Do International Players Contribute More than Domestic Players: Part II

Last week I wrote an article on a little bit of research I had done regarding the contributions of domestic vs. international players in 2013, among players who had accumulated at least 300 plate appearances. See the link below in case you are interested to see the first piece:

I got several great comments and ideas, which was the idea, so thank you for that, and I moved ahead to further the research with an extra question that was raised in a few of the comments. I investigated whether most of the international players are All-Star caliber. Obviously, “All-Star caliber” is a very vague description, but the idea is essentially to see if front offices aim to sign international players that they believe will contribute a significant amount at the Major League level, rather than just acting as an organizational filler.

In my experience in international baseball, players are not brought States-side from the Dominican academies because the front office believes the player will be a great organizational piece, so let’s bring him over and groom him to be a coach or scout some day when his playing days are over. That’s not the thought process. Those types of players are likely never going to make it off the island as a player.

So the first thing I did was to take all the position players from the 2013 All-Star team and average all of their WAR values. That value comes out to 4.7 (WAR values taken from I then sorted through each team to find how many players, domestic and international, had at least 4.7 WAR for the 2013 season. As I started to do this, however, I realized quickly that this 4.7 value might not be such a great marker. The All-Star roster is not the best way to find the best players in the game. Instead, I decided to make several markers and find the percentages of players that reached each of those marks. The average (4.7), median (4.4), and first (3.1) and third quartiles (6.1) were used to find percentages over a spectrum.

The results are summarized in the Table 1 below:

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The data shows that there was a slightly higher percentage of international players that contributed at least 4.7 and 6.1 WAR when compared to domestic players in 2013 – 1.20% and 1.36%, respectively. This is an insignificant increase to make any great conclusions, especially given the small sample size of looking only at the 2013 season.

At the lower levels of the spectrum, there is a much more sizable difference in the proportion of players that have contributed certain levels of WAR – at least 3.1 and at least 4.4 WAR. 3.1 WAR is not elite, but it still represents a significant role in a team’s lineup. The most interesting piece of information I gathered from the results came from looking at the percentage of players that contributed less than 3.1 WAR in 2013. The percentage is significantly higher (41.12%) for domestic players than international (26.39%). This indicates that the hypothesis was correct in saying that roster filler spots are more likely to be composed of domestic players. Almost 75% of all international players contributed at least 3.1 WAR, whereas only 58.88% of domestic players contributed at least 3.1 WAR. Keep in mind this sample only takes into account players that accumulated at least 300 plate appearances.

This might be due to the fact that there are so many more players that come through each organization’s system from the Rule 4 draft compared to from international talent. It’s easier to find, easier to scout, and overall a cheaper process to go through. As mentioned earlier, teams are probably looking to promote international prospects from their academies that will be more than organizational fillers in the minor leagues.

Thanks so much for reading and, as always, I’d love to hear thoughts, criticism, and possible future directions to continue!

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Jonah Pemstein

This makes sense. International players face a much harder path to the majors, so generally they usually make it only if they’re special.