Which state is best at baseball? All 50 ranked

June 15th, 2020

Where do Major League players come from?

We can answer the question generally: “Pretty much everywhere,” or philosophically: “Really, where do any of us come from?” But on the heels of the 2020 MLB Draft, we were curious which Draft-eligible areas (the United States, its territories and Canada) have produced the most talent in the sport’s long history.

So here, with the help of Baseball Reference’s bio page, is a look at the 50 states and the other areas covered by the Draft, ranked by Wins Above Replacement.

Unfortunately this isn’t an exact science, because, we are basing this on where the player was born, and, as you’ll see below (and probably knew), people do sometimes move out of the state in which they are born. Also, there are a lot of states from the northeast that rank highly even though they aren’t exactly modern-day hotbeds, and that’s due to baseball’s early days, when talent was concentrated in that region.

But we’re not here to make definitive “state”ments, OK? We’re just trying to have some fun.

1) California: 2,311 players, 11,519.2 WAR
The most populous state laps the field on this list, with 24 Hall of Famers and four players who achieved north of 100 WAR (Barry Bonds, Ted Williams, Tom Seaver and Randy Johnson). Spencer Torkelson, who was taken by the Tigers with this year’s No. 1 overall pick, is from Petaluma.

2) New York: 1,216 players, 5,893.7 WAR
The state that houses Cooperstown and spawned four Major League teams also produced four 100-WAR guys (Eddie Collins, Lou Gehrig, Warren Spahn and Alex Rodriguez, though A-Rod moved at a young age), and Southampton (Long Island) native Carl Yastrzemski (96.4) is close.

3) Pennsylvania: 1,434 players, 5,853.3 WAR
From “The Kid” (Ken Griffey Jr.) to “The Man” (Stan Musial), incredible talent hailed from here -- and that’s just tiny Donora (Griffey and Musial share not just a birthplace but a birth date of Nov. 21). The Keystone State also lays claim to Honus Wagner, Christy Mathewson, Reggie Jackson and many others.

4) Ohio: 1,040 players, 4,805.0 WAR
This was the birthplace not just of Cy Young, but of the guy who won the most Cy Youngs (Roger Clemens). Both the Dayton-born Clemens and Cincinnati-born Pete Rose might not ever make it to the Hall of Fame, but they definitely bump up the Buckeye State WAR total.

5) Texas: 942 players, 4,157.7 WAR
The Lone Star State birthed Hall of Famers Tris Speaker, Rogers Hornsby, Frank Robinson, Greg Maddux, Joe Morgan, Eddie Mathews, Nolan Ryan and Ernie Banks, and Clayton Kershaw figures to join the list. Two of this year’s top four overall Draft picks -- Heston Kjerstad (Orioles) and Asa Lacy (Royals) -- are Texans.

6) Illinois: 1,061 players, 4,105.9 WAR
Rickey Henderson and Robin Yount happened to be born here and didn’t stay long. But the Land of Lincoln can still legitimately claim Robin Roberts, Jim Thome, Lou Boudreau and many others.

7) Florida: 562 players, 2,771.9 WAR
Present-day stars such as Jacob deGrom, Zack Greinke, Chris Sale, Andrew McCutchen, Manny Machado, J.D. Martinez and Anthony Rizzo are adding to the Sunshine State’s total. No. 5 overall pick Austin Martin, from Jacksonville, joins Odessa native Nate Pearson and Orlando’s Bo Bichette in the Blue Jays’ Florida-infused system.

8) Missouri: 611 players, 2,753.9 WAR
The WAR leader from the state in the center of the conterminous U.S. is Hall of Famer Pud Galvin (73.5) from the 1800s. But St. Louis native Max Scherzer (60.1) has a chance to catch him.

9) Alabama: 337 players, 2,096.3 WAR
A high WAR-per-player here, augmented by the legendary Willie Mays (156.2) from Fairfield and Hank Aaron (143.1) from Mobile (to say nothing of Ozzie Smith, Don Sutton, Willie McCovey and others). Tigers pitching prospect Casey Mize could be Alabama’s next gift to the big league world.

10) Michigan: 434 players, 2,074.0 WAR
Michigan directly benefited from birthing Hall of Famers Charlie Gehringer and Hal Newhouser, given what they accomplished for the Tigers. Not so much with Detroit native John Smoltz, who was dealt to the Braves.

11) Georgia: 379 players, 1,992.4 WAR
What began in earnest with “The Georgia Peach,” Ty Cobb, and continued with fearsome sluggers Johnny Mize and Frank Thomas lives on, as exactly 50 Georgia-born players participated in the 2019 MLB season. Right-hander Emerson Hancock, the Mariners’ pick at No. 6 overall this year, is from Cairo, also the birthplace of Jackie Robinson.

12) Massachusetts: 664 players, 1,972.0 WAR
Baseball’s kind of a big deal in Boston, and that’s reflected here. Concord native Tom Glavine (80.7) is the modern-era WAR leader from Massachusetts.

13) Indiana: 379 players, 1,864.4 WAR
Though more commonly known as a basketball state, Indiana did host the first Major League game (in Fort Wayne in 1871) and produced two current managers (Don Mattingly and Craig Counsell) and state WAR leaders Scott Rolen (70.1) and Kenny Lofton (68.4).

14) North Carolina: 417 players, 1,826.5 WAR
This is where Madison Bumgarner learned how to rope cattle and cut down trees and -- oh yeah -- throw a baseball. He follows in the footsteps of Gaylord Perry, Hoyt Wilhelm and Catfish Hunter in a state with a particularly prodigious pitching influence that could soon include Padres prospect MacKenzie Gore (No. 5 on MLB Pipeline’s Top 100).

15) Maryland: 314 players, 1,634.0 WAR
Two of the sport’s most influential figures -- Babe Ruth and Cal Ripken Jr. -- were Maryland-made. Toss in the likes of Lefty Grove, Jimmie Foxx and Al Kaline, and crab cakes are far from the only great things coming out of Maryland.

16) New Jersey: 437 players, 1,526.9 WAR
Derek Jeter was plucked from the Garden State when he was only 4 years old, but a fella named Mike Trout has blown away the scouting biases associated with the state.

17) Oklahoma: 266 players, 1,478.8 WAR
Mickey Mantle (110.2 WAR) is the signature star of the Sooner State, which also produced one of the great backstops of all time in Johnny Bench and one of the best of the present day in J.T. Realmuto. You’re doing fine, Oklahoma.

18) Louisiana: 261 players, 1,439.4 WAR
Aaron Nola isn’t from NOLA (he grew up in Baton Rouge), but he’s the next big thing from the state that produced long-ago legend Mel Ott and more recent stars such as Will Clark, Albert Belle and Lee Smith.

19) Tennessee: 318 players, 1,414.6 WAR
Todd Helton has a chance to become the first Tennessee-born player inducted into the Hall of Fame, and Nashville native Mookie Betts is on the short list of best players in the game today.

20) Kentucky: 288 players, 1,191.9 WAR
Hall of Famers Pee Wee Reese, Jim Bunning and Earle Combs were all born here. Louisville’s Jo Adell is a Bluegrass blue-chip prospect with the Angels.

21) Wisconsin: 245 players, 1,188.1 WAR
Two of the most highly regarded position player prospects in the game -- the Dodgers’ Gavin Lux (No. 2 on MLB Pipeline’s Top 100) and the Mariners’ Jarred Kelenic (No. 11) -- are Wisconsinites.

22) Iowa: 222 players, 1,156.5 WAR
Bob Feller’s dad built the real Field of Dreams on his Iowa farm long before the Kevin Costner flick. Each of the six Iowa-born Hall of Fame players debuted prior to World War II.

23) Arkansas: 157 players, 1,062.6 WAR
Only 1% of big leaguers make it to the Hall of Fame, but 3.8% of Arkansas-born players have been selected (Brooks Robinson, Arky Vaughan, Dizzy Dean, Lou Brock, Travis Jackson and George Kell).

24) Virginia: 297 players, 1,052.7 WAR
Manakin-Sabot’s Justin Verlander (71.6) has already established himself as Virginia’s finest export to MLB. But it was Lynchburg's Daniel Hudson who recorded the last out of the 2019 World Series against Verlander’s Astros.

25) South Carolina: 196 players, 999.4 WAR
Hall of Famers Jim Rice and Larry Doby and would-be Hall of Famer “Shoeless” Joe Jackson make for a pretty good outfield (Doby moved to New Jersey when he was a teenager).

26) Washington: 208 players, 916.6 WAR
Jon Lester, Blake Snell, Michael Brantley and Michael Conforto all hail from the Evergreen State, which previously brought us Hall of Famers Ron Santo, Ryne Sandberg and Earl Averill.

27) Kansas: 215 players, 861.3 WAR
Walter Johnson is, far and away, the state’s WAR leader (164.5). His family went west to California when he was 14. The Orioles’ John Means, the 2019 American League Rookie of the Year Award runner-up, is from Olathe.

28) Minnesota: 170 players, 817.9 WAR
Paul Molitor, Dave Winfield and Jack Morris were all born in St. Paul, all debuted within five years of each other in the 1970s and all reached the Hall of Fame. Joe Mauer and Kent Hrbek both impacted their hometown team in the Twin Cities. Woodbury’s Max Meyer (Marlins) was the first pitcher taken in 2020.

29) Mississippi: 208 players, 816.5 WAR
The state has yet to produce a Hall of Famer, though former 23rd-round Draft pick Roy Oswalt and eighth-round pick Brian Dozier are evidence that there is talent to be uncovered here.

30) Nebraska: 113 players, 786.3 WAR
Nebraska is a destination for college baseball players across the country, but hasn’t been as much of a source of MLB talent in recent decades. Much of the heavy lifting here is done by Grover Cleveland Alexander (119 WAR), Wade Boggs (91.4), Bob Gibson (89.2), Sam Crawford (75.3) and Richie Ashburn (64.4).

31) Connecticut: 204 players, 754.4 WAR
While the Nutmeg State’s three Hall of Famers (Roger Connor, Jim O’Rourke and Ned Hanlon) all played in the 1800s, New Britain’s George Springer is a standout from the state today.

32) West Virginia: 120 players, 653.13 WAR
This total is inflated by Hall of Famers George Brett and Bill Mazeroski, neither of whom actually grew up in West Virginia. The best real and recent representative from the Mountain State was John Kruk.

33) Oregon: 135 players, 596.4 WAR
Could Orioles catcher Adley Rutschman, last year’s No. 1 overall pick and the No. 4 prospect on MLB Pipeline’s Top 100 list, challenge Mickey Lolich (48.0 WAR) and Dale Murphy (46.5) as the best from the Beaver State?

34) Rhode Island: 78 players, 426.9 WAR
The three Rhode Island-born Hall of Famers -- Nap Lajoie, Gabby Hartnett and Hugh Duffy -- all hung ‘em up many, many decades ago. The best 21st century player born in Rhode Island was Paul Konerko, but he didn’t grow up there.

35) Arizona: 119 players, 375.0 WAR
A state teeming with teams and one that produced 2019 National League MVP Award winner Cody Bellinger and this year’s No. 7 overall pick Nick Gonzales (Pirates) is probably due to rise on this list before long. For now, Tucson native Ian Kinsler (55.2) has the highest WAR of any Arizonan.

36) Colorado: 95 players, 354.6 WAR
Pitching in Colorado is notoriously not easy, yet the state’s two Hall of Famers -- Roy Halladay and Goose Gossage – were pitchers.

37) New Hampshire: 54 players, 225.8 WAR
Not a high WAR total here, but it does include two Cy Young Award winners (Chris Carpenter and Mike Flanagan).

38) Vermont: 38 players, 225.7 WAR
Hall of Famer Carlton Fisk was born in Bellows Falls, but only because it had the nearest hospital to his hometown in Charlestown, N.H. If he waves his arms hard enough, maybe his 68.4 WAR will go toward New Hampshire’s count.

39) Delaware: 56 players, 209.9 WAR
Paul Goldschmidt was born in Wilmington, but didn’t stay long (his family moved to Dallas, then Houston). But Delaware will gladly claim his state-leading 43.1 WAR.

40) Hawaii: 46 players, 205.8 WAR
The 2019 season was a good one for the Aloha State, with Kolten Wong having his best season, to date, for the NL Central-winning Cardinals, Kirby Yates having one of the best relief seasons in baseball for the Padres and Kurt Suzuki helping the Nationals win the World Series.

41) Idaho: 30 players, 200.9 WAR
Hall of Famer Harmon Killebrew (60.4 WAR) was such a big deal in Idaho that they named a post office after him.

42) New Mexico: 30 players, 165.9 WAR
Three natives of Albuquerque -- the Astros’ Alex Bregman (AL MVP Award runner-up), the Twins’ Mitch Garver (AL catcher Silver Slugger) and the Blue Jays’ Ken Giles (1.87 ERA) -- had a strong 2019.

43) South Dakota: 39 players, 159.0 WAR
At least South Dakota was the birthplace of two of the great managers of all time -- Sparky Anderson and Terry Francona (both of whom moved when they were very young). Should we add them to Mount Rushmore?

44) Nevada: 47 players, 151.9 WAR
The WAR tally isn’t overwhelming now, but Bryce Harper, Kris Bryant, Joey Gallo and Tommy Pham all hail from here, and there’s more where that came from.

45) Alaska: 12 players, 95.8 WAR
This rank does not really reflect reality, as 83% of the WAR comes from Curt Schilling, whose father was an Army sergeant stationed in Anchorage. But you’ve got to respect upstart Alaska finishing anywhere other than last on this list.

46) North Dakota: 18 players, 92.3 WAR
Between 1998 and 2006, the 47th-most populous state had a sudden spike in showing with outfielder Darin Erstad, designated hitter Travis Hafner and pitcher Rick Helling all garnering down-ballot MVP support at one time or another during that span.

47) Wyoming: 16 players, 91.9 WAR
Wyomans are collectively counting on Cheyenne native and Mets outfielder Brandon Nimmo to lift the Cowboy State in these rankings.

48) Maine: 78 players, 79.9 WAR
Utility man Ryan Flaherty, who played 547 games for the Orioles, Braves and Indians between 2012-19, has been the only Maine man in MLB in the last few years.

49) Utah: 40 players, 77.3 WAR
St. George’s Bruce Hurst, a 1987 AL All-Star and a fifth-place finisher in the Cy Young Award voting in 1988 with the Red Sox, was the Beehive State’s best.

50) Montana: 24 players, 34.7 WAR
The Billings-born Dave McNally was a key member of one of the great pitching staffs of all time (the 1971 Orioles had four 20-game winners) and a key figure in the abolishment of the reserve clause.

Other draft-eligible regions
They aren’t states, but players from Canada, D.C., and these territories are Draft-eligible.

Puerto Rico: 268 players, 1,563.5 WAR
If it were a state, it would rank 16th. Hall of Famers Roberto Clemente, Ivan Rodriguez, Roberto Alomar and Orlando Cepeda all came from this 3,515-square-mile island with a population comparable to Iowa. Francisco Lindor, Carlos Correa and Javier Báez are part of a new crop of Puerto Rican-born stars, and MLB and the MLB Players’ Association have made financial investment in developmental programs on the island.

Canada: 255 players, 892.5 WAR
Earlier this year, Larry Walker (72.7 WAR) became just the second Canadian elected to the Hall of Fame, joining Fergie Jenkins (84.2). Joey Votto (62.0) could one day join them, and 2019 rookies Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Mike Soroka both have star potential.

District of Columbia: 102 players, 296.1 WAR
Maury Wills, Don Money and Brendan Donnelly are the only All-Stars who were born in the District.

U.S. Virgin Islands: 14 players, 49.7 WAR
Though there is not an All-Star among them, this is nonetheless a surprising number of players from this tiny Caribbean island nation. The best was Horace “Hoss” Clarke, a good-fielding second baseman who spent 10 seasons with the Yankees.

American Samoa: 1 player, 8.0 WAR
First baseman Tony Solaita’s family moved to Hawaii when he was 8 years old, but he holds the distinction of being the only Samoan-born big leaguer, having played for the Royals, Angels, Expos, Yankees and Blue Jays from 1968-79.

Guam: 2 players, 0.2 WAR
Interestingly, the only two Guam-born players to make it to the bigs both played with the Blue Jays -- third baseman John Hattig (who legitimately grew up in Guam) and current pitcher Sean Reid-Foley (who was born there while his father was serving in the Coast Guard).