Overall MLB diversity up; effort to increase Black participation continues

April 14th, 2023

Jackie Robinson was the strongest symbol of how the sport of baseball can bridge divides and bring people of all races and colors together. And so Jackie Robinson Day is as good a time as any to check in on the diversity of Major League Baseball.

As of Opening Day, MLB rosters remained among the most diverse in all of professional sports, with 40.34% of overall rosters (including the injured list, suspension and restricted lists) coming from diverse backgrounds -- a 2.34% increase from a year earlier.

This included 945 players overall -- 59 Black players (6.2%), 285 Latino/Hispanic players (30.2%), 30 Asian players (3.2%), six Pacific Islander/Native Hawaiian players (0.53%) and two Native American players (0.21%).

An additional 45 players with existing Major League service time and/or on 40-man rosters, several of whom have since been called up since Opening Day, add to that tally.

Among the Black players on Opening Day rosters, 63% are under the age of 30 and the average age is 27. This relative youth, combined with some recent trends regarding the amateur Draft, point to a future with a potentially higher percentage of Black players at the MLB level.

Additionally, six players who were not named to Opening Day rosters have already been called up: Stone Garrett, Keynan Middleton, Willie Calhoun, Akil Baddoo, Taj Bradley and Vaughn Grissom.

As of this month, six of the top 25, 10 of the 50 and 14 of the top 100 MLB Pipeline prospects are Black.

In the last two years, Black players have represented 12.5% of the top 100 selections (12 of the top 100 in 2021 and 13 of the top 100 in 2022). Four of the first five selections in 2022 Draft were Black -- the first time in Draft history that happened. All four were alumni of the DREAM Series, a diversity-focused development programming offered in part by MLB and USA Baseball. In the opening round of that Draft, 12 picks (40%) were Black or Latino.

Meanwhile, 11 Black players are currently projected among the Top 100 players for the 2023 Draft.

Overall, 49% of the MLB Pipeline’s Top 100 Prospects list includes players from diverse backgrounds (Black, Latino, Asian).

While MLB aims for a higher percentage of Black players over time, it’s interesting to note the impact the current Black players are having on the sport. Three of the last six Rookie of the Year winners have been Black players -- Kyle Lewis with the 2020 Mariners, Devin Williams with the 2020 Brewers and Michael Harris II with the 2022 Braves.

Aaron Judge was the 2022 AL MVP, and he and Harris were among four of the six major BBWAA Awards winners to come from diverse backgrounds, joining NL Cy Young winner Sandy Alcantara and AL Rookie of the Year Julio Rodríguez. The 2022 All-MLB Team featured 11 players (35.5%) from countries outside the U.S. and 16 (51.7%) from diverse backgrounds.

At the 2022 All-Star Game, 14 of the 18 starting players in the starting lineups for the AL and NL came from diverse backgrounds, and 31 internationally born players were on the rosters (42.4%). At the 2022 SiriusXM Futures Game, 26 of the 52 players (50%) came from diverse backgrounds, including 16 foreign-born players and eight Black players. And when Team USA sought the best and brightest stars in the sport for its 2023 World Baseball Classic, it wound up with a roster that featured eight players (27% of the 30-man roster) from diverse backgrounds, including four Black players in Tim Anderson, Mookie Betts, Cedric Mullins and Williams.

Robinson’s historic debut pulled MLB out of segregation and made it possible for the sport to be more reflective of broader society and the diversity that makes it special. The number of Black players, specifically, remains a major work in progress, though there are signs that MLB’s aims in this area at the youth level are reaping benefits. On the whole, a look at the current rosters in MLB shows a game in which a wide array of cultures come together to play ball.