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I first thought of making this chart with Craig Goldstein when I heard that the Cardinals playoff roster comprised 17 homegrown players. It seemed like a big number, and I wanted to see how that compared to the other LCS teams. I decided to use the LCS Game 1 rosters because they seem to be the best reflection of who the manager thinks give him the best chance to advance to the World Series.

The Cardinals clearly stick out for a variety of reasons. We’ve heard that St. Louis is adept at identifying and developing talent, but the gulf between them and the other three teams is staggering to see.

Boston, Detroit and Los Angeles combine for 17 drafted players on their LCS playoff rosters, which St. Louis matches on its own. St. Louis also has the lowest payroll of the four teams by a wide margin. The Dodgers’ trade acquisitions earn more than the entire Cardinals roster ($85 million to $74 million).

The difference between the four teams really comes out in how impact talent was acquired. If we look at the top four WARP contributors we see a mix of strategies and contributions. The Cardinals relied on the draft and trades to get their top four of Matt Carpenter, Yadier Molina, Adam Wainwright and Matt Holliday.

The Dodgers represent the only true mix of the four in that they acquired each of their top four contributors a different way. Hanley Ramirez was a trade, Clayton Kershaw was drafted, Yasiel Puig was an international signing, and Juan Uribe was signed as a free agent.

Detroit got their top contributions almost exclusively via the trade. Justin Verlander was drafted but Miguel Cabrera, Anibal Sanchez, and Max Scherzer were all acquired via trade. In fact, if we extend it out we see that seven of the top 10 Tiger WARPs were acquired via trade.

Then there’s Boston, which made a series of shrewd offseason moves. Shane Victorino was a criticized free agent signing but he worked out nicely. David Ortiz was a free agent signing from ages ago; Dustin Pedroia and Jacoby Ellsbury round out the top four Boston WARP leaders as draftees.

I suspect that if I do this chart in five years the player distribution will look fairly different. Given the current CBA it would appear that we’re in an era when good young talent gets locked up early and often.

It doesn’t mean that you can’t still find solid contributions via free agency, but it does put pressure on front offices to be on top of their pro scouting departments. This chart shows how important it is to have a base of drafted talent to work with, but it also shows that the Cardinals are the outlier, and there’s no one avenue to successful team building.

Mauricio Rubio writes for Chicago Now and World Series Dreaming and can be found on Twitter @MRubio52.

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Oh my, this is fantastic and very #turgid
Use of the LCS roster may flatter the Cardinals a little more than is necessary (although they've done a superb job of talent development any way you cut it), since the fairly expensive ($8.7M) Jake Westbrook, still on the 40-man roster but not on the playoff roster, was acquired by trade. The payroll disparity would close considerably if he was on the LCS roster in place of one of the rookies. Who are the most expensive players on the other teams' 40-man rosters who aren't currently active, and how were they acquired?
BOS: Joel Hanrahan at 7M acquired via trade
DET: Octavio Dotel at 3.5M acquired via FA
LA: Matt Kemp at 20M acquired via draft

worth noting all those players are injured, but yeah your point stands.

I chose to focus on the LCS rosters but I plan on making a more comprehensive graph of the full roster selection from the entire year after the World Series.
Thanks for doing the research. I'd thought of Kemp but had no idea who occupied the niches for the other teams.

To me there is a difference between a guy being physically unable to go, like these three (or Chris Carpenter as the expensive guy on the 60-day DL for St. Louis), and one left off the roster because he's not as good as the players on it, like Westbrook. Injuries happen, to expensive players as to cheap ones, and it's not bad judgment on the GM's part to have such players, although it might or might not reflect on the organization's medical staff. Paying a guy who's not good enough to play, though ... that's a screwup, and one of relatively few Mozeliak has made.
Mauricio answered the question but to expand - a lot of teams left off expensive players - Carpenter was a sunk cost this season for St. Louis as well, but the Dodgers saved money in this scenario by ditching Kemp, Capuano and League among others.
Wow that's really impressive of the Cards. At least from the point of valuing that type of roster building.
I think you need an undrafted free agent category. Under which category is Daniel Nava? Should not be counted as a free agent in the same bucket as John Lackey.
Nava was entered as an international FA, under the idea that he was available to all 30 teams, as internationals FAs are but still subject to club control for six seasons after reaching the majors.

I could argue he should go under "draft" as a product of the Boston scouting/development system, but that same process occurs for international FAs.

Isn't BP co-founder Gary Huckabay still working for the Cardinals? Congrats to him!