Is the average roster age getting younger? Is the roster comprised of more home-grown talent? Are players moving faster? Does such a comparison tell us anything at all? Well, let us take a look with a particular focus being paid to those players drafted by St. Louis.
Triple-A Memphis Redbirds
Roster Size – 24 active
Average Age - The average age of the 2007 opening day roster was 27 years, four months and 20 days. That is almost identical to the 2006 average age of 27 years, five months and eight days.
Roster Composition – Ten of the 24 players on the 2007 roster were drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals: OF Rick Ankiel, RHP Dennis Dove (pictured), INF Travis Hanson, RHP Blake Hawksworth, LHP Chris Narveson, SS John Nelson, SS Brendan Ryan, RHP Mike Sillman, OF Nick Stavinoha and RHP Mark Worrell.
Their average age is 25 years, eight months. For six of those ten, or 60% of Cardinals' draftees, April 5, 2007 marked their first Triple-A Opening Day: Dove, Hawksworth, Ryan, Sillman, Stavinoha and Worrell. Of those six, only Brendan Ryan has previous Triple-A experience and that is a mere 26 at-bats over seven games last season.
In contrast, the 2006 roster contained twelve players that were either drafted or brought into affiliated professional baseball by the St. Louis organization: RHP Alan Benes, OF Shaun Boyd, LHP Carmen Cali, OF Chris Duncan, UT Kevin Estrada, OF John Gall, INF Travis Hanson (pictured), C Gabe Johnson, LHP Tyler Johnson, RHP Josh Kinney, SS John Nelson and RHP Anthony Reyes.
Their average age was 26 years, seven months, 26 days. Five of the twelve, or 42%, experienced their first Triple-A Opening Day: Boyd, Estrada, Hanson, Gabe Johnson and Kinney. Josh Kinney was the only one of the five with prior Triple-A experience as he appeared in 26 games, 25.2 innings, for the 2005 Redbirds.
Now let us dig a little deeper into each group of draftees by draft class. (Note: although Josh Kinney was not actually drafted by the Cardinals, he was brought into affiliated professional baseball by them. For expediency's sake he will be called a ‘draftee' from this point onwards.)
The 2007 group of ten players includes one from 2005 (Stavinoha - pictured), two from 2004 (Sillman and Worrell), two from 2003 (Ryan and Dove), one from 2002 (Hanson), two from 2001 (Nelson and Hawksworth) one from 2000 (Narveson) and one from 1999 (Ankiel). Rick Ankiel's circumstances are unique in that his switch from pitching to the outfield breaks his development path and is an anomaly when compared to the rest of the 2007 group.
So the amount of prior professional experience of the other nine, going strictly by draft year and not taking either injuries or time spent on the Disabled List into account, ranges from just under two years to just under seven years. (In actuality, Hanson, Hawksworth, Narveson, Ryan and Ankiel have all incurred serious injuries.) Only Rick Ankiel has made his Major League debut and that debut was not in his current position.
The 2006 group of twelve included one from 2003 (Reyes), two from 2002 (Estrada and Hanson), two from 2001 (Kinney and Nelson), four from 2000 (Boyd, Cali, Gall and Tyler Johnson - pictured), one from 1999 (Duncan), one from 1998 (Gabe Johnson) and one from 1993 (Benes). Alan Benes' situation differs from the others' development path as he had prior Major League experience and was attempting to make a comeback. Like Ankiel, his prior professional experience is not included in the range that follows.
The amount of prior professional experience of the other eleven, going solely by draft class, ranged from just under three years to just under eight years. Cali, Duncan, Gall, Tyler Johnson and Reyes had all made their Major League debuts by Opening Day 2006 but their big league experience all fell into the ‘cup-of-coffee' category.
Now, to answer the four questions from the opening:
Is the average roster age getting younger? In the case of the Memphis roster, the answer is "No". However, although the overall average roster age was essentially unchanged from 2006 to 2007, the average age of the St. Louis draftees was about a year younger in 2007: 25 years, eight months (2007) to 26 years, seven months. But the average age of each group is skewed by Rick Ankiel and Alan Benes, respectively. When you toss both of them out of the mix, the average age between the two groups of draftees becomes much closer: 25 years, three and one-half months (2007) to 25 years, 11 months (2006).
Is the roster comprised of more home-grown talent? Once again, the answer for the Memphis roster is another "No". 42% of the 2007 Opening Day roster is home-grown and that is down from the 2006 figure of 50%. It is worth pointing out that the difference here is only two players.
Are players moving faster? The answer to this one appears to be "Yes". Half (5 of 10) of the home-grown talent on the 2007 roster were drafted less than four years ago, compared to 25% (3 of 12) from the 2006 roster. That is a big difference. 60% of the draftees on the 2007 roster are experiencing their first Triple-A Opening Day, which makes up 25% of the entire roster (6 of 24). 42% of the draftees on the 2006 roster saw their first Triple-A Opening Day which made up 21% of that roster (5 of 24).
Does such a comparison tell us anything at all? Some things, like average roster age, remained pretty much the same, while others like the respective draft class of the St. Louis draftees, went down. St. Louis continues to sign free agents to fill the roster at this level although I expect that to decrease in the coming years as their talent improves. Comparing the two rosters in this manner is too small of a grouping to be considered any type of trend. But it appears to reflect the movement of St. Louis management towards drafting better quality players and moving them along faster.
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