Fangraphs’ Organizational Rankings

Led Zeppelin's Houses of the Holy as a baseball lineup
Yanks to take away ballpark freedom

Dave Cameron of Fangraphs and USS Mariner fame has been counting down his rankings of all thirty organizations. He’s based his rankings on four main categories: Ownership, Front Office, Major League Talent, and Minor League Talent. He grades each category than tallies up the scores, however it’s a sliding scale rather than a straight average of the individual scores to get the overall. Unsurprisingly, the Nationals bring up the rear with an overall grade of F. That’s what happens when your ownership doesn’t care and your GM is incompetent and your scouting director can’t get his first round pick signed.

Also unsurprising is that the top three organizations in Dave’s rankings come from the AL East, with the Yanks specifically coming in third. Team Ownership gets the highest possible grade of A+ because, as Dave puts it, of the way the Steinbrenner’s have expanded the Yankee brand. The Major League roster also grades out with an A, and frankly how can it not. They employ arguably the best player at their position at first base and third base, as well as in the front of the rotation and at the back of the bullpen. You really can’t argue with the talent on the 25-man roster.

The Front Office scored slightly lower, coming in at a B+. Here’s Dave:

Brian Cashman doesn’t get enough credit for the things he’s done right in New York. Yes, the payroll gives their baseball operations department room to make mistakes that no other franchise could live with, but he’s continually targeted the highest quality of players. He’s also redirected significant cash back into the farm system to develop home grown talent, and he’s shown that he’s an adept trader when he needs to add a piece to the puzzle. The money obviously helps, but Cashman is a good GM, and the Yankees are run well.

Cashman is one of the more controversial figures in Yankeeland. Many point out the moves that haven’t worked with the benefit of hindsight, while others contend that you can justify those same moves based on the information known at that time. We at RAB fall into the latter camp obviously, but we’re not stubborn enough to think our GM is without his faults. Regardless of how anyone feels, Cash is the man in charge and he’s steered the ship to a prolonged run of excellence.

The final category is the team’s Farm System, which comes in the lowest rated of the four categories at just a C+. Could you argue that it should be a B- or possibly even a B? Yeah, you can, but we’re splitting hairs. Bottom line, the Yanks’ most Major League ready young talent works almost exclusively out of the bullpen, and there’s only one player that projects as an everyday regular above A-ball. Baseball America, Baseball Prospectus and KLaw were all correct when they rated the farm system middle of the pack.

The two remaining organizations are the Red Sox and Rays, which shouldn’t come as a shock to anyone. Both clubs should receive an A of some sort for the first three categories, but Tampa has Boston beat in the farm system department, so I expect The Little Team That Could down in Florida to top the rankings. The bottom line, the AL East is going to be ridiculously competitive for the next few years. Should make for some great baseball.

Led Zeppelin's Houses of the Holy as a baseball lineup
Yanks to take away ballpark freedom
  • jon

    I agree with the ranks of yankees, sox, and rays. But I wonder how long can the keep it up with a limited payroll and not getting top draft picks due to a winning record.

    • huuz

      But I wonder how long can the keep it up with a limited payroll and not getting top draft picks due to a winning record.

      only for a few years. unless they increase payroll they won’t be consistently successful (e.g. finishing 3rd in the ALE).

      • Mattingly’s Love Child

        unless they increase payroll they won’t be consistently successful (e.g. finishing 3rd in the ALE).

        Hence the Rays need/desire to get a new ballpark so that they have more $$ to spend. Without that cash cow, they could be submarined in a couple of years. But with the current economy, everyone could be f*cked too….

        • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

          True.

          I’ve never been, but I’ve heard the Trop is a dump. They bought their stadium from the toilet store, apparently.

        • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

          http://blogs.tampabay.com/ballpark/2008/06/the-evolution-o.html

          Looks like a pretty pimptastic design. I’m a sucker for the whole “hit a homer into the water” jazz.

          • Mattingly’s Love Child

            I’m a HUGE fan of the wiffle-ball like rules…you hit a ball off the first cat walk it’s a double, 2nd a homerun, etc…. (I did not look up the actual rules, but they are pretty redonkulous).

  • steve (different one)

    yeah, i think everything was pretty fair in that article.

    i think C+ is fair for the farm, but i also think it will up to B/B+ status by the end of the year, just by virtue of the talent that was in low A moving up the ladder to high A.

    the Yankees’ system is filled with talent, but it’s distributed unevenly by position and by level. there is a lot of talent that is too far away to be ranked higher and there is lot of talent concentrated in pitching.

    still, it’s night and day from say, the day the Randy Johnson trade was made. i would probably call that day the absolute lowpoint for the Yankee farm system, and the strides that have been made in four years have been significant.

    still have a ways to go, but you can’t rebuild a system overnight, especially when you draft horribly for a decade.

    • http://www.bronxbaseballdaily.com Bronx Baseball Daily

      It seems like nobody counts the Yankees guys coming into the bullpen as products of the farm system. Anybody else they would blow so much smoke.

      • Ed

        People are aware of the relievers. It’s just that people usually realize that relievers aren’t a big deal. It’s just Joba that makes people lose their senses.

  • Ed

    They employ arguably the best player at their position at first base and third base

    Nothing against Tex, but I don’t see how you could make a case for him being better than Pujols. 2nd best I think is safe to say.

    The ratings seem pretty good. I think I agree with the farm system ranking. There’s a lot of good guys below AA, but that’s so far off that you can’t think about them much. You can’t really think about them when planning the major league roster, and you rarely can build a trade around guys that low in the minors. At this point, most of our prospects in AAA are guys that are great for trading with the Pirates or Royals, but otherwise not that exciting.

    • steve (different one)

      good catch, i think i just automatically read that as “in the AL” even though it didn’t say that.

      • http://www.riveraveblues.com Mike A.

        Yeah, I was a little loose with “arguably” there.

        • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

          “They employ arguably the best player at the position at first base (NPD, of course) and third base, as well as in the front of the rotation and at the back of the bullpen.”

          Fixed.

    • Jack

      But Pujols couldn’t get his team to the postseason last year.

      http://www.firejoemorgan.com/2008/10/albert-pujols-was-not-good-enough.html

      • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

        Touché.

        Prince Fielder >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> Albert Poo-Holes

      • Joey

        oh Mo I miss FJM

  • Steve S

    I have to say the Rays are getting a lot of pats on the back. I remember 2006 when everyone was heralding Dave Dombrowski for his job with the Tigers and their development of players- check out Joel Zumaya, Justin Verlander, Mike Maroth and Jeremy Bonderman now. Two years later he had them back in last place. The Devil Rays have a lot of young talent, that came together nicely last year. But thats one year, it is by no means evidence that the organization is run that well. They have made some good decisions regarding trades and drafting but they operated in complete obscurity and waste for the first ten years they were in the league. I dont know how that puts you in the top of the pack. It definitely elevates them and Im willing to give them a bump considering the division they are in.

    • huuz

      i completely agree with you.

      although to be fair, the rays did change GMs after 2005.

      but…

      1, 6, 3, 2, 1, 4, 8, 3, 1, 1

      that is the list of their initial overall picks in the last 10 drafts. (4) #1s and (8) top four picks. i look at that and i’m surprised they haven’t got more talent.

      • Steve S

        I’m just saying there is a distinction between having a great team and a great organization. Great organizations seem to demonstrate some longevity which Tampa hasn’t done at all. It appears that they are in a position to be good/competitive for a while. Lets see how they manage it. To me the Angels should be top three if anything and definitely the Twins.

        • steve (different one)

          i think the Rays are where the Twins were 6-7 years ago.

          looking back, the Twins are the model for what the Rays are doing. looking forward, i am more bullish on the Rays.

          the Angels are in that next tier, but i am not as high on their new GM.

          • Steve S

            Well then thats proof enough on the fallacy of this list, the Twins are in the middle of the pack. Im sorry but how can the Mariners and Orioles be rated above them organizationally. I dont mean to knock what the Rays have done, anyone who watched them over the last three years could see this evolution and we are all impressed with them locking up Longoria, Kazmir and Shields now. But I just dont know how that moves them into the upper echelon of the league, with respect to evluating the organization.

            I agree with you on Reagins, so far he hasnt made a splash but hasnt made a huge mistake, so he hasnt distinguished himself and is really running Stoneman’s operation. But I do feel as though their results and their ability to develop good (not great) young players is impressive.

            • Mattingly’s Love Child

              I have been following this list, and Dave Cameron over and over has said that the list is not this year or last year, or the last 5 years.

              The list is teams going forward 5ish (his term) years. He is trying to project, based on what is in place, the history of the decision makers, and the habits of ownership, how well that team will succeed over the next 5 or so years. Now that being said, you can definitely debate where he puts individual teams, but its hard to knock the top 3 (even if you have a gripe with their order). Cameron in his writeups has said different groups of teams fit together (such 1-3, 4-8, 8-20, etc). So I think if you’re going to have a real beef where he puts team, think of it in terms of the teams in their general grouping.

              • Steve S

                Well then the title is mislabeled. If you are evaluating an organization and you evaluate the past performance of a GM, as projected over the long hall, then a guy like Freidman and the new Tampa ownership have an immense advantage because there is nothing but positive to evaluate them on. The more you are in it the more mistakes you can make. I understand how you can project the team to do well based on their talent but he isnt just doing that, he is evaluating their front office and ownership group. Well see how they progress, they gave (relative to Tampa) large deals to Shields, Kazmir and Longoria last year, well see how they handle if any of them have a major injury. Well also see how they evaluate talent when they arent picking that high. Plus, in what planet are they ever going to pursue a premium free agent? I understand they operating within a model, but somehow they arent judged against that but the Marlins and Twins ownerships are. It doesnt make sense.

                • Mattingly’s Love Child

                  I agree that he’s definitely over-estimated Tampa based on everything they’ve done right now has turned to gold. Once a few things go wrong would be a better way to evaluate, but since they haven’t had any major screwups yet, its hard to project what they will do.

                • Steve S

                  They did let Josh hamilton walk, imagine that team with him in right field, that would concern me.

                • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

                  They did let Josh hamilton walk, imagine that team with him in right field, that would concern me.

                  Imagine the team with Edinson Volquez.

                  THEY COULD PUT PRICE IN TEH 8TH INNING!!!!!!

                • Tampa Yankee

                  They did not necessatily let Hamilton walk. They needed to add him to the 40 man at that time and didnt have room and figured it was best for him to move on/get a change of scenery. The scary part is that the Cubs picked him up in the Rule 5 draft and shipped him to Cincy. Imagine the Cubs with him? There’s their left-handed power hitter they needed when they signed Bradley.

                • http://www.riveraveblues.com Mike A.

                  Yikes, I’ve never even thought about the Cubs with Hamilton. Also, the Reds made a pre-Rule 5 draft deal with the Cubs to get him because they were afraid the Marlins were going to pick him before they got a shot.

                  Imagine the Fish with Hanley and Hamilton. Yikes.

                • Tampa Yankee

                  Thats true, I forgot the were essentially picking for the Reds. Hanley and Hamilton would be sick.

                  I know Hamiltons story has been talked about over and over again but think about, he probably was the best HS player ever. Legit 5-tool guy. I remember reading stories of him beating Crawford in races, throwing our guys at home from the track and dropping 400+ bombs on a regular basis… at 19-20 yrs old. Such a shame.

      • steve (different one)

        that is the list of their initial overall picks in the last 10 drafts. (4) #1s and (8) top four picks. i look at that and i’m surprised they haven’t got more talent.

        ?

        how much more can we expect them to have?

        keep in mind that one of their top picks was Josh Hamilton, an extremely talented player they were forced to give up on for “unique” reasons.

        they’ve picked:

        Hamilton
        Baldelli
        Brazelton
        Upton
        Young
        Niemann
        Townsend
        Longoria
        Price
        Beckham

        Young was swapped for Garza.

        aside from whiffing on Brazelton, this is a pretty incredible list.

        • Tampa Yankee

          Keep in mind that Crawford was their 2nd round pick after Hamilton as well.

      • Tampa Yankee

        The new ownership has done wonders for this franchise. I’ve been down here in Tampa since 2000 and I can tell you the previous ownership did not care about anything other than $. This new regime is intent on winnning. I’ve heard Sternburg, Friedman and Silverman speak in person and they are smart and have a great plan for this franchise’s future.

        Being down here listening to them/watching them, you could see that 2008’s breakout year was coming but most people thought it would be this year. This organization/team is for real but the true test begins this year: Defending AL East and AL Champs with the bullseye on their back, no more “underdog”/”small market team that can’t compete w/ the Yanks and Sox” role, no more #1 or #2 draft picks, locking up this young talent so the big boys dont throw crazy $ at them, etc etc.

        Silverman has stated that this ownership sees it as a 9-inning game and they are only in inning 4 right now and the first couple innings were cleaning up after the previous group and now they have their values/ideas in place.

        I know I’m going to sound like a Rays homer and not a Yanks fan but thats not true, I’ll always bleed pinstripes. I’ve just been down here and seen this team evolve. Unfortunately they are not going anywhere anytime soon.

        • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

          Silverman has stated that this ownership sees it as a 9-inning game and they are only in inning 4 right now and the first couple innings were cleaning up after the previous group and now they have their values/ideas in place.

          Well, that’s good news for us, then: Everyone knows the only important inning is the 8th, and we still have Joba for that.

          Checkmate, bitches.

          • Tampa Yankee

            Well played…

    • http://www.riveraveblues.com Mike A.

      The difference is that Dombrowski and the Tigers starting getting stupid, handing out huge contracts to declining players like Sheff and Willis, and making terribly trades like the Renteria deal. Also, the Tigers never had the kind of pitching depth the Rays do right now.

      I understand what you are saying, but I think the Rays are in a better position now than the Tigers were three years ago.

      • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

        2008 Rays everyday lineup starting 9 and rotation, ages:
        C-24, 1B-30, 2B-29, 3B-22, SS-28, LF-26, CF-23, RF-28 DH-35
        SP’s-26, 25, 24, 24, 24

        2006 Tigers everyday lineup starting 9 and rotation, ages:
        C-34, 1B-26, 2B-30, 3B-29, SS-30, LF-29, CF-25, RF-32 DH-29
        SP’s-23, 41, 28, 23, 28

        That’s why the Rays have a better chance of not regressing that the Tigers do. The 2008 Rays were a team of young players on the rise; the 2006 Tigers were older and closer to their declines.

        That, and the fact that the Rays farm system is still well stacked and the 2006 Tigers farm was basically Maybin and Miller and a bunch of nobodies.

        • Steve S

          I made the analogy not based on the comparison between the teams but rather based on ownership and Dombrowsky making poor decisions following their WS run. And I said that they are in a better position I see that. But, to rank them 1 or 2, I think it’s premature because they have only succeeded with that talent for one year. And while the Tigers were older, they did have a lot more financial flexibility which could have helped them supplement had they not decided to hand out five year contracts to guys whose name rhyme with Shmontrelle Shmillis or Shnate Shnobertson. You wanna crown the Rays, crown them, I know what they are.

          • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

            YOU LET THEM OFF THE HOOK!!!!!!!!!!!!!

            • Steve S

              I’m a man who discovered the wheel and built the Eiffel Tower out of metal and brawn. That’s what kind of man I am. You’re just a woman with a small brain. With a brain a third the size of us. It’s science.

              [just felt like it, its been a while for me].

              • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

                NOT SO FAST, YOU INGRATES!!!!

                • Steve S

                  DOROTHY MANTOOTH IS A SAINT!!!

                • Jack

                  ATTICA! ATTICA! ATTI-

                  Wait, wrong movie. Sorry.

                • steve (different one)

                  wait, movie?

                • http://nyyankeesrumors.com Bob Ruffolo

                  I’m going to take Dorothy Mantooth out for a nice seafood dinner, and never call her again.

  • Expired Milk

    Ahh the Rays this years Rockies/Diamondbacks of 2008

  • Steve S

    I also noticed the ranking for the Marlins, while their review of Loria is dead on, the rest of it is really poor. First of all all they mention on the ML roster are the offensive players (I understand Hanley takes up a lot of attention) but their young pitchers are pretty good. Josh Johnson, Ricky Nolasco and Chris Volstad are pretty good and Olsen and Sanchez are also guys who have higher ceilings. Not to mention Beinfest got them a World Series in 2003 which is more than we can say about a lot of GM’s on this list and arguably no one does it with less resources, including the lack of fan support in that market.

  • Rich

    What a lot of people fail to realize about Cashman is that the reason for a number of his “bad” decisions with regard to trying to patch together a rotation in the mid-’00s is that he had to compensate for a farm system (one which he had no input in stocking prior to 2006) that was not producing any starting pitchers. Taken together with way he has been overruled on whether or not to re-sign various free agents (from Randy Johnson and Sheffield to the lengths of the contracts given to A-Rod and Posada), it has to be acknowledged that he hasn’t had full control over the payroll as well. These limitations are a primary reason why he believes that he has been unfairly criticized, at times, by the media (which was reflected in his defensiveness at the press conference to announce his latest contract extension).

    As for the farm system rankings, I really don’t understand how Cameron can credibly claim with absolute certainty that Montero will never be a catcher.

    Lastly, as much as the farm system has improved with Oppenheimer making the drafting decisions, it may be that he is a good but not a great talent evaluator, and that if mL pipeline doesn’t start producing a steadier stream of prospects, perhaps there might be a better person for the job.

    • steve (different one)

      agreed on all three points.

      i think Oppenheimer is pretty good, but it could be that his predecessor was so bad and did so much harm to the organization that anyone is going to look great in comparison.

      in the interviews i’ve read, he sounds pretty sharp. i agree that the pipeline will hopefully start to produce more prospects, but i think given where he started, he’d made incredible strides. they had nothing. they couldn’t restock everywhere all at once,so they started with pitching and i think it’s reasonable to say that the pitching pipeline is producing. on the other side of the ball, there is work to be done, but since they started more recently, we need to give that a little more time for those players to come up the pipe.

      if A-Jack is a starting CFer starting next year, that’s the first victory. but yeah, they need MORE Jacksons.

      and you are right, it’s possible that there is a better person out there.

    • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

      Brian Cashman doesn’t get enough credit for the things he’s done right in New York. Yes, the payroll gives their baseball operations department room to make mistakes that no other franchise could live with, but he’s continually targeted the highest quality of players. He’s also redirected significant cash back into the farm system to develop home grown talent, and he’s shown that he’s an adept trader when he needs to add a piece to the puzzle. The money obviously helps, but Cashman is a good GM, and the Yankees are run well.

      *plugs ears with fingers*

      LA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA I’M NOT LISTENING TO YOU I CAN’T HEAR YOU LA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA

    • Mattingly’s Love Child

      As for the farm system rankings, I really don’t understand how Cameron can credibly claim with absolute certainty that Montero will never be a catcher.

      He can claim it by the fact that the Yankee coaches/player development team are the only people who seem to think he can stay at catcher. Yes these people should know, but the scouts who watch Montero still don’t see it. And it’s not just Keith Law who thinks that (Law has said that if Montero finds a way to stay behind the plate that he’s a top 10-15 talent). The coaches/management may see all of Montero’s hard work and be slightly biased (assuming he is working very hard at catching).

      Though Tommie may make fun of me for this, I don’t think there is anything wrong with hoping that Montero can develop as a catcher, but we can’t worry if most outside scouts don’t think it will happen. This year in High A should be really big for him to demonstrate his abilities behind the plate.

      • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

        Though Tommie may make fun of me for this, I don’t think there is anything wrong with hoping that Montero can develop as a catcher, but we can’t worry if most outside scouts don’t think it will happen. This year in High A should be really big for him to demonstrate his abilities behind the plate.

        No, I’m actually with you on this one. I do not only hope, but actually expect, that Montero can stay at catcher.

        There are oodles and oodles of big league catchers that sucked defensively but were playable there because their bats were superb. In fact, we’ve got one here right now that’s known to pee on his hands. I don’t need Montero to win a Gold Glove (especially since the awards themselves are as meaningless as the Grammys), I just need him to not allow 50 passed balls every year. I think he can be a subpar defender but still a valuable asset; whatever he gives up on defense he MORE than makes up for by having a middle of the order bat at a position that typically gives you Varitekian production.

        I actually think the biggest determinant of whether or not he stays behind the plate has nothing at all to do with him or his defensive prowess or lack thereof: the deciding factor will be the development of Romine (or Higashioka). If either of them can hit enough to be a viable big leaguer, I’d be in favor of moving Montero to LF or DH simply because it likely maximizes our net team production (to put a superior defender/decent bat at a defensive-intensive position and move Montero’s elite bat to an easier, and less physically demanding/destructive position.)

        Austin Romine’s continued development should be the only thing that pushes Montero off of catcher.

        • Rob in CT

          I largely agree. The only thing is that I hope the organization doesn’t talk itself into something that just flat will not work. It’s not clear yet – the kid’s 18. I think the Yankees are smart enough to bite the bullet and move him if they must, but I will worry anyway. I do that.

          It would be nice if Romine turns into a plus defender/averageish bat and they can both be above-average tandem starters. Odds have to be low, but that would be sweet.

  • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

    Unsurprisingly, the Nationals bring up the rear with an overall grade of F. That’s what happens when your ownership doesn’t care and your GM is incompetent and your scouting director can’t get his first round pick signed.

    Does the “ownership doesn’t care” line refer to the Lerners, who now own the Nationals, or MLB/Loria that owned the Expos?

    Because, if it refers to the Lerners, it’s not really fair. The Lerner family has only owned the Nationals for about two and a half years. They may have allowed the horrid GM that they inherited (Bowden) to have his job longer than they should have, but it’s not like they took over a great club and ran it into the ground. I’d say the Lerners care about the Nats and have made some big improvements to the club.

    They may be an F now, but 3-4 years ago, the Expos were an F-minus-minus-minus.

  • GG

    How good are the Sox position prospects really? I mean we all know about Lars Andersen, but after Ellsbury, Pedroia and Lowrie have all been put into the bigs, do they really have that many great pieces left? or is it just sox bias in the baseball media that writers still say how good the system is? I thought the idea is, when players gradaute to the bigs, you create holes, can they really have that many good position players???

    • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

      Peter Gammons is going to hunt you down and kill you like a dog.

      It was nice knowing you, GG. Have one of your family members tell us where to send flowers to.

    • http://nyyankeesrumors.com Bob Ruffolo

      From everything I hear, their system still has a lot left. I agree with the fact that the Yankees have the third best system in their division, which isn’t horrible when you think about what teams are ahead of them.