Highlighting Each MLB Team's Best Homegrown Player
With the 2014 MLB first-year player draft behind us, it is as good a time as any to take a look around the game and identify each team's best homegrown player.
That is the point of the draft, after all. The goal is to select and develop as many players as possible that a team can not only call its own, but that can be among the best in the game.
So, which players represent the best homegrown talent on each 25-man roster?
The only caveat here is that to be considered for inclusion, a player must have played at least one full season in the minor leagues for his respective team. That means that a guy like Yoenis Cespedes would not be considered homegrown, but Yasiel Puig would. Getting drafted or being acquired via amateur free agency makes no difference; it is solely whether or not a player came up through the farm system.
Arizona Diamondbacks: Paul Goldschmidt, 1B
Taken in the eighth round of the 2009 MLB draft, Goldschmidt tore through the minor leagues and quickly established himself as not only the best player on his team, but one of the best in the National League.
His ascent came as a surprise to some scouts and forced them to reassess their scouting reports. From ESPN.com’s Christina Kahrl:
As one NL scout put it, ‘We've almost all been one year behind him. He's always had to prove it to us before we were ready to give it to him. Even as someone who has seen the large bulk of his career development path, it's still a little hard to believe.’
Some of it is a matter of belatedly acknowledging the tools Goldschmidt brings to the table, even if they weren't recognized at the outset of his career.
Putting numbers aside, that is what makes Goldschmidt so special. Regardless of perception, he takes his talents and translates them into success.
On his career, Goldschmidt has a .292/.375/.521 slash line with 76 home runs, 280 RBI and a 13.3 WAR.
Atlanta Braves: Craig Kimbrel, CL
With names like Kris Medlen, Andrelton Simmons, Craig Kimbrel and Freddie Freeman on the 25-man roster, the Atlanta Braves have a demonstrated ability to draft well and develop talent. The name that stands out, though, is Kimbrel's.
Drafted in the third round of the 2008 draft, Kimbrel has been the anchor in one of the best bullpens in baseball over the past four seasons.
And when he set the Braves’ all-time record with save No. 155 last Friday evening, it was only the 254th appearance of his career. Not even legendary closers Mariano Rivera and Trevor Hoffman were able to get to 155 saves as quickly, per SI.com’s Jon Taylor.
He is the best that the Braves have produced in some time.
Baltimore Orioles: Manny Machado, 3B
Not only did Machado win a Rawlings Gold Glove in his rookie season last year, but he has tremendous abilities at the plate and on the basepaths. True, this season has been a disappointment, but he is coming back from a serious leg injury that is obviously impacting his effectiveness at the dish.
Nick Markakis was strongly considered here and has a higher WAR given his length of service, but as an overall player, Machado gets the nod. An All-Star last season, he has a .272/.306/.421 slash line and an 8.0 WAR since getting called up in 2012.
Boston Red Sox: Dustin Pedroia, 2B
Following a defeat at the hands of the Detroit Tigers, John Tomase from the Boston Herald authored an article about leadership during trying times. In it, he noted the difference between Pedroia and some of his teammates:
After last night’s listless 6-2 loss to the Tigers, a handful of reporters tried to go the state-of-the-team route with Red Sox rookie Xander Bogaerts, who answered in polite generalities.
Asking him to answer for what ails the club was a fundamental mistake, though. Not because Bogaerts isn’t talented enough to answer such questions — this is going to be his team sooner rather than later — but because they should be reserved for a player of a certain stature.
A player like Dustin Pedroia
Almost everyone in Boston knows this is Pedroia’s team. And make no mistake, the 2004 second-round draft selection and 2008 American League MVP earned it. He's compiled a .300/.368/.450 slash line and a 40.6 WAR over the course of his nine-year career.
Chicago Cubs: Jeff Samardzija, SP
Selected by the Chicago Cubs in the fifth round of the 2006 MLB draft, Jeff Samardzija has turned into one of the most reliable arms in the National League. True, the win-loss total isn’t eye-popping, but he is pitching to the tune of a 2.54 ERA and a 1.129 WHIP this season.
How much longer Samardzija can be called the best homegrown talent on the Cubs remains to be seen. After all, he is the subject of some pretty intense trade rumors, and even if he is on the roster next season, there is a crop of minor leaguers that have the potential to be breakout stars.
Either way, Samardzija gets the nod here over shortstop Starlin Castro given how well he has pitched this season.
Chicago White Sox: Chris Sale, SP
Chris Sale is not only the best homegrown player on the Chicago White Sox, but he is the best overall player on the team—by a wide margin. No offense to Jose Abreu, of course, but the conversation starts and stops with Sale.
All he has done since being the 13th pick in the 2010 MLB draft is go 37-25 with a 2.88 ERA and a 1.061 WHIP. Oh, he is also averaging 9.6 strikeouts every nine innings and has a 4.10 strikeout-to-walk ratio over the course of his career. Talk about domination.
The only other player drafted by the White Sox who has found even limited success would be Gordon Beckham, and we all know that any comparison between him and Sale would be disingenuous.
Cincinnati Reds: Joey Votto, 1B
Taken in the second round of the 2002 draft, Votto has compiled a .312/.419/.537 slash line over the course of his career to go with a 35.1 WAR. He has also been selected to the All-Star team each season since 2010.
It appears that he may never be the slugger he once was, but he's no less effective at getting on base and creating runs.
Taking the shift in his production into consideration, manager Bryan Price moved Votto into the No. 2 spot in the lineup before he went on the DL and received solid results, per MLB.com’s Anthony Castrovince.
No offense to Johnny Cueto or Homer Bailey, but Votto is the face of the Reds and is the best player the organization has produced for some time.
Cleveland Indians: Jason Kipnis, 2B
There really isn’t a whole lot to choose from here, but second baseman Jason Kipnis takes the honor for the Cleveland Indians. Not that he isn’t a good ballplayer, of course, it’s just that the Indians don’t exactly have a wealth of talent on the 25-man roster that they drafted.
Sure, Lonnie Chisenhall is having a fine season, but his career 4.1 WAR does not compare to the 11.5 WAR Kipnis has amassed in his four years with the Tribe.
Unfortunately, he is having a rather rough season to this point, diminishing his star a little bit, but he has the track record for the recognition here. Drafted in the second round of the 2009 draft, Kipnis has a .268/.349/.418 slash line with 196 RBI for his career and was named an All-Star in 2013.
Colorado Rockies: Troy Tulowitzki, SS
For his career, Tulowitzki has hit at least 25 home runs and finished with an OPS over .900 in the same season three times, won two Rawlings Gold Glove awards and made three All-Star appearances. He is without comparison at the position in the National League.
The seventh selection in the 2005 MLB draft, Tulowitzki is a lifetime .298 hitter with 1,035 hits and a 37.0 WAR. True, he is a better hitter at Coors Field than he is on the road, but he still has an .818 OPS in 454 games away from home, per splits over at Baseball-Reference.
Detroit Tigers: Justin Verlander, SP
The list of career accomplishments is impressive. He has won the Cy Young Award, been named the American League MVP, gone to the All-Star game six times, led his league in victories twice and finished the 2011 season with an incredible 0.920 WHIP.
Now, Verlander has shown some signs of slowing down over the past two seasons, but he is still one of the best in the business. For his career, the right-hander is 143-82 with a 3.44 ERA, 1.203 WHIP and a 41.2 WAR. It’s remarkable what the No. 2 pick in the 2004 draft has been able to accomplish.
Houston Astros: Jose Altuve, 2B
It would make sense to go with rookie sensation George Springer here, but that's too easy. Instead, Jose Altuve gets the nod for the Houston Astros. He is worthy of All-Star consideration this season and has turned into one of the best second basemen in the American League.
Signed as an amateur free agent in 2007, Altuve spent parts of five seasons in the minor leagues before taking the city of Houston by storm in 2011. For his career, he has a .290/.329/.385 slash line and has 99 stolen bases.
Evan Drellich from the Houston Chronicle went so far as to call the right-handed hitter “the crank, the flint and tinder” in front of Springer. And as we all know, without a catalyst, a batting order is sunk. Springer’s status may need to be revisited next season, but for now, the title goes to Altuve.
Kansas City Royals: Alex Gordon, LF
There was a moment in time when Billy Butler would have been considered the best homegrown player on the Kansas City Royals. That time has passed, however, and Alex Gordon has claimed the title thanks to consistency and superior numbers.
True, Gordon has only hit over .300 once in his career, but he has driven in at least 70 runs each full season since 2011 and hit 51 doubles in 2012.
An All-Star in 2013, Gordon is simply the best player on the Royals and is putting together a solid effort this season, posting a .288/.376/.445 slash line with 18 doubles and 34 RBI. He is also one of the best defensive left fielders in MLB.
Given the struggles of guys like Mike Moustakas and Butler, the fact that Gordon has been able to remain a force in the lineup has helped keep the Royals in the thick of the playoff race after a rather slow start.
Los Angeles Angels: Mike Trout, OF
Mike Trout is the only player in the conversation on the Los Angeles Angels. True, Jered Weaver, Howie Kendrick and Erick Aybar were all drafted by the club, but Trout is arguably the best player in baseball.
Taken with the 25th selection of the first round in 2009, Trout has finished second to Miguel Cabrera in MVP voting two years in a row and has a career .311/.400/.545 slash line. An incredible blend of speed, power and finesse, the 22-year-old is at the top of his game.
One at-bat against left-hander Chris Sale last week sums up Trout’s worth. Down four runs in the bottom of the eighth inning with the bases loaded, Trout took a changeup over the wall in center field to tie a game the Angels ended up winning 6-5. Just one more reason he is the best the Angels have to offer.
Los Angeles Dodgers: Clayton Kershaw, SP
Selected in the first round of the 2006 MLB draft, he is 82-48 and has a 2.62 ERA with 1,270 strikeouts and an amazing 1.090 WHIP for his career. This season didn’t start the way he wanted it to, but Kershaw is rounding into form quite well. Over his last four starts, for example, he is 3-1 with a 2.08 ERA and has only allowed a .170 batting average.
Matt Kemp, Yasiel Puig and Dee Gordon get honorable mentions here. None of them compare to Kershaw, though. He already has two Cy Young awards and has made three All-Star appearances.
Miami Marlins: Giancarlo Stanton, RF
One of the youngest teams in MLB, the Miami Marlins have a wealth of talent that has come up through the minor leagues. Among a group that includes Jose Fernandez and Marcell Ozuna, Giancarlo Stanton is the best of the bunch.
A second-round selection in 2007, Stanton is on a tear this season, posting a .301/.393/.589 slash line with a league-leading 17 home runs and 53 RBI going into play Tuesday.
An All-Star in 2012, the right fielder drives the Marlins’ offense. To be sure, he strikes out quite a bit, but he more than makes up for it with an uncanny ability to hit the ball to all fields. And considering that he isn’t scheduled to hit free agency until after the 2016 season, he will thrill crowds in South Florida for years to come.
Milwaukee Brewers: Ryan Braun, RF
For his career, the former first-round pick has put together a stat line that includes 220 home runs, 714 RBI, 240 doubles, 1,212 hits and a .312/.372/.563 slash line. He hasn't skipped a beat after missing most of last year serving a suspension for performance-enhancing drugs, posting an .876 OPS this season with nine homers and 33 RBI.
To be sure, Jonathan Lucroy gets an honorable mention since he has turned into one of National League’s best catchers, but he isn’t at Braun’s level just yet.
Minnesota Twins: Joe Mauer, 1B
The Minnesota Twins have a few candidates for the best homegrown player on the 25-man roster, including Brian Dozier. Now, Dozier is having a fine season and is quite valuable, but Joe Mauer gets the recognition here—by a mile.
The first pick of the 2001 MLB draft is a six-time All-Star, MVP winner and has won a Rawlings Gold Glove Award three times. All told, Mauer has a 44.6 WAR, 1,472 hits, 649 RBI, 290 doubles and a .320/.402/.462 slash line over his career.
Truly one of the game's greats, he is struggling a bit this season, but that won’t diminish his legacy with the Twins.
New York Mets: David Wright, 3B
Wright, a seven-time All-Star, has compiled a .300/.380/.500 slash line with 226 home runs and 908 RBI over the course of his 11-year career. Most impressively, he has hit over .300 and slugged at least .500 in the same season on five separate occasions.
A first-round pick in 2001, Wright has a career 47.8 WAR.
New York Yankees: Derek Jeter, SS
Drafted with the sixth pick of the 1992 draft, Derek Jeter has been the best homegrown player on the New York Yankees for some time. No offense to Mariano Rivera, who recently called it a career, but Jeter is an icon and has been a catalyst on the field, in the clubhouse and nationally since becoming a full-time starter in 1996.
True, last season was tortuous for him, and this season isn’t off to the best start, but the 13-time All-Star has a .311/.380/.444 career slash line with 3,370 hits, 530 doubles and 1,893 runs.
There really isn’t anything else to say here. Oh, wait, he also ranks 12th in the history of MLB among shortstops with a 59.6 JAWS ranking.
Oakland A's: Sonny Gray, SP
Bleacher Report’s Joel Reuter noted earlier this year that “the Oakland A’s tend to trade their homegrown talent before it becomes overly expensive, stockpiling other people’s high-end young talent in the process.”
That makes the choices limited, but Sonny Gray stands out among the players on the 25-man roster originally acquired by general manager Billy Beane.
Gray, drafted in the first round of the 2011 MLB draft, is 11-5 over the course of 25 appearances (23 starts) with a 2.76 ERA, 3.14 FIP (fielding independent pitching) and a 1.174 WHIP. He did get shelled his last time out against the Baltimore Orioles, but that appears to be an exception to the rule. He is consistently on top of his stuff and controls most starts.
It must be noted that Yoenis Cespedes would have been selected here, but he does not have the requisite time in the minor leagues to qualify.
Philadelphia Phillies: Chase Utley, 2B
A five-time All-Star, the 35-year-old has a career .288/.373/.498 slash line with 221 home runs, 838 RBI, 322 doubles, 1,482 hits and 59.8 cumulative WAR. This season, he is experiencing a bit of a renaissance, batting .314 with 24 doubles and 30 RBI.
It must be noted that Utley has missed an extensive amount of playing time over the past few seasons, but that in no way diminishes his accomplishments. Needless to say, he will go down in history as one of the best players to ever don a uniform for the Phillies.
Pittsburgh Pirates: Andrew McCutchen, CF
There aren’t many center fielders who are better than Andrew McCutchen.
Since his arrival in 2009, McCutchen has put together a cumulative .297/.384/.490 slash line, hit 111 home runs, driven in 410 runs and stolen 132 bases. He is also a three-time All-Star and won the National League MVP last season.
Taken by the Pittsburgh Pirates with the 11th pick in the 2005 MLB draft, McCutchen is a dynamic as they come. This season, the right-handed hitter is batting .309 with a .932 OPS and has already drawn 45 walks.
San Diego Padres: Chase Headley, 3B
For his career, the 2005 second-round draft pick has a .265/.347/.410 slash line and has slugged 85 home runs, driven in 389 and has an 18.0 WAR. True, a good portion of those overall numbers are thanks to a monster season in 2012 when he hit 31 homers, drove in 115 and finished with an .875 OPS.
Overall, though, he is at the top of a group that includes Will Venable and Jedd Gyorko.
San Francisco Giants: Buster Posey, C
Last year, for example, a case could have been made for either Matt Cain or Madison Bumgarner. A second straight All-Star appearance and a solid start to this season have removed all doubt that Posey is the guy the others are looking up to.
A career .304 hitter, Posey is impressive in almost every facet of the game. Scott Ostler of the San Francisco Chronicle sums up what he means to the Giants:
Buster Ballgame is just one piece of the Giants' picture, but he can never be a small piece of it. He led the Giants to a World Series title in 2010, then came back from that leg injury to lead 'em to another one in 2012.
That's icon stuff, and it's hard to picture the Giants making another run at a World Series title without a top-form Posey.
That’s the truth too. Without their catcher performing at a high level, the Giants are just not a complete team. Thankfully, he has rebounded from a poor stretch earlier this season and is back to doing what he does best.
Seattle Mariners: Felix Hernandez, SP
Signed as an amateur free agent in 2002, Fernandez has compiled a 118-87 record with a 3.15 ERA, 3.16 FIP, 1,809 strikeouts and a 1.193 WHIP over his career. More impressive, he has a lifetime 41.1 WAR. And considering that he only takes the ball every fifth day, that is an amazing number.
Longevity has also been a strength for Hernandez. He has pitched over 200 innings and made at least 31 starts every season since 2008, for example, and shown no signs of slowing down this year.
Tampa Bay Rays: David Price, SP
To be sure, Longoria has done enough to warrant the title, but Price has been exceptional. For his career, he is 75-45 with a 3.26 ERA, 3.35 FIP and has amassed 987 strikeouts in 1072.2 innings pitched.
Some would argue that he is struggling this season with a 4-6 record and a 3.97 ERA. I would counter by pointing out that the first pick in the 2007 MLB draft has a 2.97 FIP and has an 11.10 strikeout-to-walk ratio.
Any way you slice it, Price has surpassed Longoria as the best homegrown player on the Rays.
St. Louis Cardinals: Yadier Molina, C
There are so many players on the St. Louis Cardinals that were drafted by general manager John Mozeliak, you’d think it would be difficult to pick just one to represent the team. After all, stars like Matt Adams, Matt Carpenter, Lance Lynn, Shelby Miller and Allen Craig have never known another organization.
At this point, however, Yadier Molina is light years ahead of all of them.
Drafted in the fourth round of the 2000 MLB draft, Molina has been a constant force in the lineup and behind the plate since 2004. He is a five-time All-Star, has six Gold Glove awards to his name and is a career .285 hitter.
This season, Molina has a .294/.340/.417 slash line with five home runs and 23 RBI in 218 at-bats.
Texas Rangers: Derek Holland, SP
The Texas Rangers don’t have very many options when it comes to choosing the best homegrown player. Martin Perez is certainly talented, and Jurickson Profar has plenty of potential, but the only player with extended success has been Derek Holland.
After he finished a disastrous rookie season with a 6.12 ERA and an unruly 1.496 WHIP, Holland has gone 41-25 with a 3.98 ERA, 1.297 WHIP and 550 strikeouts in 108 appearances, per splits from Baseball-Reference. Pretty impressive stuff
A 25th-round selection in 2006, Holland is currently on the disabled list and does not appear to be ready to begin a rehab assignment anytime soon, according to Evan Grant from The Dallas Morning News. He has done enough over the course of his career, however, to get the recognition here.
Toronto Blue Jays: Adam Lind, 1B/DH
Lind gets plenty of attention from the fanbase, but he is somewhat overshadowed by guys like Edwin Encarnacion and Jose Bautista. It doesn’t faze him, though. He simply goes about his business and rakes when he is in the lineup.
The left-handed hitter had a career year in 2009, compiling a .305/.370/.562 slash line with 35 home runs and 114 RBI. Since then, his numbers have slipped, but he is once again at the top of his game, amassing a .331/.415/.525 slash this season as a platoon player.
Washington Nationals: Ryan Zimmerman, LF
The Washington Nationals are another team with a myriad of choices for best homegrown player. Former No. 1 picks Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper, for example, have put up numbers worthy of the honor. They don’t compare to Ryan Zimmerman, however.
All Zimmerman has done during his career with the Nationals is put up a .286/.352/477 slash line and hit at least 20 home runs eight different times. His best showing came in 2009 when he slugged 33 home runs and drove in 106 runs en route to an All-Star appearance.
Taken with the fourth selection in the 2005 MLB draft, Zimmerman played third base for the majority of his career before a recent move to left field. He has been a consistent source of production for the Nationals since becoming a full-time starter in 2006.
Unless otherwise noted, all statistics are courtesy of Baseball-Reference and are accurate as of game time on Tuesday, June 10. Transaction, injury, scouting reports and game information are courtesy of MLB.com. Contract information was pulled from Cot’s Contracts.
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