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Where Big Leaguers Come From

Teams will try and add players throughout the next three days that can eventually help their big league rosters, but only a select few will ever reach the majors.

As such, it is prudent to examine who is actually in the major leagues today, and where future big leaguers generally come from at each position.

Made possible by the thorough research of Owen McCue, we compiled the 40 most most-used players at each position in the majors this year, and sorted where they came from (high school, college, international). The demographics of each position became clear, as well as some lessons that are useful to remember as teams make their selections over the next three days.


College High School International
19 13 8

A Closer Look: Of the 13 high school draftees playing catcher in the majors, four were drafted out of Puerto Rico (Yadier Molina, Martin Maldonado, Rene Rivera, Christian Vasquez) and two were drafted at another position (Tony Wolters and J.T. Realmuto, both shortstops). Only seven of the 40 primary catchers in the majors today played catcher in high school in the continental U.S. Jeff Mathis and Travis d’Arnaud were the only first-round picks of those seven.

Star Qualities: The best big league catchers in today’s game almost universally come from college (Buster Posey, Yasmani Grandal, Jonathan Lucroy, Russell Martin, Matt Wieters) or from outside the continental U.S. (Molina, Salvador Perez, Willson Contreras, Gary Sanchez, Francisco Cervelli,).

The Bottom line: Sticking to the college or internationals ranks to find catchers is much wiser than drafting a high schooler from anywhere in the 50 states, especially in the first round.


College High School International
19 13 8

A Closer Look: Only two of the 40 primary first basemen in the majors today are righthanded hitters who played first base in college—Paul Goldschmidt and C.J. Cron. The rest are either high school draftees, lefthanded hitters, position converts, international signees or some combination of the above.

Star Qualities: Lefthanded-hitting amateur first basemen (Freddie Freeman, Anthony Rizzo, Eric Hosmer) or players who converted positions at various levels of pro ball (Joey Votto, Miguel Cabrera, Wil Myers) largely make up the impact first basemen in the majors.

The Bottom Line: Goldschmidt is a franchise player, he is the rare exception as to where first basemen in the major leagues come from. Overall, righthanded-hitting college first basemen are simply not a good draft bet when seeking your first baseman of the future.


College High School International
23 6 11

A Closer Look: Major league second basemen are largely position coverts. Only 8 of the 30 starters last season were second basemen as amateurs. Most (16) were former shortstops. Jose Altuve and Robinson Cano are examples of amateur second basemen who continue playing the position in the majors, but they are the exception.

Star Qualities: From a domestic draft perspective, the most effective second basemen in the majors were drafted at other positions, which is true both of college draftees (Dustin Pedroia, Ian Kinsler, Daniel Murphy, Jason Kipnis) and high school draftees (Brandon Phillips, Brandon Drury, Neil Walker, Javier Baez).

The Bottom Line: The best future second basemen available in the draft are largely not going to be guys who currently play second base as amateurs.


College High School International
20 7 13

A Closer Look: While players drafted from later rounds are present in every other position, third base is the exclusive domain of top-10 round picks. Of the 27 major leaguers playing third base this season who came in through the draft, every single one was drafted in the top 10 rounds. In fact, just four (Justin Turner, David Freese, Travis Shaw, Greg Garcia) were drafted after the sixth round.

Star Qualities: Whether it’s high school (Manny Machado, Nolan Arenado, Mike Moustakas) or college draftees (Kris Bryant, Evan Longoria, Anthony Rendon), the data shows amateurs capable of being third basemen in the majors reveal themselves prominently, even if they are playing a different position at the time. 

The Bottom Line: There are late-round draft finds to be had at other positions, but third base is a position that will be filled by an early-round pick.


College High School International
16 7 17

A Closer Look: Shortstop is the lone position where international signees outnumber either high school or college draftees in the majors. They fill all phylums, from the elite (Xander Bogaerts) to the very good (Jean Segura, Elvis Andrus) to the solid (Aledmys Diaz, Jose Iglesias) to the backups (Erick Aybar, Alexi Amarista).

Star Qualities: Beyond the international players, the best are largely high school draftees (Carlos Correa, Francisco Lindor, Corey Seager, Addison Russell), although there are a select few gems to be found from the college ranks (Andrelton Simmons, Brandon Crawford, Troy Tulowitzki, Trea Turner).

The Bottom Line: You’re much more likely to find your future shortstop when they’re a teenager than out of college.


College High School International
16 13 11

A Closer Look: Left field is the most equitable position as the only spot where college draftees, high school draftees and international signees all make up at least a quarter of big leaguers today. A large chunk are position converts, largely from center field (i.e. Michael Conforto, Andrew Benintendi) but also catcher (Kyle Schwarber, Jayson Werth), third base (Alex Gordon, Ryan Braun) and shortstop (Justin Upton, Adam Frazier).

Star Qualities: The best left fielders in today’s game are largely college picks (Braun, Conforto, Khris Davis, Adam Duvall), but there are also standouts to be found in the high school ranks (Upton, Matt Kemp, Michael Brantley) and internationally (Gregory Polanco, Marcell Ozuna)

The Bottom Line: You can find good left fielders anywhere, but most are probably playing a different position at present. 


College High School International
17 17 6

A Closer Look: Center field is the lone position where as high school draftees are as prevalent as college draftees. It is also the position with the most late-round picks who become everyday major leaguers, highlighted by Dexter Fowler (14th round), Lorenzo Cain (17th round), Adam Eaton (19th round), Kevin Kiermaier (31st round), Kevin Pillar (32nd round), and Jarrod Dyson (50th round).

Star Qualities: The best center fielders in the majors are exclusively domestic players. Mike Trout, Adam Jones, Christian Yelich, George Springer, Andrew McCutchen, Jackie Bradley, A.J. Pollock, Charlie Blackmon, the aforementioned late-round picks….only Ender Inciarte has a case as an upper-tier center fielder in the majors as an international signing.

The Bottom Line: Future everyday center fielders are going to be found domestically in the draft more than internationally, and you can find quality ones late in the draft.


A Closer Look: Right field is the position where international players have the most impact after shortstop. Though equally as many international signees play third base, the impact level in right field is significantly higher. Interestingly, right field is a place where players drafted from junior colleges or small schools have the most impact.

Star Qualities: Carlos Gonzalez, Yasiel Puig. Nomar Mazara, and Max Kepler make up the best of the international crop. The junior college crop/lower-division college draftees includes Bryce Harper (a special case, obviously), Jose Bautista, Hunter Pence, Josh Reddick, Nick Markakis, J.D. Martinez, Michael Saunders, Matt Joyce and John Jaso. 

The Bottom Line: When looking at smaller schools for un-mined talent, right field is the position to look.

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