Each MLB Team's Best Homegrown Player
Free agency and trades are huge parts of building successful MLB teams, but making the most of the June draft and developing talent in-house can be just as important.
For smaller-market teams, getting key contributions from homegrown players in the low-cost early stages of their careers is key, and for larger-market teams, it's just another way to bolster the roster.
What follows is a look at whom I feel is the best homegrown player on each MLB team right now, as well as a look at some other key homegrown talent on each team.
It should be noted, foreign-born players who jumped right to the majors after signing with MLB teams, such as Yu Darvish, Yoenis Cespedes, Hisashi Iwakuma and Hyun-Jin Ryu, were not considered for inclusion, since they spent no time developing with their current teams.
Arizona Diamondbacks: 1B Paul Goldschmidt
Acquired: MLB Draft (8-2009)
It has been a rapid climb to stardom for Paul Goldschmidt, as he made an impact down the stretch for the Diamondbacks in 2011 before taking over as the everyday first baseman last season.
He hit .286 with 20 home runs and 18 steals last year, and the 25-year-old has been even better this season, as he has a good chance to make his first All-Star team come July.
The slugger is currently hitting .313/.389/.571 with 15 home runs and an NL-high 59 RBI, and he looks like a legitimate MVP candidate for a solid Diamondbacks team.
Honorable Mention: C Miguel Montero, OF Gerardo Parra, SP Wade Miley
Atlanta Braves: RP Craig Kimbrel
Acquired: MLB Draft (3-2008)
Since debuting in 2010 as a 21-year-old, Craig Kimbrel has become arguably the most dominant reliever in all of baseball.
While he's had some hiccups this season, blowing three saves in 21 chances, the rest of his numbers speak for themselves, with a 1.85 ERA, 0.99 WHIP and 34 strikeouts in 24.1 innings of work.
Over the past two seasons heading into 2013, the right-hander was 88-for-99 on save chances with a 1.61 ERA and a ridiculous 15.7 K/9, leading the NL in saves both seasons.
Honorable Mention: C Brian McCann, 1B Freddie Freeman, RF Jason Heyward, SP Mike Minor, SP Kris Medlen, RP Jonny Venters, SP Julio Teheran
Baltimore Orioles: 3B Manny Machado
Acquired: MLB Draft (1-2010)
Nick Markakis has the more impressive track record of success, but it is dynamic young third baseman Manny Machado who gets the nod as the Orioles' top homegrown player right now.
Taken with the No. 3 overall pick in 2010 and developed as a shortstop, Machado was called up in early August last season and slotted at third base. He would start every game there the rest of the way, hitting .262 with a .739 OPS and 18 extra-base hits in 51 games, all while playing fantastic defense.
Still just 20, he's been amazing so far this season, hitting .315/.350/.480 with 27 doubles, two triples and five home runs, for an .831 OPS.
Honorable Mention: RF Nick Markakis, C Matt Wieters, RP Jim Johnson
Boston Red Sox: 2B Dustin Pedroia
Acquired: MLB Draft (2-2004)
The Red Sox have some good candidates here, especially with the way Clay Buchholz is throwing the ball this season, but Dustin Pedroia has been a star throughout his big league career.
The AL rookie of the year in 2007 and the AL MVP the following season, Pedroia is a perennial 20/20 threat who brings a little bit of everything to the Boston lineup.
He's having another great season so far this year, hitting .328/.414/.453 and ranking third in the AL with 84 hits for an .867 OPS.
Honorable Mention: SP Clay Buchholz, SP Jon Lester, CF Jacoby Ellsbury, 3B Will Middlebrooks
Chicago Cubs: SP Jeff Samardzija
Acquired: MLB Draft (5-2006)
The Cubs' new front office team of Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer has put a renewed emphasis on building the franchise from the ground up, and they have a handful of potential star players working their ways through the system in Javier Baez, Jorge Soler and recently drafted Kris Bryant.
For now, however, they don't have much in the way of high-end homegrown talent, and with Starlin Castro struggling this season, the nod goes to staff ace Jeff Samardzija.
The 6'5" right-hander enjoyed a breakout season last year, going 9-13 with a 3.81 ERA and 180 strikeouts in 174.2 innings. He's been even better this season, despite his 3-7 record, as he's posted a 3.18 ERA with an NL-best 10.4 K/9 mark.
Honorable Mention: SS Starlin Castro, RP James Russell
Chicago White Sox: SP Chris Sale
Acquired: MLB Draft (1-2010)
Drafted out of Florida Gulf Coast University in 2010, Chris Sale made just 11 appearances in the minors before making his MLB debut less than two months after being drafted.
He spent his first two pro seasons in the White Sox bullpen, appearing in 79 games and posting a 2.58 ERA and 10.6 K/9, before moving to the rotation last year.
The left-hander was 17-8 with a 3.05 ERA last season, finishing sixth in AL Cy Young voting, and he's been the ace of the staff once again this year, with a 5-4 record and 2.68 ERA.
Honorable Mention: RP Addison Reed
Cincinnati Reds: 1B Joey Votto
Acquired: MLB Draft (2-2002)
The Reds have assembled a terrific core of homegrown players both from a position-player and pitching standpoint, but there is no question Joey Votto is the cream of the crop.
The 29-year-old has led the NL in on-base percentage each of the past three seasons and is tops in that category again this year, with a .446 mark.
He took home NL MVP honors in 2010 and likely would have had a real chance at winning again last season, had it not been for knee surgery costing him nearly two months. The Reds have him locked up through 2023, and he'll continue to anchor their offense.
Honorable Mention: RP Aroldis Chapman, RF Jay Bruce, SP Johnny Cueto, SP Homer Bailey, 3B Todd Frazier, SP Mike Leake
Cleveland Indians: 2B Jason Kipnis
Acquired: MLB Draft (2-2009)
The Indians have done an abysmal job of cultivating their own talent of late, but Jason Kipnis looks the part of a future star here in his second full season.
At the All-Star break last year, he was hitting .277 with 11 home runs and 20 steals, but he slumped in the second half to finish with a .257 average, 14 home runs and 31 steals.
So far this season, he has a .245/.318/.431 line with eight home runs and 14 steals. Not otherworldly numbers by any means, but solid production from a young second baseman, and it is clear there is potential for plenty more.
Honorable Mention: RP Vinnie Pestano, RP Cody Allen
Colorado Rockies: SS Troy Tulowitzki
Acquired: MLB Draft (1-2005)
From 2009-2011, there was no better shortstop in all of baseball than Troy Tulowitzki, as he averaged a line of .304 BA, 30 HR, 97 RBI and won a pair of Gold Gloves.
Last season, he dealt with a nagging groin injury and was limited to just 47 games as a result. That was reason enough for there to be at least some concern about whether or not he'd be back to full strength this season.
He's been as good as ever, though, hitting an NL-best .353 with 16 home runs and 51 RBI while also leading the NL with a .651 slugging percentage and a 1.072 OPS.
Honorable Mention: CF Dexter Fowler, RP Rex Brothers, C Wilin Rosario, SP Jhoulys Chacin, SP Juan Nicasio, 1B Todd Helton, 3B Jordan Pacheco
Detroit Tigers: SP Justin Verlander
Acquired: MLB Draft (1-2004)
The Tigers have built their team into a World Series contender thanks in large part to free-agent signings (Prince Fielder, Anibal Sanchez) and trades (Miguel Cabrera, Max Scherzer, Austin Jackson), but they did strike gold in the 2004 draft.
With the No. 2 pick, the team took right-hander Justin Verlander out of Old Dominion, and by the 2006 season, he was a 17-game winner.
In seven full seasons heading into 2013, he went a combined 124-63 with a 3.37 ERA while winning at least 17 games in all but one season. After signing a record seven-year, $180 million deal in the offseason, he's 8-4 with a 3.71 ERA and 10.5 K/9 so far this year.
Honorable Mention: C Alex Avila, SP Rick Porcello, P Drew Smyly
Houston Astros: SP Bud Norris
Acquired: MLB Draft (6-2006)
The Astros roster is short on veteran talent right now as they continue a full-scale rebuild, and 28-year-old right-hander Bud Norris is one of the elder statesmen.
He got the Opening Day nod this season and has quietly put together a solid year, going 5-6 with a 3.47 ERA over his first 14 starts.
As one of the few players on the team with a salary north of $1 million, and with legitimate trade value provided he keeps it up, Norris may very well be on the move at the deadline. For now, though, he's the team's best homegrown player, just edging out second baseman Jose Altuve.
Honorable Mention: 2B Jose Altuve, C Jason Castro
Kansas City Royals: LF Alex Gordon
Acquired: MLB Draft (1-2005)
The Royals have done a good job drafting positional talent over the past several seasons, and while they haven't had the same success with pitchers, they have assembled a core lineup of young, inexpensive talent.
Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas have yet to reach their full potentials, and Salvador Perez is just now scratching the surface of what should be an All-Star career, so the choice here came down to Billy Butler and Alex Gordon.
Gordon, the No. 2 pick in the 2005 draft, was a late-bloomer who looked like a huge bust until 2011. However, over the past two seasons, he's hit .298 with 37 home runs and 27 steals while posting a 12.4 WAR, according to FanGraphs. He's been solid again this season, hitting .304/.349/.448, and could be in line for his first All-Star appearance.
Honorable Mention: DH Billy Butler, C Salvador Perez, RP Greg Holland, RP Aaron Crow, 3B Mike Moustakas, 1B Eric Hosmer
Los Angeles Angels: CF Mike Trout
Acquired: MLB Draft (1-2009)
The Angels have one of the weakest farm systems in baseball right now, but they have landed some impact players through the draft in recent years.
Jered Weaver has emerged as a bona fide ace over the past few seasons, but he loses out to budding superstar Mike Trout for the spot here.
The 21-year-old is hitting .303/.373/.561 with 12 home runs and 14 steals this season, as he has avoided the dreaded sophomore slump after what was perhaps the greatest all-around rookie season in MLB history last year.
Honorable Mention: SP Jered Weaver, 1B Mark Trumbo, 2B Howie Kendrick
Los Angeles Dodgers: SP Clayton Kershaw
Acquired: MLB Draft (1-2006)
Matt Kemp was an absolute steal in the sixth round back in 2003, and Kenley Jansen was a great signing out of Curacao, but the pick here has to be ace Clayton Kershaw.
Taken with the No. 7 pick in the 2006 draft out of a Texas high school, Kershaw reached the majors for 21 starts as a 20-year-old in 2008, and he was a regular part of the staff by the next season.
Over the past four seasons, he went 56-32 with a 2.60 ERA, winning the NL Cy Young in 2011 and the ERA title each of the past two seasons. He's 5-4 with an NL-best 1.88 ERA so far this season and could be in line to be the first $200-million pitcher once the Dodgers decide to extend him.
Honorable Mention: CF Matt Kemp, SP Chad Billingsley, RP Kenley Jansen
Miami Marlins: RF Giancarlo Stanton
Acquired: MLB Draft (2-2007)
The Marlins sold big in the offseason, and now find themselves in the early stages of a full-scale rebuild, so their roster is incredibly short on talent at this point.
One of the few bright spots has been 20-year-old right-hander Jose Fernandez, who unexpectedly cracked the starting rotation out of spring training after a pair of injuries.
Despite the fact that he's been injured much of the season, my choice here is still Giancarlo Stanton. He may wind up being a trade chip at the deadline, depending on what direction the Marlins want to go, and while injuries have limited his production so far this season, the 23-year-old has already proven himself as an offensive superstar.
Honorable Mention: SP Jose Fernandez, RP Steve Cishek
Milwaukee Brewers: LF Ryan Braun
Acquired: MLB Draft (1-2005)
One of the most dynamic players in baseball from the moment he broke into the league, Ryan Braun has averaged a line of .313/.374/.568 with 34 home runs and 21 steals in his sixth MLB season.
He has posted back-to-back 30/30 seasons, winning NL MVP in 2011 and leading the National League with a career-high 41 home runs last season.
While he's currently wrapped up in the Biogenesis scandal and could be facing a 100-game suspension, for the time being he's a no-brainer as the choice here.
Honorable Mention: SP Yovani Gallardo, 1B Corey Hart, 2B Rickie Weeks, C Jonathan Lucroy
Minnesota Twins: C Joe Mauer
Acquired: MLB Draft (1-2001)
Many questioned the Twins' decision to select high-school catcher Joe Mauer over USC right-hander Mark Prior with the first pick in the 2001 draft, but it's clear now that they made the right decision.
Mauer has three batting titles and the 2009 AL MVP Award to his credit, and as a 30-year-old he has already established himself as one of the greatest catchers in the history of the game.
Injuries limited him to just 82 games in 2011, but he bounced back to hit .319 and lead the AL with a .416 on-base percentage last year and is currently hitting .330/.411/.494 as one of the few producers in a thin Twins lineup.
Honorable Mention: 1B Justin Morneau, RP Glen Perkins
New York Mets: SP Matt Harvey
Acquired: MLB Draft (1-2010)
This was one of the tougher choices here, as most would agree that David Wright is the face of the Mets franchise right now and he remains one of the best third basemen in all of baseball.
However, there is simply no ignoring what 24-year-old Matt Harvey has done this season as he has emerged as not only the ace of the Mets staff, but also as one of the best pitchers in all of baseball.
After posting a 2.73 ERA and 10.6 K/9 in 10 starts as a rookie last season, the right-hander is 5-0 with a 2.10 ERA and 95 strikeouts in 90 innings so far this year, and he'll anchor the Mets rotation for the foreseeable future.
Honorable Mention: 3B David Wright
New York Yankees: 2B Robinson Cano
Acquired: Amateur Free Agent (2001)
The trio of Mariano Rivera, Derek Jeter and Andy Pettitte have all enjoyed phenomenal careers in Yankees uniforms, but as far as who the team's best homegrown player is right now, Robinson Cano is the clear choice.
Cano is in a class of his own when it comes to run production at the second-base position (though Brandon Phillips is close), having hit .314 over the past four seasons while averaging 29 home runs and 102 RBI.
His average is down this season, as he currently has a .277/.348/.506 line, but his 15 home runs and 40 RBI still make him an elite producer at his position. A free agent at season's end, he's in line for a huge payday this offseason.
Honorable Mention: RP Mariano Rivera, SS Derek Jeter, SP Andy Pettitte, RP David Robertson, LF Brett Gardner
Oakland Athletics: SP A.J. Griffin
Acquired: MLB Draft (13-2010)
With their small-market payroll restrictions, the A's tend to deal their talented young players for prospects before they have to pay them, so as a result they are relatively thin on homegrown talent, despite their current success level.
One player who has come up through the system and emerged as a key contributor is A.J. Griffin, who was a steal as a 13th-round pick out of the University of San Diego back in 2010.
He made 15 starts last season, going 7-1 with a 3.06 ERA, and he's proven that was no fluke so far this year, with a 5-5 record and 3.78 ERA through his first 13 starts.
Honorable Mention: RP Sean Doolittle, SP Dan Straily
Philadelphia Phillies: SP Cole Hamels
Acquired: MLB Draft (1-2002)
The core of players the Phillies won the 2008 World Series with was almost entirely homegrown, with Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, Cole Hamels, Kyle Kendrick, Brett Myers and Pat Burrell all coming up through the system.
While a number of those players are still around, age has caught up with them rather quickly over the past few seasons, and a full-scale rebuild may not be far off.
One player who will be around long-term is Hamels, who signed a six-year, $144 million extension last season. He's just 2-9 with a 4.45 ERA, but if you remove a pair of disastrous starts, his ERA is a more respectable 3.42 over his other 12 starts, and he remains one of the top left-handers in the game today.
Honorable Mention: SP Kyle Kendrick, SS Jimmy Rollins, 1B Ryan Howard, 2B Chase Utley, C Carlos Ruiz
Pittsburgh Pirates: CF Andrew McCutchen
Acquired: MLB Draft (1-2005)
Since breaking into the league as a 22-year-old speedster with decent power back in 2009, Andrew McCutchen has rounded into a dynamic all-around offensive producer.
He almost single-handedly kept the Pirates in contention in the first half last season, entering the All-Star break with a .362/.414/.625 line, including 18 home runs and 60 RBI.
He's gotten more help from his supporting cast this season, and is hitting a slightly less-impressive .290/.359/.455 with seven home runs, but he remains a superstar on the rise.
Honorable Mention: 2B Neil Walker, 3B Pedro Alvarez
San Diego Padres: 3B Chase Headley
Acquired: MLB Draft (2-2005)
The Padres have quietly stockpiled one of the deepest farm systems in all of baseball, and while they may still be a year or two from contention, they are a franchise that is headed in the right direction.
They'll have a big decision to make regarding third baseman Chase Headley here in the next couple years, as he broke out with a huge second half last season.
The 29-year-old is set to hit free agency at the end of the 2014 season, and while he has hit just .226/.333/.368 so far this season after missing time early, he showed what he was capable of last season when he hit .308 with 23 home runs and 73 RBI after the All-Star break.
Honorable Mention: 2B Jedd Gyorko, OF Will Venable
San Francisco Giants: C Buster Posey
Acquired: MLB Draft (1-2008)
The Giants have done a fantastic job of cultivating talent in house of late, especially on the pitching side of things, and that has been a big reason for their winning two of the past three titles.
While pitching has been the hallmark of their success, catcher and reigning NL MVP Buster Posey gets the nod as their best homegrown talent.
The 26-year-old won the NL Rookie of the Year Award and helped spark the offense back in 2010, and after suffering a broken fibula and missing most of the 2011, he bounced back to win the batting title last season. The numbers are there again this year, as he's hitting .297/.375/.493 with 35 RBI to lead an improved Giants offense.
Honorable Mention: SP Matt Cain, SP Madison Bumgarner, 3B Pablo Sandoval, RP Sergio Romo
Seattle Mariners: SP Felix Hernandez
Acquired: Amateur Free Agent (2002)
The Mariners will have plenty of players competing for this spot in the years ahead, with a farm system loaded with top-end talent on the cusp of making big league impacts.
However, those guys will have their work cut out for them to claim the top spot, as Felix Hernandez is squarely in the discussion with Clayton Kershaw and Justin Verlander for the honor of best pitcher in all of baseball.
Signed out of Venezuela as a 17-year-old, he made his debut two seasons later and entered this season 98-76 with a 3.22 ERA and 8.3 K/9 in 238 career starts. The Mariners gave him a seven-year, $175 million extension, and he'll lead Seattle's charge back to contention.
Honorable Mention: 3B Kyle Seager, RP Carter Capps
St. Louis Cardinals: C Yadier Molina
Acquired: MLB Draft (4-2000)
There may no team in baseball better at consistently funneling new, impact talent through its minor league system and into the major leagues.
This season has seen rookie pitchers Shelby Miller and Trevor Rosenthal make major impacts, with a number of other first-year players seeing time as well.
Through it all, though, there is no question that catcher Yadier Molina is the most valuable player on the roster. Long a defensive-minded catcher, he has taken his offensive game to another level the past two seasons, and is currently second in the NL with a .351 average (Troy Tulowitzki, .353).
Honorable Mention: 1B Allen Craig, SP Shelby Miller, SP Lance Lynn, CF Jon Jay, 2B Matt Carpenter, RP Trevor Rosenthal, SP Jaime Garcia
Tampa Bay Rays: 3B Evan Longoria
Acquired: MLB Draft (1-2006)
Despite their payroll limitations, the Rays have managed to be competitive in the AL East for the past several seasons thanks in large part to their impressive player-development abilities.
Much like the Giants, pitching has been the hallmark of their success, and they have a pair of homegrown, breakout stars in their rotation this season in Matt Moore and Alex Cobb.
However, the honor here goes to third baseman Evan Longoria, who is the face of the franchise and has proven to be as important to his team's success as anyone in baseball. Last season, the Rays were 47-27 with him in the lineup and 43-45 without him.
Honorable Mention: SP David Price, SP Matt Moore, SP Alex Cobb
Texas Rangers: 2B Ian Kinsler
Acquired: MLB Draft (17-2003)
The Rangers have done a good deal of their roster building through trades over the past few seasons, but following a number of offseason losses, they are relying more heavily on a homegrown core this season.
Top prospects Jurickson Profar and Mike Olt figure to be the future offensively, but for the time being, it has been fellow homegrown players Mitch Moreland and Ian Kinsler providing the punch alongside Adrian Beltre and Nelson Cruz.
Kinsler was an absolute steal as a 17th-round pick back in 2003, as he has provided a good mix of power and speed atop the Texas lineup throughout his career. He has a pair of 30/30 season to his credit and is currently hitting .302/.369/.500, though he's on the 15-day DL at the moment.
Honorable Mention: SP Derek Holland, 1B Mitch Moreland, 2B Jurickson Profar, RP Tanner Scheppers
Toronto Blue Jays: RP Casey Janssen
Acquired: MLB Draft (4-2004)
The Blue Jays had a busy offseason, acquiring what seemed like an entire new team following a pair of blockbuster deals.
That said, the simple fact of the matter is that they don't have much in the way of homegrown talent right now. Their top three incumbent hitters—Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion and Brett Lawrie—were all acquired via trade, as was starter Brandon Morrow.
That leaves veteran reliever Casey Janssen as the best of the bunch right now. He went 22-for-25 on saves last season after being forced into the closer's role and is 13-for-14 with a 2.61 ERA so far this year.
Honorable Mention: DH Adam Lind, C J.P. Arencibia, RP Brett Cecil
Washington Nationals: LF Bryce Harper
Acquired: MLB Draft (1-2010)
The Nationals could not have picked better seasons to finish with the worst record in the league, as it resulted in their taking a pair of franchise players in Bryce Harper and Stephen Strasburg with No. 1 overall picks.
As far as the sheer number of star-level players the Nationals have managed to produce in house, there may be no other team in the league that rivals them right now, but we'll go with the 20-year-old phenom Harper as the choice here.
After hitting .270 with 22 home runs and 18 steals last season, he's continued his ascent to superstardom this season with a .973 OPS and 12 home runs through his first 150 at-bats.
Honorable Mention: SP Jordan Zimmermann, SP Stephen Strasburg, 3B Ryan Zimmerman, SP Ross Detwiler, SS Ian Desmond