If Every Team Was Homegrown: NL Central

Cubs Infielders, Pirates Outfielders Lead Talented Homegrown Groups

Our homegrown 2018 roster series continues in the National League with the NL Central. You can check out the American League East hereAmerican League Central here and American League West here. The National League East is here.

Any player signed for entry into Major League Baseball is eligible to be listed with the team that signed them, so foreign professionals signed from Japan, Cuba, South Korea or other countries are included in addition to those drafted and signed, signed as international amateurs or signed as undrafted free agents.

Players must have been active in 2017 and are scheduled to be active in 2018 to be eligible.

CHICAGO CUBS

Willson Contreras
1B Justin Bour
2B Starlin Castro
3B Josh Donaldson
SS Marwin Gonzalez
OF Kris Bryant
OF Albert Almora
OF Ian Happ

SP Rich Hill
SP Jeff Samardzjia
SP Andrew Cashner
SP Zack Godley
SP Ricky Nolasco
RP Jerry Blevins

Honorable MentionJosh HarrisonJavier Baez, DJ LeMahieu, Kyle Schwarber, Wellington Castillo, Robinson ChirinosPaul BlackburnChris RusinDarwin BarneySam FuldBrandon Guyer, Marco Hernandez, Blake ParkerMatt SzczurRyan FlahertyTony ZychJeimer Candelario

Analysis: The Cubs have the best track record of identifying and developing position players in the National League, and are right with the Red Sox and Astros as the best in baseball. They have five homegrown, multiple-time All-Stars (Starlin Castro, Josh Donaldson, Kris Bryant, Josh Harrison, D.J. LeMahieu), two MVPs (Bryant, Donaldson) and four others who lack hardware but are among the best at their positions (Willson Contreras, Justin Bour, Javier Baez, Marwin Gonzalez)….The Cubs position player strength is almost exclusively in the infield, however. Bryant and Ian Happ are natural infielders who play the outfield part-time, but remain better options than the Cubs homegrown full-time outfielders, who are largely second-division starter/platoon types in Sam Fuld, Brandon Guyer and Matt Szczur….The Cubs have developed respectable homegrown starting pitchers, but it’s largely been a while. Rich Hill, Jeff Samardzjia, Andrew Cashner and Ricky Nolasco were all drafted and signed in 2008 or earlier. Zack Godley (2013) and Paul Blackburn (2012) are the only established major league starters the Cubs have identified and developed since then, and both were traded before getting a chance to put on a Cubs uniform.

CINCINNIATI REDS

Yasmani Grandal
1B Joey Votto
2B Zack Cozart
3B Justin Turner
SS Didi Gregorius
OF Drew Stubbs
OF Billy Hamilton
OF Jay Bruce

SP Johnny Cueto
SP Mike Leake
SP Homer Bailey
SP Robert Stephenson
SP Sal Romano
RP Aroldis Chapman

Honorable MentionYonder AlonsoTodd FrazierTucker BarnhartDevin MesoracoBrad Boxberger, Rasiel IglesiasTravis WoodBen LivelyMiguel RojasAdam RosalesRonald TorreyesJesse WinkerMichael LorenzenTyler MahleTony CingraniChris Heisey

Analysis: The Reds have done a particularly excellent job finding and developing catchers and infielders, with all-stars at every infield position as well as among their honorable mentions (Yonder Alonso, Todd Frazier)….The Reds additionally have arguably the best homegrown catching group in baseball, with Yasmani Grandal, Tucker Barnhart and Devin Mesoraco….Where the Reds fall short is in finding and developing homegrown pitching. Johnny Cueto and Mike Leake are unconditional successes, but Homer Bailey has been injured and/or ineffective since 2014, and the remaining rotation options (Robert Stephenson, Sal Romano, Travis Wood, Ben Lively) have had spurts of middling success but little more….Finding effective relievers has also been a problem for the Reds. Chapman and Iglesias signed as a Cuban professionals, but beyond them, the Reds have had very little success developing homegrown, end-of-game arms outside of Brad Boxberger, who was traded before ever playing for the Reds.

MILWAUKEE BREWERS

Jonathan Lucroy
1B Ryan Braun
2B Scooter Gennett
3B J.J. Hardy
SS Orlando Arcia
OF Michael Brantley
OF Lorenzo Cain
OF Khris Davis

SP Jake Odorizzi
SP Jimmy Nelson
SP Brent Suter
SP Yovani Gallardo
SP Mike Fiers
RP Jeremy Jeffress

Honorable MentionMitch HanigerAlcides EscobarWily PeraltaTyler ThornburgNori AokiAnthony BandaBrandon WoodruffJacob BarnesEric Fryer

Analysis: The Brewers have been especially strong finding and developing impact outfielders, with Ryan Braun, Lorenzo Cain, Michael Brantley, Khris Davis, Ryan Braun and Mitch Haniger all standouts to varying degrees…Middle infield has also been an area of success for the Brewers (J.J. Hardy, Orlando Arcia, Scooter Gennett, Alcides Escobar), but corner infield has been a black hole, thus the shifting of Braun to first base and Hardy to third base, even though neither of them has actually played that position in the majors. Amazingly, there are just no better options (Braun did come up as a third baseman)….The starting rotation is respectable as well, with some additional depth in young arms like Anthony Banda, Brandon Woodruff. However, none of the starters would be confused for elite, frontline arms, something the Brewers have struggled to find or develop since Ben Sheets….The Brewers are extremely short on homegrown relievers as well.

PITTSBURGH PIRATES

Elias Diaz
1B Josh Bell
2B Neil Walker
3B Adam Frazier
SS Jordy Mercer
OF Starling Marte
OF Andrew McCutchen
OF Gregory Polanco

SP Gerrit Cole
SP Jameson Taillon
SP Chad Kuhl
SP Chris Young
SP Tyler Glasnow
RP Tony Watson

Honorable MentionJose BautistaSteve PearceRajai DavisAlex DickersonBrock HoltJustin WilsonRobbie GrossmanJared HughesAlex PresleyJaCoby JonesZach Duke

Analysis: The best homegrown outfield group in the NL Central belongs to the Pirates. Their three homegrown starters are all All-Stars, Jose Bautista was a perennial MVP candidate in his prime, and Steve Pearce, Rajai Davis, Alex Dickerson and Robbie Grossman have all shown themselves to be quality big leaguers with the ability to impact a game. Brock Holt, a utilityman who has primarily played the outfield in his career, is another homegrown All-Star the Pirates can claim…As strong as their outfield crop is, the Pirates have been challenged developmentally at catcher, third base and in their starting rotation. Adam Frazier, a utilityman with six career games at third base, is the best of a non-existent group of options for the hot corner, while Elias Diaz has yet to prove he’s more than a backup behind the plate. The rotation, meanwhile thins out very quick. Chris Young and Tyler Glasnow both enter 2018 having posted ERAs above 7.00 last season, but there are no other viable homegrown pitching options the Pirates have developed.

ST. LOUIS CARDINALS

Yadier Molina
1B Albert Pujols
2B Kolten Wong
3B Matt Carpenter
SS Paul DeJong
OF David Peralta
OF Tommy Pham
OF Stephen Piscotty

SP Carlos Martinez
SP Lance Lynn
SP Michael Wacha
SP Jaime Garcia
SP Shelby Miller
RP Joe Kelly

Honorable MentionMatt AdamsTrevor RosenthalAlex ReyesKyle BarracloughLuke GregersonJon Jay, Luis Perdomo, Luke WeaverSam GaviglioJack FlahertyColby RasmusDaniel DescalsoGreg GarciaCarson KellyFernando SalasSeth ManessTyler LyonsKevin SiegristSam Freeman, Seung Hwan Oh, Jason MotteAdam Ottavino

Analysis: The Cardinals have an impressive track record of developing pitching, with five accomplished homegrown starters plus promising young starters Alex Reyes, Luis Perdomo, Luke Weaver and Jack Flaherty in reserve. Similarly, St. Louis has been excellent at finding pitchers who develop into impact relievers, with modern-day standouts Joe Kelly, Trevor Rosenthal, Luke Gregerson and Kyle Barraclough leading a large, deep group of relievers scattered across the game…The Cardinals homegrown position group is well-rounded, but noticeably doesn’t match the star power or depth of the Cubs infield group or the Pirates or Brewers outfield groups….There is a particular lack of depth among infielders the Cardinals have produced. While Matt Adams could swap in for Albert Pujols at first base, there isn’t much beyond the starters at second base, third base and shortstop, with reserve utilitymen Greg Garcia and Daniel Descalso the best of the rest.

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