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Here's how the 10 postseason teams were built

October 4, 2019

There's more than one blueprint to assemble a playoff team. Just look at the Astros and Dodgers, who finished with the best record in American League and National League, respectively. Los Angeles has the most homegrown talent of any postseason club, having signed and developed 15 of the 25 players

There's more than one blueprint to assemble a playoff team. Just look at the Astros and Dodgers, who finished with the best record in American League and National League, respectively.

Los Angeles has the most homegrown talent of any postseason club, having signed and developed 15 of the 25 players on its projected NL Division Series roster. Cody Bellinger, Clayton Kershaw and Corey Seager all arrived via the Draft, while Hyun-Jin Ryu headlines a strong international contingent.

Houston, meanwhile, used a more balanced approach to building its team. The Astros feature nine homegrown players (led by Alex Bregman and George Springer), six free agents (Michael Brantley, Robinson Chirinos), nine trade acquisitions (Justin Verlander, Gerrit Cole) and one waiver claim (Will Harris) -- all nearly identical to the averages in each category for the playoff clubs.

The Nationals have the most free agents (nine) on their playoff roster, while the Rays have the most trade acquisitions (17). Below is a detailed breakdown as to how each of the postseason teams was built:

American League

A’s (50.2 WAR, 4th of 10 teams)

Homegrown: 5 (14.3 WAR)
• Draft: 5 (14.3 WAR)
Free agents: 4 (6.5 WAR)
Trades: 15 (24.9 WAR)
Rule 5: 1 (4.5 WAR)

Most of the A’s roster -- and production -- has come via trade. No trade has been more productive for this playoff team than the one in December 2014 that sent Jeff Samardzija to the White Sox. In return, the A’s got their most productive player this year in Marcus Semien, as well as catcher Josh Phegley and right-hander Chris Bassitt. Bassitt is part of a postseason pitching staff built almost entirely via trade, with All-Star closer Liam Hendriks leading the way for young arms who were acquired as prospects, like Sean Manaea and Jesus Luzardo. This should not discount the work done by original draftees, most notably the Matts at the infield corners, Chapman and Olson, who are Nos. 1 and 2 on the team in terms of WAR.

Astros (74.7 WAR, 1st of 10 teams)

Homegrown: 9 (27.0 WAR)
• Draft: 6 (19.5 WAR)
• International: 3 (7.5 WAR)
Free Agents: 6 (13.1 WAR)
Trades: 9 (32.5 WAR)
Waivers: 1 (2.1 WAR)

For what it's worth, the Astros have accrued far and away the most WAR of any playoff team, and they have significant contributors in all three categories. Their three best players were No. 1 or No. 2 overall Draft picks -- Alex Bregman, whom they selected (No. 2, 2015), and Justin Verlander (No. 2, 2004, Tigers) and Gerrit Cole (No. 1, 2011, Pirates), picked up in blockbuster trades. Houston also scored with two more of its first-round picks in George Springer and Carlos Correa, found José Altuve and Yuli Gurriel on the international market, stole rookie sensation Yordan Alvarez in a deal with the Dodgers before he made his pro debut and reaped huge returns on modest free-agent investments in Michael Brantley and Robinson Chirinos.

Rays (43.8 WAR, 8th of 10 teams)

Homegrown: 6 (9.5 WAR)
• Draft: 4 (6.6 WAR)
• International: 2 (2.9 WAR)
Free Agents: 2 (7.0 WAR)
Trades: 17 (27.3 WAR)

The Rays’ moves ahead of last year’s Trade Deadline paid enormous dividends this season, as Tyler Glasnow and Austin Meadows (Pirates) both broke out as All-Star-caliber players in their first full year with the club, while Tommy Pham (Cardinals) finished tied for second among the team’s position players in WAR (3.7), behind only Willy Adames (4.2), who was acquired from the Tigers in a 2014 trade. Brandon Lowe combines with 2018 AL Cy Young Award winner Blake Snell and Kevin Kiermaier to form a solid group of homegrown talent. The offseason signing of Charlie Morton (5.0 WAR), meanwhile, netted the club its most valuable player.

Twins (47 WAR, 6th of 10 teams)

Homegrown: 13 (28.4 WAR)
• Draft: 7 (13.2 WAR)
• International: 5 (14.6 WAR)
• Non-drafted Free Agent: 1 (0.6 WAR)
Free agents: 4 (8.2 WAR)
Trades: 6 (8 WAR)
Waivers: 2 (2.4 WAR)

The Twins have the most homegrown roster of any AL playoff team and trail only the Dodgers overall, and that’s without the injured Byron Buxton. Mitch Garver, a ninth-rounder from the 2013 Draft, leads the original draftee set thanks to his huge uptick in power. The Twins lead in terms of international players and the WAR those players have produced, thanks largely to Jorge Polanco’s and Max Kepler’s breakout seasons. Ageless DH Nelson Cruz continues to be a free-agent revelation in the middle of the Twins lineup while the quiet acquisition of Jake Odorizzi via trade prior to the start of the 2018 season has provided an anchor to the rotation, especially during his All-Star campaign this season.

Yankees (47.3 WAR, 5th of 10 teams)

Homegrown: 7 (16 WAR)
• Draft: 4 (10.6 WAR)
• International: 3 (5.4 WAR)
Free Agents: 5 (9.6 WAR)
Trades: 13 (21.7 WAR)

The Yankees were once known for their profligate spending, and their best player this year is indeed a free agent, though DJ LeMahieu cost them only $24 million on a two-year contract. This resilient club has overcome a wave of injuries thanks to its homegrown talent and savvy moves. Aaron Judge (No. 32 overall, 2013) and Brett Gardner (third round, 2005) were Draft steals, and Gary Sánchez ($3 million, 2009) was a product of New York's aggressive international efforts. Trading Aroldis Chapman (who later re-signed as a free agent) for Gleyber Torres and three prospects for James Paxton generated headlines, but GM Brian Cashman also has excelled at making stealth deals for the likes of Luke Voit. Key contributors Gio Urshela and Cameron Maybin arrived via straight cash transactions.

National League

Braves (44.6 WAR, 7th of 10 teams)

Homegrown: 5 (22.7 WAR)
• Draft: 2 (10.0 WAR)
• International: 3 (12.7 WAR)
Free agents: 9 (10.8 WAR)
Trades: 10 (10.8 WAR)
Waivers: 1 (0.3 WAR)

The Braves might only have five homegrown players on their postseason roster, but it can’t be overstated how important they are. The two draftees (Freddie Freeman and Mike Soroka) and three international signees (Ronald Acuña Jr., Ozzie Albies and Julio Teheran) account for nearly half of the entire projected roster’s WAR. Josh Donaldson might have seemed like a one-year filler for a prospect like Austin Riley, but even with him enduring a late slump, he’s been the team’s most productive player (at least according to his 6.1 WAR). The Braves have used their rich farm system strategically in trades over the past few years, mostly to add complementary pieces. This season's non-waiver Trade Deadline helped address the bullpen issues, with the addition of Shane Greene and Mark Melancon providing some stability.

Brewers (28.1 WAR, 10th of 10 teams)

Homegrown: 7 (8.9 WAR)
• Draft: 6 (9.1 WAR)
• International: 1 (-0.2 WAR)
Free Agents: 8 (8.9 WAR)
Trades: 8 (9.0 WAR)
Waivers: 2 (1.3 WAR)

The Brewers will be without 2018 NL MVP Christian Yelich in the postseason, though they still have plenty of talent to make a deep postseason run should they defeat Washington in the Wild Card Game. Former first-round picks Keston Hiura (2017) and Trent Grisham ('15) join Ryan Braun to give the Brewers a solid core of homegrown positional talent, and Brandon Woodruff, a former 11th-round pick ('14), has emerged as the club’s most impactful starting pitcher. The Brewers could have nine free agents on their Division Series roster, tied for the most among postseason clubs. That group includes offseason signees Yasmani Grandal and last year’s big offseason get, Lorenzo Cain. Trade acquisition Josh Hader (Astros ’15) has been one of baseball’s top relievers for a second straight year, and Drew Pomeranz has been excellent for the Brew Crew after coming over from the Giants at this year’s Trade Deadline.

Cardinals (39.8 WAR, 9th of 10 teams)

Homegrown: 12 (27.0 WAR)
• Draft: 10 (25.9 WAR)
• International: 2 (1.1 WAR)
Free Agents: 4 (3.4 WAR)
Trades: 7 (8.0 WAR)
Waivers: 1 (0.6 WAR)
Rule 5: 1 (0.8 WAR)

After winning their first division title since 2015, the St. Louis Cardinals will head to the NLDS with as many as 10 players who entered their system via the Draft. Former first-round picks Jack Flaherty and Dakota Hudson were the club’s most dependable starters this season, especially during the second half, and Paul DeJong and Kolten Wong once again were hugely valuable assets on both sides of the ball, as was versatile rookie Tommy Edman. Offseason acquisition Paul Goldschmidt (D-backs), whom the club subsequently signed to a five-year, $130 million extension, finished strong after a slow start and combined with Marcell Ozuna (Marlins) to hit 62 of the Cardinals’ 207 home runs. Giovanny Gallegos, acquired from the Yankees ahead of the 2018 Deadline, emerged as a lockdown reliever in his first full season with organization.

Dodgers (51.2 WAR, 2nd of 10 teams)

Homegrown: 15 (34.4 WAR)
• Draft: 10 (25.1 WAR)
• International: 5 (9.3 WAR)
Free Agents: 4 (9.0 WAR)
Trades: 6 (7.8 WAR)

The Dodgers continue to win and continue to develop talent from within. They've captured seven straight NL West titles, with this year's club led by its homegrown talent: prime NL MVP Award candidate Cody Bellinger, Corey Seager and their top three starters in Hyun-Jin Ryu, Clayton Kershaw and Walker Buehler. Los Angeles also integrated three Top 100 Prospects into this season's NL West title-winning squad, adding Gavin Lux, Dustin May and Will Smith -- though May could be squeezed out of a postseason roster spot by another rookie, Tony Gonsolin. Max Muncy and Justin Turner are two of the best free-agent signings any team has made in the last five years.

Nationals (50.4 WAR, tied for 3rd of 10 teams)

Homegrown: 8 (21.9 WAR)
• Draft: 6 (13.2 WAR)
• International: 2 (8.7 WAR)
Free Agents: 9 (17.2 WAR)
Trades: 8 (11.3 WAR)

The Nationals have arguably the most balanced projected postseason roster in terms of how it was built. It’s impossible to ignore the team’s success in the Draft, as former first-round picks Anthony Rendon (2011) -- a legitimate MVP candidate -- and Stephen Strasburg ('09) have been worth more than six wins apiece, while homegrown international signings Juan Soto and Victor Robles have both been four-plus win assets in their first full big league campaigns. Outside of Strasburg, the Nats have tapped the open market in recent years to fill out their rotation, signing Max Scherzer in '15 and both Patrick Corbin and Aníbal Sánchez prior to this season. Overall, the club projects to have nine free agents on their Division Series roster, the most among all playoff teams. Washington continues to be among the more active trading teams and used this year’s Deadline to rebuild its bullpen, acquiring Daniel Hudson (Blue Jays), Hunter Strickland and Roenis Elías (Mariners).