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up through the ranks

troy cate's south-of-border season continues: los venados de mazatlan swept the last two games of their semifinal series vs culiacan to advance to the Mexican Pacific League finals vs hermosillo. padre 1bman adrian gonzalez starred in game 7, swatting 2 homers --- the 2d a 2-run shot in the bottom of the 7th to break a 6-6 tie. adrian's younger brother (and cardinal minor leaguer) edgar v gonzalez has lost his job, alas; he went 0 for 11 in the first 4 games of the series and never came to the plate again thereafter. . . . but back to troy cate: he's starting tonight at hermosillo in game 1 of the finals. he'll face a lineup that features former big-leaguers vinny castilla, erubiel durazo, and geronimo gil, plus chris roberson, who took 41 at-bats for the phillies last season. hermosillo also happens to be the MPL team of breakout prospect jaime garcia, who apparently is not on the playoff roster; he hasn't thrown a pitch since the end of the regular season in december.

here's the league home page, and here's the venados' official site.

a couple of quick followups to erik's post yesterday about the cardinals' top prospects. first, the quad cities franchise has new ownership. the new owners have pledged major ballpark upgrades and a new general manager described as "an impressive person with a long history in baseball." no news of the sale or the gm hire at the official team website, although you can learn there that trey hearne was named south texas professional pitcher of the year. . . . .

second item: erik's post got me thinking about the longer-term trajectory of this organization, and its attempts to shift a heavier burden onto its long-neglected farm system. the franchise made an important stride toward turning that corner in 2006: last year was the cardinals' best in half a decade in terms of rookie production. st louis rookies piled up 24 win shares and 64.1 points of VORP, their highest totals in both categories since 2001, the year albert pujols broke in. that appears to be part of a slowly building trend; here are the totals for cardinal rookies going back to 2000:

year win
pct VORP pct primary rookies
2006 24 9.6 64.1 16.7 wainwright, duncan, reyes
2005 21 7.0 12.4 2.6 thompson, rodriguez
2004 16 5.1 0.0 0.0 taguchi, molina
2003 16 6.3 20.1 4.7 calero, haren, hart
2002 15 5.2 21.2 4.6 crudale, simontacchi
2001 50 17.9 118.2 23.6 pujols, mi matthews, bu smith
2000 23 8.1 46.4 9.1 ankiel, reames

only once in the last 7 years (ie, 2001) have the cardinals gotten more win shares or more VORP out of their rookies. taking a slightly longer view, all 7 of the players who established themselves in the last 3 seasons remain in the organization, as do players not listed such as kinney, tyler johnson, narveson, and schumaker. of the rookies who broke in between 2000 and 2003, only 1 remains with the team: alberto. (ankiel doesn't count.) accordingly, the cards' share of production from homegrown players is also on the rise. "homegrown players" are defined here very liberally as those who established their careers with the cardinals while their rookie status was still intact. john rodriguez thus qualifies as "homegrown," even though he spent less than 2 months in the st louis farm system; likewise, adam wainwright is deemed a homegrown product, despite having reached double A in the braves' system. even kerry robinson, who made his major-league debut with the devil rays (3 at-bats in 1998), qualifies as homegrown. "homegrown" is merely semantic shorthand for "young and cheap"; i'm not interested in whether the cardinals signed and developed the talent, only in whether they broke it in at the big-league level and retained it. here's that chart:

year win
pct VORP pct primary homegrowns
2006 96 38.6 162.1 42.3 pujols, duncan, wainwright
2005 101 33.6 133.8 27.6 pujols, morris
2004 69 21.9 122.4 21.0 pujols, morris
2003 89 34.9 155.9 36.4 pujols, morris, drew
2002 106 36.4 147.4 32.0 pujols, morris, drew
2001 117 41.9 247.7 49.5 pujols, morris, drew
2000 74 26.0 115.7 22.9 ankiel, drew, lankford

about 40 percent of the cardinals' value last season came from "homegrown" players --- the highest share since 2001. and this wasn't simply a function of playing time; ie, the increased share of homegrown production does not simply reflect increased opportunity. homegrown pitchers threw only 20 percent of the cards' innings last year, but they piled up 31 percent of the pitcher VORP; they made 39 percent of the plate appearances but accounted for 54 percent of the position-player VORP. thanks to pujols, homegrown position players have been contributing more than their share of the value for years, but the efficient performance of homegrown pitchers is something new --- and most welcome. one more table, this one quantifying the contribution of homegrown pitchers:

year innings pct VORP pct diff primary homegrowns
2006 287.2 20.1 61.5 31.2 +11.1 wainwright, reyes, thompson
2005 276 19.1 26.0 10.1 -9.0 morris, thompson
2004 328.1 23.0 29.3 11.4 -11.6 morris, calero, haren
2003 444.1 30.3 40.5 34.2 +3.9 morris, calero
2002 612 43.0 54.6 25.2 -17.8 morris, simontacchi
2001 507.2 35.2 93.0 37.4 +2.2 morris, mi matthews, bu smith
2000 358.1 25.1 60.0 25.3 +0.2 ankiel, morris

the "diff" column measures the difference between homegrown pitchers' share of innings and their share of value; last year was their best in quite some time in that regard. because of matt morris' departure, homegrown pitchers logged their 2d-lowest innings total in this period, yet still produced the 2d-highest VORP harvest --- the cards are getting more out of homegrown arms now than they have since the heyday of mattymo and ankiel.

we already knew this was the case; it's hardly a secret. but now we have a better sense of the trend's proportions. and the signs are encouraging.