If Every Team Was Homegrown 2019: AL Central
The 2019 Homegrown Roster series continues today with the AL Central, where we look at what the Indians, Twins, White Sox, Royals and Tigers would look like in 2019 if they were made up solely of homegrown players.
Any player signed for entry into Major League Baseball is eligible to be listed with the team that signed them. Foreign professionals signed from Japan, Cuba, South Korea or other countries are included in addition to those players drafted and signed, signed as international amateurs or signed as undrafted free agents.
Players must have been active in 2018 and are scheduled to be active in 2019 to be eligible. Teams are listed in alphabetical order.
CHICAGO WHITE SOX
Analysis: The White Sox remain short on both star power and depth when it comes to developing position players. Abreu—a professional Cuban signee—is the only All-Star they can claim, while their catchers and outfielders are largely second-division starters, platoon players or backups. The looming ascension of shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. with the Padres is the White Sox's best hope for having another homegrown star. The White Sox have been better with homegrown arms, drafting Sale, Gonzalez and Rodon, but their depth of starters runs out very, very quickly. The White Sox have not had a winning season since 2012 and have not made the playoffs since 2008, and their subpar track record of identifying and developing homegrown talent is a big reason why.
Honorable Mention: Bartolo Colon, Steven Wright, Greg Allen, Tony Wolters, Clint Frazier, Justus Sheffield, Roberto Perez, Erik Gonzalez, Josh Tomlin, Hector Rondon, Yandy Diaz, T.J. McFarland, Tony Sipp.
Analysis: The Indians above all stand out for the strength of their infield, with MVP candidates Lindor and Ramirez currently playing for them on the left side of the diamond and Aguilar and Wendle starring for other teams, albeit as late-bloomers. Just as in real life, the outfield is a bit shallow for the Indians, although Naquin, Zimmer and Frazier have all been hampered by injuries and have a chance to improve if they can get healthy. The rotation runs deep as well, with options both old (Colon, Sabathia) and young (Sheffield, Bieber). In all, the Indians have 10 homegrown All-Stars active in the game today. With a standout infield and deep well of homegrown arms they've benefitted from in either direct production or trades, the group the Indians drafted and developed has played a big role in their run of six straight winning seasons.
Analysis: The Tigers have successfully developed a few stars over the past decade, but they've come up short in developing enough players around them. The Tigers have zero homegrown options at first base—requiring some roster gymnastics that end with Castellanos at first base despite the fact he's never actually played there—while second base and the outfield are short of candidates as well, particularly with Granderson and Maybin winding down their careers. The Tigers boast two homegrown Cy Young Award winners in Verlander and Porcello, but finding players beyond them and Smyly gets challenging fast. The one area the Tigers have successfully developed en masse is bullpen arms, with Miller, Rodney, Knebel, Jimenez and Green making up one of the better homegrown relief groups.
Patience Begins Paying Off For Will Benson
The 2016 first-rounder may be repeating the Midwest League, but he's also repeating his power-speed exploits while hitting for a higher average.
KANSAS CITY ROYALS
Analysis: The Royals have identified and developed amateur talent extremely well the past decade-plus. Perez, Hosmer, Moustakas, Gordon, Myers, Greinke, Herrera and Holland give them eight homegrown All-Stars, second-most in the division behind only the Indians. Beyond them, Merrifield is one of the best at his position, Mondesi and O'Hearn have shown promise and Duffy, Manaea and Montgomery have been very productive lefthanders. The starting pitching depth is a tad little light, but it's still stronger than most other teams in the division. With the core of this group leading the way, the Royals were able to end a run of nine straight losing seasons with four straight non-losing seasons, including back-to-back World Series appearances in 2014-15.
Analysis: As with last year, the Twins' international scouting operation stands out as one of the most productive in baseball. Ramos, Sano, Solarte, Polanco, Kepler, Romero and Hendriks all signed as international amateurs, and on top of that Berrios and Rosario were drafted out of Puerto Rico. The Twins have identified and developed catchers, infielders and outfielders all reasonably well, but pitching has been an issue. Berrios and Gibson are their only established big league starters, while Rodriguez—who they originally drafted as an outfielder and let leave as a minor league free agent—and Romero showed promise as rookies last year but need to build on it. Hendriks, who is really a reliever and started eight games last year as an "opener", is their only other viable starting pitching option, while Neshek is the best of a very light group of homegrown relievers.