Examining each MLB team’s last good homegrown starting pitcher

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:
    Madison Bumgarner
  • 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.

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