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Monday, April 9, 2012
Historic farm aid for Mets

By Adam Rubin


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The Mets may start eight homegrown players on Monday night, including Ike Davis, Daniel Murphy and Lucas Duda.
Not too many years ago, players in the Mets farm system were dispirited as they watched the organization fill voids with free agents and pass over homegrown talent.

Through austerity or otherwise, the organization now has done a 180-degree turn.

In fact, it is likely Monday night that the Mets will start eight homegrown players against the Washington Nationals -- Mike Pelfrey, Josh Thole, Ike Davis, Daniel Murphy, David Wright, Ruben Tejada, Kirk Nieuwenhuis and Lucas Duda.

That would be the franchise's most homegrown starters in an April game since April 19, 1990, according to an ESPNNewYork.com review of lineups. That game included: Barry Lyons, Dave Magadan, Gregg Jefferies, Kevin Elster, Mark Carreon, Keith Miller, Darryl Strawberry and Dwight Gooden. The lone starter who originated elsewhere: Howard Johnson, who began with the Detroit Tigers.

The lone projected Monday night starter not originally from the system: Jason Bay, who was drafted by the Montreal Expos in 2000. Bay actually played 69 games for Class A St. Lucie two years later, before being traded to the San Diego Padres in the summer of '02 in a deal that landed right-handers Steve Reed and Jason Middlebrook in Flushing.

So how have the Mets been in producing major league talent?

We asked the Elias Sports Bureau. And the result, by a couple of measurements, is middle of the pack to slightly below average.

Recognizing that big-market clubs often trade their young talent for established stars (Carlos Gomez, Kevin Mulvey, Philip Humber and Deolis Guerra for Johan Santana, for instance), it would not be fair to simply count the number of homegrown players on any team's Opening Day roster.

Instead, we decided to take the active Opening Day rosters of all 30 teams. Credit for producing the player then was assigned to the organization where the player originated.

The results:

Fifteen players on Opening Day rosters across baseball were drafted by the Mets, which ranked 22nd in baseball. The Texas Rangers ranked first, at 24. The Cleveland Indians were the worst, at seven.

Of course, that penalizes the Mets for finding undrafted gems such as Heath Bell. It also penalizes big-market teams that forfeited early round draft picks by signing free agents. Those clubs may have compensated for losing draft picks by shifting money to international signings. (The Mets did not have second- and third-round picks in 2005, for instance, because they signed Pedro Martinez and Carlos Beltran as free agents the previous winter. Yet they signed Fernando Martinez that summer for $1.3 million out of the Dominican Republic, the equivalent spending of a first-round pick.)

So, secondly, we took a look at all active players on Opening Day rosters -- not just the drafted ones -- since the original number pretty much excluded Dominican, Venezuelan, Japanese and Cuban players, among others. This Elias computation is done by giving credit to the organization for which the player first appeared in a minor league/professional game. That should be a very, very close approximation of which team originally signed  the player.

By that measure, the Mets also are almost perfectly middle of the pack. Twenty-five players on active Opening Day rosters across baseball originated with the Mets, which ranked 13th in the majors.

If each team performed equally well, each would have produced 25 players, so the Mets pretty much are perfectly average.

The Seattle Mariners led with 36 players that originated with their organization on active major league rosters, followed by the Rangers at 33. The Baltimore Orioles checked in at the bottom with 16, according to Elias.