At the Phillies site The Good Phight, we recently published a series on the success (or lack thereof) of the Phillies' drafts and international signings over the years, as well as a more general overview. Since I hadn't seen the comparison of international signings in particular anywhere else, I thought I'd do a brief version of that for each team.
About a quarter of all current production in MLB (by WAR) is generated by players who were signed as international free agents (IFAs) — either as teenagers who then rose through farm systems, or established pros ready to step directly onto major league rosters.
This piece looks at an arbitrary time frame of 30 years, 1990 through 2019, and uses WAR (from fangraphs.com) as a quick and handy measure of major league value. The WAR shown represents a player’s total career production to date, regardless of what teams he was with at the time. All of a player's career WAR is counted for the team that signed him, in the year they signed him. Any kind of ranking like this will favor the teams who were successful earlier in the period, since those players have had a chance to produce all or mostly all their career WAR.
We started with the team ranked 30th in WAR produced by its IFAs over this time period, and are working our way up. The Twins are 23rd, with 69 total WAR produced so far by their international signings since 1990.
The first graph shows where the Twins’ IFAs rank for each year’s class: the green line is the team whose signings from that year have produced the most WAR so far, yellow is the team with the lowest WAR produced from that year’s class, and black is the average for the 30 teams.
Again, each point along a line represents the total career WAR produced by players who were signed that year.
The next graph is similar to the above, except at each point we look at all the signing classes combined, from that year through today. So for example, for all IFA signings since 2000, the team whose signings produced the most WAR has had 237, the average is 70 WAR, and the Twins’ IFAs over that time have produced 60 (which is 15th).
The graph includes the Twins' ranking for all IFAs since 1990 (i.e. 1990 through 2019), and then we cut the time frame in half and rank total WAR for all signings since 2005.
For those who prefer numbers, these are the tables behind the graphs:
Below is a graphical view of their best signings of the last 30 years in terms of WAR produced to date. The more successful ones are broken out, and any remaining ones are included in the light green boxes:
Wilson Ramos (15 WAR) has been the Twins' most successful signing to date by WAR produced. However the 2009 class produced Jorge Polanco, Miguel Sano, and Max Kepler, all of whom could surpass Ramos.
This is the complete ranking of the 30 teams (plus the average), and we'll reveal team names as we go up: