- Alan Schwarz, MLB
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One question often posed regarding Opening Day rosters is how many players have been developed by different farm systems. Who produced the best players? Who has developed the most home runs, steals and pitcher's wins? Also, which draft rounds and colleges produced the most players? And how good were they?
Here's a detailed analysis of the 833 active and disabled-list players on this year's Opening Day rosters:
Many organizations rate their drafts and minor league systems by the number of players who wind up reaching the big leagues. For those who prefer that simple approach, here's a breakdown of how many of the 833 players (plus some notable names) each organization originally signed:
I couldn't resist listing Wilson, Isringhausen and Pulsipher together for the Mets after all the Generation K hype, can you believe that this is the first time that all three of them have been healthy to kick off a big league season?
As for the overall chart, we have to remember that developing a bunch of scrubs is nowhere near as valuable as several stars. So which teams' players have performed best? Here's where integrated databases come in handy.
These are the top and bottom five organizations in various categories, including Bill James' Win Shares, which attempts to boil down the overall contribution of each type of player (speedy second-base gloveman, middle reliever, etc.) into one number. Only the 26 non-'90s expansion clubs are included because the last four clubs haven't been around long enough to truly compete:
The Brewers have developed a pathetic total of 142 wins, even with Ben Sheets. Then again, that happens when you demonstrate almost no ability to keep your minor league pitching prospects healthy. (Note the Mets just above them.) The Phillies placed in the bottom five in wins and ERA, though the likes of Brett Myers and Gavin Floyd should begin to help them.
The Expos and Rangers do extremely well, too, in large part because of players signed a long time ago: Montreal's Randy Johnson and Larry Walker, Texas' Juan Gonzalez and Sammy Sosa, etc. This skews how we evaluate the performance of recent organizations. (Do we really want to credit the current Rangers for signing Sosa in 1985, about 17 regimes ago?)
So let's do the same analysis with the 579 big leaguers (70 percent of the original 833) who signed in the past dozen years. Here's how they looked (with the Marlins and Rockies now eligible):
• Hats off to the Twins, who have developed no Hall of Fame-type superstars but a ton of well-rounded players, guys like Torii Hunter and Brad Radke. (With plenty more gas in the tank with Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau.) Also, note the Angels' placing third in Win Shares, proving that their oft-criticized minor league system has been far more bountiful than usually believed.
• The A's lead with 32 total players, followed by the Blue Jays (27) and Diamondbacks (26). Speaking of Arizona, it's amazing how much more talent that club has developed than the Devil Rays, who started minor league operations at the same time about nine years ago. Tampa Bay did make some poor signings of Greg Vaughn, etc., but that's no excuse for a regime that preaches player development to keep lagging so far behind their expansion competition. (Run, Carl, run!)
Not surprisingly, looking at all 833 players again, more were drafted in the first round (163) than any other, followed by the second (60) and third (42). One weird twist was the 17th round's having 14 (including stars Brian Giles and B.J. Ryan), more than twice as many players as the higher 14th round (six, with the best by far being Jay Gibbons). But that's the baseball draft for you.
Other draft tidbits:
• Which draft has the most players in the big leagues this year? 1998, with 68, followed by 1996 (56) and 1997 (54). The earliest draftee was Astros reliever John Franco (1981, fifth round to the Dodgers). The only 2004 draftee on an Opening Day roster was A's reliever Huston Street, drafted last June in the supplemental first round.
• The lowest-drafted player? Other than the 28 eligible guys who weren't drafted at all, Mike Piazza was infamously selected in the 62nd round by the Dodgers in 1988.
• Which is the highest round not to have any player? The 40th.
Major League Baseball releases an annual report to demonstrate how international the game has become; this year's showed that 29.2 percent of players were born outside the United States. Eleven percent were born in the Dominican Republic, 5.5 percent in Venezuela and 4.1 percent in Puerto Rico.
But we can go deeper. I assign players to the countries from which they signed some Dominicans play at U.S. colleges, for example so I've worked with those numbers. Here are statistics for countries beyond the United States, which easily leads in all categories:
Although Puerto Rico has just 3.5 percent of the players, the country accounts for 10 percent of the home runs about three times what you'd expect. (That happens when you have Juan Gonzalez, Carlos Delgado, Bernie Williams and Carlos Beltran on the payroll.) Then again, it's easy to see how far that country has slipped in terms of producing talent. Since Beltran signed 10 years ago, the only notable major leaguers the island has produced are J.C. Romero and Alexis Rios.
Of the 833 players, 343 signed out of college, 96 out of junior college and 201 out of high school. (A total of 193 were international signees exempt from the draft.) As for specific colleges, perennial powerhouse Southern California led with 12 players, followed by Cal State Fullerton with nine. (For ESPN's database of which schools produced which players, click here.) The top 10 colleges in various statistics:
Some college notes:
• Arizona places No. 3 in Win Shares with just four players, all impact guys drafted in 1988 or 1989: Kenny Lofton, Trevor Hoffman, J.T. Snow and Scott Erickson. South Alabama placed No. 6 with only three: Luis Gonzalez, Juan Pierre and Jon Lieber.
• Texas once was a pitching factory, with Burt Hooton, Greg Swindell and many others, but 328 of the Longhorns' 329 wins belong only to the ageless Roger Clemens. (The other single win belongs to Brad Halsey, while Huston Street had not gotten a win before this year's Opening Day.) Southern California has a much more well-rounded pitching roster, with Randy Johnson, Barry Zito and Mark Prior.
Alan Schwarz is the senior writer at Baseball America and a regular contributor to ESPN.com. His book, "The Numbers Game: Baseball's Lifelong Fascination With Statistics," is published by St. Martin's Press and can be ordered on Alan's Web site.
The Blue Jays the best at spotting big leaguers? Alan Schwarz look at Opening Day rosters.