When I write my draft preview each year, I include a section on the top New England players available in the draft -- and I always get a lot of positive feedback about it and requests for more coverage of local players, even if they’re not in the Red Sox system. We New Englanders undoubtedly enjoy watching our own home-grown players succeed -- as long as it’s not in Yankee pinstripes. Given that, here is a breakdown of the twenty-one New England born players in the majors in 2011 (listed in order of career WAR – Wins Above Replacement). Note that this list does not count players who went to high school or college in New England but were not born here, such as Chicago Cubs first baseman Carlos Pena, a graduate of Haverhill (MA) High School and an alumnus of Northeastern University.
1. Chris Carpenter, RHP, St. Louis
Born: April 27, 1975 in Exeter, NH
Other New England ties: Graduated from Trinity High school in Manchester, NH in 1993
Notes: In his eighth year in the St. Louis organization, Carpenter is one of the anchors of the Cardinals’ pitching staff in 2011, posting an 8-8 record with a 3.57 ERA. Over his career, Carpenter has compiled 141 wins in 340 games between the Toronto and St. Louis organizations. The three-time All-Star also took home the National League Cy Young Award in 2005 and won a World Series ring with the Cardinals in 2006. While Carpenter still regularly visits his family in the Manchester area, he now resides in St. Louis during the off-season.
2. Paul Konerko, 1B/DH, Chicago (AL)
Born: March 5, 1976 in Providence, RI
Notes: Konerko grew up in Norwich, CT, and played in the Norwich Little League, but moved to Arizona prior to high school. The five-time All-Star is batting .314/.398/.550 with 28 home runs for the White Sox in 2011. He is currently 52nd on the all-time home run list with a career 393 round-trippers. Presently Chicago’s captain, he helped lead the White Sox to a World Series championship in 2005.
3. Carl Pavano, RHP, Minnesota
Born: January 8, 1976 in New Britain, CT
Other New England ties: Graduated from Southington (CT) High School in 1994
Notes: Pavano was an all-world pitcher growing up in Connecticut, winning the state’s American Legion championship in 1993 and high school championship in 1994, and taking home countless awards in the process. He was drafted by the Red Sox in the 13th round of the 1994 draft, and then in November 1997 was traded to Montreal, together with right-hander Tony Armas, for Pedro Martinez. While he’s no Pedro, Pavano has gone on to have a solid major league career in five different organizations, posting a 103-99 win-loss record and a 4.36 ERA.
4. Chris Capuano, LHP, New York (NL)
Born: August 19, 1978 in Springfield, MA
Other New England ties: Graduated from Cathedral High School in Springfield, MA in 1996
Notes: A noted scholar-athlete, Capuano was the valedictorian of his high school before heading off to pitch for Duke University. Now in his seventh year in the majors, Capuano has posted a 9-11 record with a 4.71 ERA for the Mets in 2011. The left-hander has 65 wins over the course of his career between stints in Arizona, Milwaukee, and New York. He was a National League All-Star in 2006, and also pitched for Team USA in the 2001 World Cup.
5. Chris Iannetta, C, Colorado
Born: April 8, 1983 in Providence, RI
Other New England ties: Graduated from St. Raphael Academy in Pawtucket, RI in 2001
Notes: In his sixth year with the Rockies, the 28-year-old backstop is hitting .238/.376/.419 with 12 home runs. Considered a solid defender behind the plate, Iannetta has also demonstrated outstanding plate discipline throughout his career in addition to decent power, with 61 career home runs under his belt. He platooned as the starting catcher for Team USA in the 2009 World Baseball Classic, together with Atlanta catcher Brian McCann. Iannetta still calls Providence his home during the off-season.
6. Daric Barton, 1B, Oakland
Born: August 16, 1985 in Springfield, VT
Notes: The only Vermont-born player on the list, Barton has been an integral part of the A’s roster since 2007. Known for his outstanding plate discipline, Barton led the American League in walks in 2010 with 110, and boasts a career .362 on-base percentage. He has struggled in 2011 however, hitting .212 with 0 home runs, and as such Oakland optioned the 26-year-old to Triple-A Sacramento on June 22. He’ll likely be back with the A’s when September rolls around.
7. Brian Wilson, RHP, San Francisco
Born: March 16, 1982 in Londonderry, NH
Other New England ties: Graduated from Londonderry High School in 2000
Notes: Wilson came up through the Londonderry High School ranks as a quirky teenager, leaving many of his coaches and teammates unsurprised that he has turned out to be one of the most interesting and unique personalities in the major leagues. Baseball-wise, Wilson was on the mound and took home the save when San Francisco won the World Series in 2010, leading to even more fame for the black-bearded closer. A three-time All-Star, Wilson currently has 35 saves to go with a 3.19 ERA for the Giants. Over his six-year career -- all with San Francisco -- Wilson has compiled 169 saves.
8. Rajai Davis, OF, Toronto
Born: October 19, 1980 in Norwich, CT
Other New England ties: Graduated from New London (CT) High School in 1999 and attended the University of Connecticut at Avery Point
Notes: Davis was a Little League phenom and a multi-sport athlete growing up in New London. After he spent spending two years at UConn-Avery Point, the Pirates took a flyer on him in the 38th round of the 2001 draft. Including Pittsburgh, the speedy center fielder has already been through four organizations at this point, compiling a career .273/.319/.377 line with 177 stolen bases. The 30-year-old Davis is presently signed with Toronto through 2012, with a team option for 2013.
9. Rich Hill, LHP, Boston
Born: March 11, 1980 in Boston, MA
Other New England ties: Graduated from Milton (MA) High School in 1999
Notes: Like many New Englanders his age, Hill grew up rooting for the likes of Wade Boggs and Mo Vaughn in the 80s and 90s. A fourth-round pick in 2002, he pitched in 78 major league games with the Cubs and Orioles before catching on with Boston in 2010. The Red Sox coaches tweaked Hill’s delivery in the 2010-11 off-season, and he appeared primed to take over a lefty specialist role with the club early in 2011. Unfortunately, Hill suffered an elbow injury in late May and underwent Tommy John surgery on June 9. He still has a large family presence in Milton, all of whom undoubtedly can’t wait until he returns to the mound at some point in 2012.
10. Dan Wheeler, RHP, Boston
Born: December 10, 1977 in Providence, RI
Other New England ties: Graduated from Pilgrim High School in Warwick, RI in 1995
Notes: In twelve major league seasons, Wheeler has compiled 25 wins and 43 saves, while posting a career 3.85 ERA. After signing with Boston this past off-season, the 33-year-old righty got off to a rough start in April and May, but has been very effective for the Sox since the calendar turned to June. His re-emergence as an impact bullpen arm could be vital to Boston’s post-season success this year.
11. Chris Denorfia, OF, San Diego
Born: July 15, 1980 in Bristol, CT
Other New England ties: Graduated from Choate Rosemary Hall in Wallingford, CT in 1998. Graduated from Wheaton College (Norton, MA) in 2002.
Notes: A utility outfielder for the Padres, Denorfia’s value comes in his versatility, hustle, and solid fundamentals. Over six-year his career with Oakland, Cincinnati, and San Diego, Denorfia has posted a career .270/.340/.397 line. He played for Italy in the 2009 World Baseball Classic. He now resides in Sarasota, FL during the off-season.
12. Tim Stauffer, RHP, San Diego
Born: June 2, 1982 in Portland, ME
Notes: One of two Maine-born players on the list, Stauffer’s family moved to Saratoga, NY when he was in elementary school. The Padres took Stauffer with the fourth overall pick in the 2003 draft, and he made his major league debut in May 2005. In 91 career appearances, the 29-year-old starter is 22-29 with a 3.80 ERA. In 2011, he leads the club in starts and innings, and is among the team leaders in wins and strikeouts.
13. John McDonald, IF, Arizona
Born: September 24, 1974 in New London, CT
Other New England ties: Graduated from East Lyme (CT) High School in 1992. Attended UConn-Avery Point, and graduated from Providence College in 2010.
Notes: “Johnny Mac” was a member one of Providence’s last teams before its baseball program was discontinued in 1999. A valuable utility player, McDonald is capable of playing shortstop, second base, third base, and left field. He has a career line of .240/.276/.329 between stops in Cleveland, Detroit, Toronto, and Arizona. On August 23, 2011, he was traded to the Diamondbacks with teammate Aaron Hill for second baseman Kelly Johnson.
14. Craig Breslow, LHP, Oakland
Born: August 8, 1980 in New Haven, CT
Other New England ties: Graduated from Trumbull (CT) High School in 1998; graduated from Yale (New Haven, CT) in 2002.
Notes: Widely considered the most intelligent player in major league baseball, Breslow graduated from Yale with a BA in molecular physics and biochemistry. Primarily utilized as a middle reliever throughout his career, Breslow is currently 0-2 with a 4.12 ERA for the Athletics. He’s been with six different organizations in his professional career, including a stint in 2006-2007 where he spent time with Boston and Triple-A Pawtucket. He boasts a career 3.08 ERA and 1.25 WHIP.
15. Sam Fuld, OF, Tampa Bay
Born: November 20, 1981 in Durham, NH
Other New England ties: Graduated from Phillips Exeter Academy in 2000
Notes: Fuld is hitting .237/.309/.359 for the Rays in 2011, after spending parts of the last three seasons with the Chicago Cubs. At 27, the 5’8” outfielder is getting his first shot as a regular with Tampa Bay this year, and he could stick given his solid peripherals. Diagnosed as a Type 1 diabetic at the age of 10, Fuld has battled the ailment throughout his career, but plays the game with a reckless abandon nonetheless, making him a perennial fan favorite. In the off-season, Fuld now lives in Jupiter, Fla. with his wife and 1-year-old son.
16. Alex Cobb, RHP, Tampa Bay
Born: October 7, 1987 in Boston, MA
Notes: While Cobb was born in Boston, he grew up in Vero Beach, FL. Now a 23-year-old rookie with the Rays, Cobb made his major league debut on May 1, 2011. Through 9 starts, the right-hander is 3-2 with a 3.42 ERA and 37 strikeouts. He has yet to face the Red Sox. During his minor league career, the former fourth-round pick was 34-24 with a 2.99 ERA.
17. Steven Cishek, RHP, Florida
Born: June 18, 1986 in Falmouth, MA
Other New England ties: Graduated from Falmouth High School in 2004
Notes: Cishek, a rookie reliever with the Marlins, is 2-1 with a 2.63 ERA this season, striking out 43 batters in 41 innings. A fifth-round pick in the 2007 draft, Cishek made his major league debut on September 27, 2010, appearing in three games with the Marlins before the end of the 2010 season. He got the call to the major leagues while driving from Jacksonville -- where his minor league season had just ended -- back to his hometown of Falmouth. He made it to Savannah, Ga., but after the call he made a u-turn to head down to Miami to join the Marlins.
18. Brandon Gomes, RHP, Tampa Bay
Born: July 15, 1984 in Fall River, MA
Other New England ties: Graduated from Durfee High School in Fall River in 2002
Notes: Another Rays’ rookie, the 27-year-old Gomes made his major league debut on May 3, 2011. He presently boasts a 3.67 ERA in 26 appearances out of the Tampa Bay bullpen. He was acquired from San Diego in December 2010 with three other players in exchange for shortstop Jason Bartlett. Gomes still calls Fall River his hometown, and achieved a lifelong dream when he came to Fenway Park as a big-leaguer for the first time on August 16. He left twenty tickets for friends and family.
19. Evan Scribner, RHP, San Diego
Born: July 19, 1985 in New Milford, CT
Other New England ties: Graduated from Central Connecticut State in 2007
Notes: One of the many rookies on the list, Scribner has pitched in just ten major league games with the Padres, having spent much of the season back-and-forth between San Diego and Triple-A Tucson. Like Gomes, Scribner got to fulfill one of his childhood dreams when he pitched at Fenway Park for the first time on June 20, 2011. Presently in Triple-A, he’ll likely be a September call-up for the Padres.
20. Charlie Furbush, LHP, Seattle
Born: April 11, 1986 in South Portland, ME
Other New England ties: Graduated from South Portland High School in 2004. Attended St. Joseph’s College of Maine.
Notes: After attending St. Joseph’s, Furbush transferred to college baseball powerhouse Louisiana State in 2007, and following an impressive season with the Tigers, he was drafted in the fourth round by Detroit. He got the call to the big leagues on May 21, 2011, and posted a 3.62 ERA in 17 games with Detroit. He was traded to Seattle at the trade deadline in a six-player deal that included former Red Sox farmhand David Pauley. He has since pitched in five games for the Mariners, including an August 14 win over Boston, when he went seven innings, allowing only 4 hits and 1 run.
21. Tim Collins, LHP, Kansas City
Born: August 21, 1989 in Worcester, MA
Other New England ties: Graduated from Worcester Technical High School in 2007
Notes: Former Toronto general manager (and Massachusetts native) J.P. Ricciardi signed Collins as an undrafted free agent in late July 2007, after Collins’ mid-90s fastball caught Ricciardi’s eye during an American Legion game in Worcester. As a 5’7” undrafted free agent who’s just barely 22 years old, Collins’ rise to the majors has been quite improbable. He was traded to Atlanta in a multi-player deal on July 14, 2010, and then sent to Kansas City on July 14, 2010 in another multi-player deal. In 56 games with the Royals in 2011, Collins has posted a 3.51 ERA and a 1.51 WHIP. Raised as a Red Sox fan, Collins made his Fenway Park debut on July 25, 2011.