As bullpen usage has increased in recent years, starting pitching may not be as vital to a team’s success as it used to be. Still, a team’s ability to draft and develop a player into a good starting pitcher remains important. Let’s take a look at how recently each team had a good starting pitcher they drafted or signed as an international free agent.
First, a few ground rules. I’ll define “good starting pitcher” as at least 3 FanGraphs WAR in a season. I’ll exclude big-money international signings, like the Rangers and Yu Darvish. And I will include pitchers who began a season with the team that drafted and developed them and were traded that same year. I also included players who were drafted and developed by a team and eventually signed an extension to stay there, like Clayton Kershaw.
Thirteen different teams had a 3+ WAR starter they drafted or signed as an international free agent in 2021:
Four more teams had their most recent 3 WAR homegrown starter in 2020 — if you are on board with my choice to prorate starting pitchers as if they played a full 162 games instead of just 60.
Three teams had their most recent homegrown 3 WAR starter in 2019:
Three teams date back to 2018 for their most recent homegrown 3 WAR starter:
A look at the seven remaining teams, who haven’t enjoyed a homegrown 3+ WAR starter in at least four years:
Of course, it is quite possible to win a World Series with no homegrown 3 WAR starting pitchers. Let’s see how many were on each of the last 10 World Series winners:
- 2012 Giants: Matt Cain
- 2013 Red Sox: Jon Lester
- 2014 Giants:
- 2015 Royals: None
- 2016 Cubs: None. I didn’t for this exercise, but you may want to give a team credit for acquiring a player before he reached the majors and developing him into a 3 WAR starter, like the Cubs did with Kyle Hendricks.
- 2017 Astros: None
- 2018 Red Sox: None
- 2019 Nationals: Stephen Strasburg
- 2020 Dodgers:
Tony Gonsolin, Clayton Kershaw
- 2021 Braves: None
Some teams can make up for a lack of draft/international success on starting pitching with trades or free-agent signings. While the Diamondbacks may have the longest drought here, their 2017 rotation actually had four 3+ WAR starters, none of whom they drafted: Zack Greinke, Zack Godley, Robbie Ray and Patrick Corbin. The Cubs won a World Series in part because they signed Jon Lester and traded for Jake Arrieta and Kyle Hendricks.