Draft Locally, Act Globally

I watch a lot of amateur baseball. You can maybe tell from my articles and tweets that the origin of prospects and how they enter professional baseball is of great interest to me. While brainstorming ideas for this article I was looking over the San Francisco Giants farm system and I got to looking at where their prospects originated from. I don’t only mean high school or college… I mean where geographically.

Teams can’t draft entirely locally of course – even those in California. Yet, teams do often like to snag talent from their own backyard when they can. Among the Giants top prospects the only California natives are outfielder Gary Brown, catcher Andrew Susac and pitchers Martin Agosta and Chase Johnson. Brown and Johnson are SoCal guys, while Susac and Agosta come from the Sacramento area originally. Only Susac and Agosta would arguably be “local” kids for the Giants and even that may be a bit of a stretch. In terms of schools, Brown went to Cal State Fullerton, Johnson attended Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and Augusta went to St. Mary’s up in the Bay Area. Among the team’s 2013 draftees, Brian Ragira and Garrett Hughes went to Stanford, Johnson we already covered and Nick Vander Tuig was a UCLA Bruin. Of the high school draftees catcher John Riley was taken out of high school in San Joe in the 31st round and Jonah Arenado came from the Los Angeles area.

In this vein I got to thinking about how the NBA Draft used to be territorial when they were trying to get the league off the ground. Giving teams rights to players from their area was done in order to generate local interest with fans.  I have two interesting side notes here. First, there have long been accusations the NBA in its infancy instructed referees to favor home teams for similar reasons (shocker, right? when did they stop!). Second, in the territorial draft Red Auerbach and the Celtics had a chance to take Hall of Fame Holy Cross point guard Bob Cousy. They passed. Auerbach quipped: “I’m supposed to win, not go after local yokels.”  The Tri-Cities Blackhawks eventually drafted Cousy, but he ended up in Boston anyway as a result of a random draw in a dispersal draft. In the spirit of this I was curious what baseball’s prospect landscape would look like if MLB teams had territorial rights. My very scientific hypothesis was that the California, Texas and Florida teams would be really freaking good. I decided to map this stuff anyway. Since it’s still early in the offseason and neither Marc or I have finished our prospect rankings  nor made them public I decided to go with Marc’s midseasons Fangraphs list as a basis for my map.

Here’s where the top 50 prospects from Marc’s list were born:


So who would the top 50 prospects belong to if teams had territorial rights? This obviously takes some imagination given some cities have multiple teams. Bear with me. I’m fairly certain MLB isn’t going to adopt this idea anyway, so let’s not take it too seriously! Here’s MLB’s broadcast rights map, which I figure is as good a place to start as any:

MLB Territorial Map

MLB Territorial Map

I went by this territorial map where possible when it was obvious. When it wasn’t so easy I used a “as the crow flies” measurement from the player’s hometown to the team’s stadium. There were some close and surprising calls this way. At least my preconceived notions of how far things are from each other was challenged a few times. Aaron Sanchez was nearly equidistant from Dodger Stadium and Disneyland but went to the Dodgers by a couple miles. Michael Wacha from Iowa City was smack dab in the middle of a few teams. To make this work I’m also going to ignore the Dominicans and Cubans. I will award the Miami Marlins  all the players from Puerto Rico, though. That’s just Almora and Baez… sorry Cubs fans.

The results:

I also mapped the birthplaces and school sites for most of the notable prospects in the San Francisco org. This can be accessed in the google map above. Here’s a quick overview pic below. Orange markers are birthplaces while black is where they went to school or were drafted from. Sometimes these overlapped, as you’d imagine. Strangely, outfield prospect Mac Williamson grew up in Wake Forest, NC… and then went to Wake Forest University… which isn’t actually in Wake Forest, NC, but is instead  in Winston-Salem which is down the road.

SF Giants Farm System School & Birthplaces Map

What would the Giants system look like if prospects were territorial? Well, to make it easier on myself I’m going to ignore the A’s claims. We’re going to just pretend the A’s don’t exist. That has the added benefit of making this a more authentic Giants article, right? /rimshot

The highlights of a territorially drafted Giants farm system would be:

  • RHP Kyle Zimmer – A San Fran native who played for the U of San Francisco Dons.
  • RHP Robert Stephenson – From Bay Area town Martinez.
  • RHP J.R. Graham – From Livermore in Alameda County. Attended Santa Clara University.
  • RHP Joe Ross – The Padres 1st rounder went to high school in Oakland.
  • OF Joc Pederson – Drafted out of Palo Alto High School.

…and they’d have taken in a huge haul of talent in this year’s draft:

  • RHP Mark Appel – Was actually born in Houston, but went to high school in Danville, CA and then on to Stanford.
  • OF Aaron Judge – Born in Linden, went to school at Fresno State.
  • LHP Matt Krook – The Marlins unsigned 1st rounder was one of the better prep lefties in the draft. San Fran high school kid.
  • OF Austin Wilson – From the L.A. are originally, but was a Stanford Cardinal.

In addition, they DID sign Ragira and Chase Johnson. This would be a system somewhat weak in position prospects, but man… that’s some pitching to build around right there.

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Al Skorupa writes about baseball & baseball prospects for Bullpen Banter and Fangraphs/Rotographs. He lives in Rhode Island. He watches & videotapes a good amount of amateur and minor league baseball. You can follow him on twitter @alskor.

15 Responses to “Draft Locally, Act Globally”

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  1. RMD says:

    Cool piece. I also imagine teams draft local kids because they’re easier to sign.

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  2. jdbolick says:

    The Braves certainly appear to have a predilection for taking Georgia high schoolers. Signability may have something to do with it, but I imagine that familiarity is a bigger factor.

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  3. triple-A city says:

    This is a really neat article, but I think the overarching point here once again is that if the Dominican Republic had an MLB team, they would win all of the World Series forever.

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  4. here goes nothing says:

    Why would Danville be SF and not OAK territory? Contra Costa County looks on your map to be and is by my memory a mixed territorial rights area, in which case your rule of thumb (closer as crow flies) means OAK gets Appel, unless you’re calculating from Palo Alto and not Danville.
    -former Appel teammate from Danville

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  5. Daniel says:

    Couldn’t we take this a step further to suggest which teams would exist? I know you were joking about pretending the A’s don’t exist, but if this were actually the case, they would be in huge trouble. They couldn’t compete with the Giants for limited resources in the area. On the other hand, could there be a team in the Dominican Republic? How about a couple more in the midwest where there’s a lot of talent?

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    • Al Skorupa says:

      Even with a territorial draft a Dominican team would be a tricky proposition. I’m not sure a team would be viable economically there. The Dominican is a beautiful country but it’s still very poor with an developing economy. The average annual income in the D.R. is I believe around $5,000 American with something like nearly half the population under the poverty line. They would also lack the kind of corporations (equivalent to Fortune 500 companies) that teams covet for sponsors and luxury boxes, etc…

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      • Matt says:

        I did something similar to this and I went with having the Caribbean players allocated heavily to Miami and Tampa Bay, moderately to Atlanta and Houston, and so on.

        Then I figured since these teams were already stack with talent without international players, and we’re already crossing borders and bodies of water, I threw out Geography altogether and used Dominican players to fill in holes on the Twins, Brewers, Phillies, Yankees, Red Sox, etc. After all a lot of these guys sign when they’re 16, so if you’re looking at where they “grew up” and not just where they were born, you could say a guy like Profar(Netherlands) was raised by Texas or Sano by Minnesota. Not that I stuck with current teams either, but man… The Brewers really stink geographically…

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