nucleus to build around.
Competing annually in the AL East is a greater challenge than doing so in the AL West, but the Rays have the potential to extend their run as contenders for years.