The Dodgers off-season acquisitions are not yet complete. After all, there's still the matter of a starting pitcher, and perhaps the re-signing of a certain dreadlocked leftfielder. However, no matter who else the Dodgers bring in, the key to the 2009 season will be all the homegrown talent already here. Logan White's drafts have provided the backbone for what will be at least a very competitive team in the National League West. Of course, the key to long-term success in baseball is the acquisition and development of homegrown talent.
For clarification purposes, I have defined "homegrown" as follows: players drafted or signed as an amateur that are still with the club. Some 2008 Dodgers that didn't qualify as homegrown include Andre Ethier (drafted by Oakland), Hiroki Kuroda (veteran who played professionally in Japan), and Chan Ho Park (originally signed by the Dodgers, but left and came back).
The Dodgers, especially under O'Malley ownership, were known for building from within. From the first year of free agency (1976) through the end of the O'Malley ownership (1997), the Dodger offense was mostly homegrown, with 53.5% of all plate appearances coming from homegrown players. Then, along came Fox and let's just say the pipeline began to dry up.
After the five straight rookies of the year in the mid 1990s (Karros, Piazza, Mondesi, Nomo, and Hollandsworth) the farm system really didn't produce anyone for a while except for Adrian Beltre and Paul LoDuca. Logan White was hired in 2002, but the nature of the MLB draft is such that almost all drafted players aren't ready to contribute right away, so there is a lag effect between acquiring young talent and their contribution at the major league level. The departures of Beltre, Alex Cora, Paul LoDuca, and even David Ross during or after the 2004 season meant the Dodgers hit rock bottom in 2005 in terms of having homegrown talent.
However, over the last few years, the fruits of Logan White's labor have really paid off. Here are players drafted or signed during White's tenure that contributed to the 2008 club (meaning they had at least one PA or faced one batter):
|2002||Loney, Martin, Broxton, Young, McDonald, Troncoso, Stults|
|2003||Billingsley, Kemp, Ellis, LaRoche
|2004||DeWitt, Wade, Elbert|
That's 15 players acquired in a short period of time that all contributed to the 2008 club. All (except the departed LaRoche) figure to play a role for the Dodgers in 2009 as well. I'll look at the pitching in a separate post later this week, but let's look at the 2008 homegrown Dodgers, and how they compare with the rest of baseball.
Total Homegrown PA
% of Total PA
The 46.7% of homegrown plate appearances by the Dodgers was the 7th highest in MLB last year:
|Rank||Team||Homegrown PA %|
The Rockies got an amazing 78.6% of their 2008 plate appearances by homegrown talent, a simply astounding total. Fellow NL West foe Arizona also ranked ahead of the Dodgers. The Dodgers were well above the MLB average of 36.8%.
Looking ahead to 2009, I doubt the Dodgers will have a figure much higher than their 46.7% from 2008, barring injury. It's hard to imagine Kemp, Loney, and Martin amassing much more than their combined 1,958 PA in 2008. The big gain could be from DeWitt, who had 421 PA in 2008. The Dodgers acquired Mark Loretta, and part of his job will be to play 2nd base against lefties, but if DeWitt can show any type of consistency against southpaws, and keep his good eye, he could jump into the 600 PA range. The bottom line is the fates of this team will largely be determined by the performance of the homegrown talent.
Coming soon: a look at the homegrown Dodgers from the pitching side.