With Major League Baseball's first-year player draft recently taking place, it’s an appropriate time to examine the best current homegrown teams.
More than ever, organizations are relying on young, inexpensive talent to piece together teams that are expected to compete year in and year out. As the Los Angeles Dodgers and Angels are making painfully apparent this season, it takes more than an open checkbook to win championships.
So what exactly is a homegrown player?
To be considered homegrown—for the sake of this article, at least—a player must have been either drafted or signed as an amateur free agent by the team that he currently plays for. Additionally, the player must not have spent time as a member of any other organization after being drafted or signed.
The criteria considers both quality and quantity. A team cannot simply make this list because it has a large amount of homegrown players on the roster. A team that has six high-quality homegrown players on its roster would rank higher than a team with 10 below-average homegrown players.
Of course, the team as a whole must be competitive as well.
Begin the slideshow to view to top homegrown teams in baseball.
*All statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com.
Although most of the Texas Rangers’ star players were obtained via trade or free agency, the club surely wouldn’t have made two World Series appearances in the past three seasons without its wealth of homegrown talent.
Strangely, the Rangers have only one first-round pick on their roster: reliever Tanner Scheppers. Their best homegrown players were all selected very late in the draft. Ian Kinsler and Mitch Moreland were both 17th-round picks. Derek Holland was taken in the 25th round.
Nick Tepesch (14th round), Justin Grimm (fifth round) and Craig Gentry (10th round) have all been valuable assets to the club this season.
The Rangers have done a nice job scouting amateur talent. Leonys Martin and Joe Ortiz were both signed as amateur free agents, as was top prospect Jurickson Profar.
Alexi Ogando is an interesting case. The righty was first signed by the Oakland Athletics as an amateur free agent in 2002. The Rangers selected Ogando—who was playing outfield at the time—in the 2003 Rule 5 draft and converted him to a pitcher. Since he didn’t make his major league debut until 2010, it’s fair to consider Ogando homegrown talent.
Thanks to a slew of losing seasons, the Colorado Rockies have had many early draft selections since joining the league via expansion in 1993.
To their credit, they have made good use of them.
Troy Tulowitzki, Rex Brothers and Todd Helton were all first-round draft picks. Nolan Arenado was taken in the second round, 59th overall. Josh Rutledge—currently filling in for the oft-injured Tulowitzki—was a third-round pick.
The Rockies have also been able to unearth a couple late-round gems. Jordan Pacheco was a ninth-round selection, and Dexter Fowler was taken in the 14th round, 410th overall.
Additionally, the club has been successful in the amateur market. Two members of the Rockies’ starting rotation—Jhoulys Chacin and Juan Nicasio—were signed as amateur free agents, as was powerful catcher Wilin Rosario.
As much talk as there has been about the New York Yankees' massive payroll over the years, the organization has actually done a nice job stockpiling homegrown talent.
Derek Jeter, Phil Hughes and Joba Chamberlain were all first-round picks. Brett Gardner and David Adams were both selected in the third round.
The club has also been able to find talent deep in the draft. David Phelps was taken in the 14th round. Both David Robertson and Preston Claiborne, who have excelled in the bullpen this season, were taken in the 17th round.
Of course, it wouldn’t be very Yankee-like to build a club solely around draft picks.
Two of the most notable Yankees—Mariano Rivera and Robinson Cano—were signed as amateur free agents, as were Francisco Cervelli and Eduardo Nunez.
The San Francisco Giants took advantage of a streak of losing seasons to create an impressive roster full of talented young players.
Matt Cain, Tim Lincecum and Madison Bumgarner—three-fifths of the Giants’ starting rotation—were first-round picks, as was all-world catcher Buster Posey.
Brandon Crawford and Brandon Belt were taken in the fourth and fifth rounds, respectively. Sergio Romo—one of the top closers in the game—was taken in the 28th round, 852nd overall.
Although the Giants aren’t as aggressive as other clubs in the amateur markets, they were able to sign two-time All-Star Pablo Sandoval as an amateur free agent.
If not for their struggles this season, the Giants would rank higher on this list.
Thanks to what seems like a hundred losing seasons for the Washington Nationals (and previously as the Montreal Expos), the club has stockpiled some exceptional young talent.
Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper were both selected first overall in their respective draft class. Ryan Zimmerman, Ross Detwiler and Drew Storen were also first-round picks.
The Nationals have been able to round out their roster with players taken in the second round or later, such as Jordan Zimmermann (second round), Ian Desmond (third round), Danny Espinosa (third round), Craig Stammen (12th round), Tyler Moore (16th round) and Steve Lombardozzi (19th round).
Roger Bernadina, who has been a nice fourth outfielder for the Nats, was signed as an amateur free agent.
The Atlanta Braves’ ability to find above-average major league talent in all rounds of the draft has been quite impressive over the past few years.
Besides first-rounders Jason Heyward and Mike Minor, the club boasts a roster full of players taken mostly in the second round or later.
Freddie Freeman, Brian McCann, Andrelton Simmons and Alex Wood were all second-round picks. Closer Craig Kimbrel was selected in the third round, and Kris Medlen was a 10th-round pick.
Evan Gattis (23rd round) and Jonny Venters (30th round) were both huge steals.
Julio Teheran and Brandon Beachy signed with the Braves as amateur free agents.
The Cincinnati Reds have used all avenues available to import talent into their minor league system. Fortunately for the club, much of that talent has found its way to the big league roster.
Although some of the first-round picks have failed to develop into star players, the club has more than made due with amateur free-agent signings and some nice draft selections in the later rounds.
Homer Bailey, Jay Bruce, Todd Frazier, Mike Leake and Devin Mesoraco were all first-round selections. Joey Votto and Zack Cozart were both picked in the second round.
Tony Cingrani (third round) and Sam LeCure (fourth round) have both been steady contributors to the big league club this season.
Outside of the draft, the Reds have struck gold with a few amateur free agents, most notably super-closer Aroldis Chapman and injured ace Johnny Cueto. Ryan Hanigan was also signed as an amateur free agent.
The St. Louis Cardinals are by far the best homegrown team in baseball. What’s especially impressive about what the club has done is the fact that its roster is filled with high-quality players that were selected late in the draft.
Shelby Miller, Lance Lynn, Michael Wacha and Pete Kozma were all first-round picks. Besides those four, the only players selected before the fourth round are utility infielder Daniel Descalso and center fielder Jon Jay.
The rest of the squad is chock-full of talent taken in the latter rounds. Yadier Molina was a fourth-round pick. Allen Craig was selected in the eighth round.
Matt Carpenter (13th round), Jason Motte (19th round), Trevor Rosenthal (21st round), Jaime Garcia (22nd round) and Matt Adams (23rd round) were all tremendous steals.
Even more amazing, the draft has been the sole source of homegrown talent for the Cardinals. None of their current players were signed as amateur free agents.
It's hard to imagine the Cardinals falling out of contention any time in the near future.