If Every Team Was Homegrown 2019: NL Central
We continue our 2019 Homegrown Roster series with the NL Central, taking a look at what each team's starting lineup would look like if it was made up entirely of homegrown players. You can see the first installment of the series, the National League East, here.
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.
Honorable Mention: Starlin Castro, DJ LeMahieu, Ian Happ, Marwin Gonzalez, Jorge Soler, Josh Harrison, Welington Castillo, Robinson Chirinos, David Bote, Paul Blackburn, Brandon Guyer, Jeimer Candelario, Jerry Blevins, Ryan Flaherty, Ricky Nolasco, Matt Szczur.
Analysis: The Cubs' collection of homegrown All-Star infielders remains unmatched with Bryant, Donaldson, Baez, Torres, Harrison, Castro and LeMahieu, not to mention Bour and Candelario, as well as Happ and Gonzalez—natural infielders who can play the outfield. Their homegrown outfield production looks better than a year ago with Schwarber having a bounceback year and Soler showing well in his 61-game stint with Kansas City. The Cubs also boast an impressive catching crop with Contreras, Castillo and Chirinos. As strong as their position group is, the Cubs' homegrown pitching track record remains incredibly poor. Godley is the only Cubs' homegrown starter drafted or signed this decade.
Analysis: Like the Cubs, the Reds have an impressive track record of drafting and developing position players and a much poorer one with pitchers. With Votto and Alonso at first base, Turner and Frazier at third base and Grandal, Barnhart, and Mesoraco as catchers, the Reds have both star power and depth in the dirt. Pitching-wise, they have been stronger than the Cubs, but are still one of the worst. There is little depth to speak of beyond their top three starters, and the bullpen is greatly enhanced by two professional Cuban signings (Chapman, Iglesias) but is otherwise very short on depth as well. Developing pitching has long been a problem for the Reds and is the primary culprit behind their four consecutive 90-loss seasons.
Analysis: The Brewers boast a highly impressive homegrown outfield group with Brantley, Cain and Haniger all All-Stars and Davis the major league leader in home runs the last three seasons. Their infield is on the other side of the spectrum. With Prince Fielder's post-2016 retirement, the Brewers have no homegrown first base success to point to, and third base is similarly bad. Braun, who has not actually played third base since 2007, is the best of a non-existent group of options. The Brewers' starting pitching is surprisingly solid with a group that runs eight-deep, although none are frontline arms. Woodruff and Burnes are their best hopes to change that.
Jared Oliva Improves Swing From Ground Up
The 24-year-old has showcased speed and on-base skills, but power development is the next frontier as he readies for Triple-A.
Analysis: The Pirates' homegrown unit is solid all-around. They have standouts in the outfield and solid players around the diamond in the infield, with depth to boot. The pitching is a bit short at the back end of the rotation, although Cole and Taillon at the top is one of the better one-two homegrown punches around. The bullpen is also stout with Watson, Wilson, Hughes and Duke. Even though playoff success didn't come, the quality of the Pirates' homegrown group has paid off in the majors—the club has a winning record in four of the last six seasons after 20 consecutive losing years.
ST. LOUIS CARDINALS
Honorable Mention: Matt Adams, Harrison Bader, Luke Voit, Trevor Rosenthal, Kyle Barraclough, Joe Kelly, Jordan Hicks, Luke Weaver, Alex Reyes, Aledmys Diaz, Jon Jay, Shelby Miller, Dakota Hudson, Austin Gomber, Daniel Descalso, Carson Kelly, Fernando Salas, Seung-Hwan Oh.
Analysis: In terms of pure numbers, it's hard to beat the Cardinals' homegrown pitching development. St. Louis runs nine deep in homegrown starters, with standouts both young and old among them. Their track record of developing bullpen arms is also one of baseball's strongest, which is slightly ironic given their relief troubles in recent years. The Cardinals are a tad lighter on the position player side, but have enough players to fill out every position without too much of a stretch and have depth in both the infield and outfield. The quality of the Cardinals' homegrown group is a big reason why they are on a run of 11 consecutive winning seasons.