One of the main story lines of the 2020 World Series is the clash of the deep pocket Dodgers vs the savvy low payroll Rays. While the Dodgers spent a prorated amount $107.9 million in 2020, which was 2nd in the league, one of my friends pointed out that they draft and scout players really well, and he suggested that they had more impactful homegrown players than the Rays.
That conversation led me to research the topic. I wanted to see which team in 2020 got the most production from their homegrown players. To do this, I looked at the cumulative regular season WAR of homegrown players for each team. I defined a homegrown player as someone who was selected in the amateur draft or signed as an amateur free agent by the team they currently play for. This definition of homegrown would not include someone like Shohei Ohtani who played professionally (therefore not an amateur) before he was signed as a free agent. It also does not include rule 5 draft picks. Additionally, even if a player spent time in an organization’s minor league system, if they were acquired via trade they are not considered homegrown.
To find the data, I looked at old reliable Baseball Reference. WAR, or “Wins Above Replacement”, is how much a player contributes above that of a replacement player. A replacement player can be thought of as the best available player not on a major league team. A replacement player is not to be thought of as an average player, as an average major leaguer is better than a replacement player. WAR can also be negative, if you perform worse than a replacement player is expected to.
Here is a graph that shows regular season homegrown WAR by team in 2020, followed by a table that shows homegrown WAR and total WAR amounts.
Turns out, the Dodgers did have the most production from homegrown players in 2020. Although Mookie Betts was acquired via trade, the Dodgers drafted many of their top players, including Corey Seager, Clayton Kershaw, Cody Bellinger, Dustin May and Walker Buehler.
This not to take anything away from the Rays, because being able to sign undervalued free agents or improving your team through trades can take an equal amount of skill, and they were still 4th in homegrown talent. Team like the Padres and Yankees who had really high cumulative WAR only saw 16.5% and 3.5% respectively come from homegrown players. The Yankees top 6 players from 2020 in terms of WAR were acquired via free agency or trade. They do deserve a ton of credit for finding value in acquiring players such as Gio Urshela, Clint Frazier and Luke Voit.
As mentioned earlier, WAR can be negative, and the Tigers and Pirates both had a negative WAR as a team. We see in some cases, such as the Rangers, Rockies and Brewers that their homegrown players had a higher WAR than the team combined, meaning the players they signed as free agents and traded for must have had a negative combined WAR.
Here are the homegrown players with the highest 2020 WAR
Here are the non-homegrown players with the highest 2020 WAR
Although someone like Max Fried spent a majority of his minor league career in the Braves system, he is not considered homegrown as he was acquired via trade. This article isn’t to say that acquiring players in one way is better than another, but rather to showcase which teams in 2020 relied on players that they drafted or signed as amateurs. I must admit as a Red Sox fan I am jealous of teams such as the Dodgers and Indians who have numerous homegrown quality starting pitchers on their roster. Did anything surprise you from these results?