Matt Carpenter, whose bases-loaded double off Clayton Kershaw propelled St. Louis to victory in its NL Division Series opener, was a 13th-round draft pick signed for $1,000 five years ago.
Kolton Wong, who hit the tiebreaking, two-run homer for the Cardinals in Game 3 against the Dodgers, was a first-round selection in 2011 with a $1.3 million signing bonus.
And Matt Adams, whose three-run homer in Game 4 on Tuesday put St. Louis in the NL Championship Series for the fourth straight year, cost just $25,000 to sign when the Cardinals drafted him in the 23rd round in 2009 — the 699th pick overall.
Building largely from within in the free-agent era, St. Louis topped the 10 postseason teams with 17 homegrown players on its 25-man division-series roster, according to STATS.
The total cost of those initial contracts: $13,082,500.
That's just more than half the $23 million the Los Angeles Angels are paying Albert Pujols, the three-time NL MVP who left the Cardinals after the 2011 World Series title for the riches of southern California.
"That's something we as an organization take a lot of pride in," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said, "when you see how many of these kids came up through and are contributing, not just making it here, but thriving at this level and helping us to be able to walk in there and pop champagne."
Among the postseason teams, Kansas City is second with 13 homegrown players, followed by San Francisco (12), the Angels (11), Washington and the Dodgers (10 each), Pittsburgh (nine), Baltimore and Detroit (seven each) and Oakland (one) — pitcher Sean Doolittle.
While baseball's biggest spenders already are home, the final four teams rank sixth in payroll (San Francisco), 11th (St. Louis), 14th (Baltimore) and 19th (Kansas City).
Baseball's collective bargaining system rewards teams that made good scouting decisions on young players, whose salaries are a fraction of what veteran stars earn.
"We have to use our farm system, obviously, in a variety of ways, not only to transition championship players to the major leagues, but we have to use it to acquire talent," Royals general manager Dayton Moore said.
A swap brought Kansas City ace James Shields, who will start the ALCS opener against the Orioles. The Royals paid a hefty price, sending Wil Myers to Tampa in the 2012 offseason — Myers was last year's AL Rookie of the Year.
Like the Cardinals, Kansas City had three homegrown players drive in the go-ahead runs in the Division Series — all former high first-round draft picks who have all struggled to live up to their hype: Mike Moustakas ($4 million as second overall in 2007), Eric Hosmer ($6 million as third overall in 2008) and Alex Gordon ($4 million as second overall in 2005).
Ten of Kansas City's players were acquired in the June draft of high school and college players who reside in the U.S., Canada and Puerto Rico, and three were signed as amateur free agents.
Fifteen Cardinals were obtained in the June draft and two as amateur free agents. Five more were acquired in trades and just three signed as major league free agents: shortstop Jhonny Peralta and pitchers Randy Choate and Pat Neshek. And while Peralta was given a $53 million, four-year contract last offseason, Choate is in the middle of a $7.5 million, three-year deal. Neshek signed a minor league contract just before spring training, earned a $1 million salary after making the big league team and became a first-time All-Star.
They joined a core of players who have known each other for several years.
"I think it does start in the minor leagues," Cardinals pitcher Michael Wacha said. "Every single minor leaguer, they're kind of preached on that whenever you get up to St. Louis, you're expected to win."
John Mozeliak was hired by the Cardinals' scouting department after the 1995 season, kept gaining promotions and became general manager in October 2007. His current roster includes five first-round draft picks — none higher than the 19th selection because St. Louis has had a winning record during each year of his tenure.
And his group also includes passed-over players whose draft slots read a bit like a lottery ticket, with Adams joined by picks Nos. 350 (Seth Maness), 399 (Carpenter), 639 (Trevor Rosenthal), 802 (Tony Cruz) and 965 (Sam Freeman).
Homegrown players aren't a new trend for St. Louis: Three of them also drove in the go-ahead runs against Washington in the 2012 NL Division Series: Daniel Descalso, Allen Craig and Pete Kozma.
"I think it shows that they believe within the organization," Adams said. "They draft guys that they can develop and are their type of player. That's a big thing, knowing that if you get drafted by the Cardinals, you know that you're going to have a chance to come up through the organization and play in the big leagues with them."
AP Sports Writers Janie McCauley and Dave Skretta contributed to this report.