Do International Players Contribute More than Domestic Players? by Richard Conway January 15, 2014 I have always wondered what the contribution of international players, players signed as amateur free agents, was compared to that of domestic players, players who went through the Rule 4 Draft process. So much money is spent annually on academies in the Dominican Republic and, to a lesser extent, in Venezuela. Of course, each team has a different budget for these international operations. The Yankees’ complex in the Dominican Republic is much more extravagant than the Marlins’, for example. Regardless, a question I have always asked is what the return on investment (ROI) is for these teams, seeing as greater than 90% of the players that come through these academies don’t ever reach the big leagues or develop into true prospects. A little background on why I am so interested in this topic: I spent a year in the Dominican Republic, initially volunteering at a successful amateur agency in San Pedro de Macoris (an hour east of Santo Domingo), then helping out with the Dominican Prospect League’s showcases and tournaments, eventually landing with the Yankees as a Player Development/Video Operations intern. Without access to financial statements, it is nearly impossible to determine a ROI for each team. Instead, I decided to do something much more simple. I looked at the WAR contributions for each team from international players and from domestic players. I used Baseball-reference.com for all my information, sorting position players by plate appearances and used an arbitrary minimum of 400PA in order to include players that had enough opportunity to contribute in 2013, either positively or negatively. On the extremes, in 2013 the Cardinals, Orioles, Nationals, and Phillies all had zero international players with at least 400PA, whereas the Diamondbacks, Rangers, Tigers, and Brewers each had four international players with the minimum plate appearances. Overall, 48 international players with at least 400PA combined for 141.6 WAR in 2013. On the other side, 151 domestic players combined for 396.5 WAR. Translated into WAR per player, international players contributed a rate of 3.0WAR/player and domestic players at a rate of 2.6WAR/player. While going through the players of each team, I realized that I am leaving out players who contributed a significant WAR even though they did not accumulate 400PA, so I decided to lower the minimum to 300PA and change the rate statistic to WAR per 600PA, instead of per player. Players such as Hanley Ramirez were previously left out due to injury. Also, players who were traded midseason and did not have sufficient playing time to post 400PA with one team were previously excluded, such as Alfonso Soriano, are now included with the lowered minimum. Here is what the new results show: Table 1: WAR per 600PA for international and domestic players during 2013 season. Minimum 300PA. WAR values taken from Baseball-reference.com. PA WAR WAR/600PA Int’l Players 32851 154.1 2.8 Domestic Players 101805 432.8 2.6 The results show that international players contributed a slightly higher rate of WAR per 600PA in 2013. The 0.2 greater WAR/600PA is not significant enough to conclude that international players contribute more talent per PA than did domestic players. The next question I had was to determine what percentage of players who had 300PA were international and what percentage of WAR they contributed out of the total players with 300PA. What I found was that 24% of players with at least 300PA were international and they contributed 26% of WAR out of a total of 586.9 WAR. The percentage of players that are international seem to have contributed a similar percentage of overall WAR in 2013. One small issue I came across was that there were a handful of players that went through the draft even though they are international players. A few examples are Jose Bautista (Dominican), Edwin Encarnacion (Dominican), Yan Gomes (Brazilian), Pedro Alvarez (Dominican), and Yonder Alonso (Cuban). I decided to switch this group of players from domestic to international. Table 2 shows WAR per 600PA, while changing this group of players from domestic to international. Table 2: WAR per 600PA for international and domestic players during 2013 season, taking into account international players who were part of Rule 4 Draft. Minimum 300PA. WAR values taken from Baseball-reference.com. PA WAR WAR/600PA Int’l Players 36495 171.9 2.8 Domestic Players 98161 415.0 2.5 The data from Table 2 shows that the gap between international and domestic players of WAR/600PA increased to 0.3, but this gap is still not significant. The question about percentage of WAR contributed changes slightly, but also not significantly. International players contribute 29% of total WAR while international players only make up 27% of total players who had at least 300PA in 2013. In conclusion, from this short study, I cannot say that international players contributed significantly more WAR than do domestic players in 2013, but there was a difference of 0.3 WAR/600PA in favor of international players. Furthermore, 27% of players with at least 300PA were international and they contributed 29% of the total WAR in 2013 of all players with at least 300PA. I did not look at pitchers yet, but am open to hear thoughts, criticism, and possible future directions to continue this brief study!