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Homegrown talent can be a real boost

Homegrown talent can be a boost

One feels depth is the key. Another thinks having impact players is the most important. A third likes to see a combination of those two variables, while still a fourth looks at consistency from top to bottom. The amount of homegrown talent on the big league roster comes into play for some.

The one thing that can be agreed on is this: There's more than one way to evaluate a team's farm system. A discussion about which organizations have the strongest systems, then, is an interesting exercise, but finding a consensus is a lot easier said than done.

To Royals professional scouting director Gene Watson, it's all about talent. Other variables come into play, but a system's number of elite-level prospects is of paramount significance.

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"You need impactful players," Watson said. "You have to have guys who are sixes, sevens and eights [on the scouting scale]. Depth is good -- it allows you to throw in one more guy to complete a deal -- but you have to have those impactful players who can help you win championships."

Watson hopes his Royals are moving in that direction with hitters like Mike Moustakas and Eric Hosmer and pitchers like Futures Gamer Danny Duffy and Mike Montgomery, following a blueprint many of the current Royals staffers used perfectly in Atlanta in years past. It's a work in progress, and Watson points out that having a strong farm system isn't just a good thing to have, it's a must, but that doing it the right way is crucial.

"It's building a system," Watson said. "In our situation, we can't miss on guys. We have to be good evaluators."

Not everyone feels that impact talent is the sole variable to go by, of course. Having decent, if not great, players at every level is what gets some people excited. Having them age-appropriate to a level is even better. The icing on the cake is that consistency -- a philosophy that is followed at every rung on the ladder.

"I look at what they do from top to bottom, that they play the game right, they play the game hard," one farm director said. "It's not a fluke if it sticks out over a whole series, if they do the little things that don't show up in the stats. You can tell the ones that run a light ship and the ones that work it hard."

Getting homegrown talent to the big leagues is an indicator, but it's not a be-all, end-all. Some teams use prospects to trade for big league help and thus don't have as many players on their 25-man roster that are signed and developed solely from within. While it might be telling that only 16 percent of the Astros' 25-man roster fit that category, the A's 36 percent rate is because they've done so much farm building via trades. They added three more pieces in the recent Matt Holliday trade.

Perhaps the most inclusive way of evaluating a system is looking at both elite talent and depth together. It's hard to argue with that recipe of having impact guys with lots of usable parts at every stop. In the end, it's all about producing players the big league club can use in some fashion.

"We keep our jobs if we produce players that get to the big leagues to help you win, or they're traded to bring in players to help you win," the farm director said plainly. "If you can't keep it going, keep feeding the big club, you're in and out."

So, then, who are the farm directors who have the best job security? Which organizations have the strongest farm systems. After an informal survey of scouting and player development executives, here are 10 that were mentioned the most often, with percentage of homegrown talent on the 25-man roster included.

Percentage of homegrown players on each team's 25-man roster
AMERICAN LEAGUE
TeamPct.
New York Yankees56%
Detroit Tigers52%
Los Angeles Angels52%
Boston Red Sox48%
Minnesota Twins48%
Seattle Mariners40%
Oakland Athletics36%
Cleveland Indians32%
Texas Rangers32%
Toronto Blue Jays32%
Baltimore Orioles28%
Chicago White Sox28%
Tampa Bay Rays28%
Kansas City Royals20%
AL Average:38%
NATIONAL LEAGUE
TeamPct.
Colorado Rockies64%
San Francisco Giants48%
Los Angeles Dodgers44%
Chicago Cubs40%
San Diego Padres40%
St. Louis Cardinals40%
Arizona Diamondbacks36%
Atlanta Braves36%
Cincinnati Reds36%
Milwaukee Brewers32%
Philadelphia Phillies32%
Florida Marlins28%
Pittsburgh Pirates28%
New York Mets20%
Washington Nationals20%
Houston Astros16%
NL Average:35%

Texas Rangers: As close to a unanimous choice to make any top systems list, the Rangers simply have a ton of talent. And they've gotten it via the Draft, like with Justin Smoak, via the international market, with guys like Martin Perez and via trade with an exciting prospect like Futures Gamer Neftali Feliz (who came from the Braves along with Elvis Andrus, Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Matt Harrison, all of whom have made major contributions in the bigs this year).
Homegrown percentage: 32%

San Francisco Giants: One person said that the Class A Advanced San Jose club earlier this season was the most stacked club he'd seen in a long time. Back then both Madison Bumgarner and Buster Posey were on the club, along with Angel Villalona and others. Bumgarner's now up in Double-A along with top pitching prospect Tim Alderson, and Posey's up in Triple-A, so the talent is on the come.
Homegrown percentage: 48%

Tampa Bay Rays: Another team with a lot of young talent already in the bigs, but with all of the high drafting they had to do in recent years, there's still a backlog. On the pitching end, Wade Davis is just about ready, Jeremy Hellickson isn't far behind and Jake McGee is working his way back to provide pitching depth to make anyone envious. But they've got bats too, like last year's No. 1 overall pick Tim Beckham and Futures Game outfielder Desmond Jennings.
Homegrown percentage: 28%

Oakland A's: So much young talent has made it to the big leagues, you'd think the system would be a little barren. You'd be wrong, especially with Brett Wallace, Clayton Mortensen and Shane Peterson entering the fold via the Holliday deal. Yes, Trevor Cahill and Brett Anderson are in Oakland, but there's plenty more on the farm. With Wallace, the strength might be in bats like Futures Gamers Jemile Weeks and Chris Carter or Adrian Cardenas.
Homegrown percentage: 36%

Florida Marlins: For years, the Marlins had a reputation for developing quality young arms. Many of those pitchers have graduated to the big leagues, and now there are some intriguing bats. Cameron Maybin, despite his big league struggles, still has about as high a ceiling as any position player in the Minors. Add in Futures Gamer Mike Stanton and third baseman Matt Dominguez, and there are some bats who will be knocking on the door of that new park.
Homegrown percentage: 28%

Los Angeles Dodgers: It's their depth that stood out the most, with some impactful guys sprinkled throughout, even with all that young talent already in the big leagues. LA likes the young power arms, and if guys like Chris Withrow and Ethan Martin really click, they could be the toast of baseball.
Homegrown percentage: 44%

Boston Red Sox: It's one thing to have plenty of resources; it's another to use it wisely in scouting and player development. The Sox definitely have, being active in the international market and not shying away from going over slot in the Draft to keep the pipeline flowing. That's what's enabled them to bring diverse talent like Casey Kelly, Lars Anderson and Che-Hsuan Lin into their system.
Homegrown percentage: 48%

Philadelphia Phillies: It'll take a hit if the Phils deal for Roy Halladay, but that's often what a strong system is for. Philly's got some pretty good arms going throughout, from Carlos Carrasco up top to Futures Gamers Yohan Flande and Kyle Drabek in the middle and Jason Knapp down a bit further. Add in some intriguing athletic types like Zach Collier and Dominic Brown, and the Phillies have some good home cooking going.
Homegrown percentage: 32%

Baltimore Orioles: The big one, Matt Wieters, is already in the bigs, but there's excitement brewing in Baltimore -- and the reason the O's make this list -- based on the arms Wieters will be catching in the near future. Chris Tillman just got called up, and soon he'll be joined by Jake Arrieta and Brian Matusz. Three high-impact starters in one system is not something you see every day.
Homegrown percentage: 44%

Atlanta Braves: They're not as deep as they once were, with many young players traded in recent years for big league talent (The Rangers' place on the top systems list is partially because of the Mark Teixeira trade). But in Jason Heyward, they've got arguably the best prospect in the game currently and one of the top pitching prospects, Tommy Hanson, just graduated to becoming a serious NL Rookie of the Year candidate. Add in Freddie Freeman and the power of Cody Johnson and there's still a lot to like.
Homegrown percentage: 36%

Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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