Almost 28% of all major leaguers on Opening Day active rosters and disabled lists were born outside the United States, according to the latest census of players released by Major League Baseball. In total, 231 of the 833 players were foreign born, the largest percentage of which hailed from the Dominican Republic (86), Venezuela (58) and Puerto Rico (21). Since 1980, the number of foreign born players has jumped from 11%. Over the span, the number of players from Venezuela increased the most, rising exponentially from less than 1%, while the number of Dominicans more than tripled.
MLB’s growing diversity has become a real asset to the game. With nearly 50% of all minor leaguers also foreign born (representing an amazing 43 countries and territories), this is a trend that should continue over the near term. Having said that, there are some red flags.
Interestingly, the number of players hailing from Puerto Rico has slowly declined since peaking at 54 in 2000. Starting in1989, players born in Puerto Rico have been subject to the Rule IV Amateur Draft, so the delayed impact of that change could very well be the reason for this downward trend. That’s something to consider for those who advocate the institution of an international draft. Even amid increased competition for athletes in a growing domestic sports landscape, MLB has been able to improve upon its talent base by a tapping into international players. However, the implementation of a draft structure that discourages the development and recruitment of foreign born players could wind up having a serious detrimental impact on the quality of play.
Then again, the Mets boast the most foreign-born players (18), and that doesn’t seem to be working out too well. Although not as diverse as their cross-town rivals, the Yankees active roster consists of 8 foreign-born players (36%) from six different countries/territories (see accompanying graphic). Extended to the 40-man roster, the Yankees’ international composition increases to 17 players (45%) from seven different countries/territories.