2011 Organizational Rankings: #20 San Diego

Losing Adrian Gonzalez would be painful to any team. But for a Padres squad whose second-best 2010 regular (or quasi-regular) was Will Venable (.324 wOBA), it was a monumental loss. Still, the haul from the Gonzalez trade boosts the team’s farm system ranking significantly, and there are some reasons for optimism on a team with limited resources and little chance of contending in 2011.

Present Talent – 75.00 (T-20th)

Padres Season Preview

Future Talent – 85.00 (T-5th)

Padres Top 10 Prospects

Financial Resources – 68.08 (29th)
Baseball Operations – 81.67 (11th)

Overall Rating – 76.09 (20th)

I have a theory about park effect adjustments that goes like this: They’re not telling us enough. A left-handed hitter with power to right-center is likely to suffer more offensively than a simply Petco Park adjustment would suggest (think Brian Giles before he fell off a cliff and ultimately retired). On the flip side, a pitcher whose biggest weakness is, say, home runs by left-handed hitters, is likely to benefit more from Petco’s deep dimensions and moist marine air than a simply park adjustment might suggest (if Pat Neshek‘s healthy, that’s a perfect pickup for a Padres team that already has an outrageously deep bullpen).

The point is this: The Padres’ first priority, like any team’s first priority is to scout, draft, sign, develop and if possible, trade for star players. But for the rest of the major league roster, they’ll need to (continue to) think about ways to exploit one of the most extreme ballparks in the majors.

Jed Hoyer and company hope to achieve both of those goals with the acquisition of Cameron Maybin. Still a couple weeks shy of his 24th birthday, Maybin can still be considered a prospect — despite breaking in as a talented player with an abysmal batting eye way back in 2007. The batting eye hasn’t improved much with age, as Maybin’s career strikeout rate is four times higher than his walk rate. But there’s speed, above-average defense, and even flashes of power sprinkled into his skill set, meaning we probably shouldn’t completely rule out the possibility that Maybin becomes a star. We’ve seen too many Brandon Phillips-like cases of players struggling for several years, then finding a new ballclub and flourishing, to rule out Maybin’s upside. He’s also a player who could benefit more from Petco than most. Maybin’s range in center field should play well in Petco’s vast outfield pasture, and right-handed hitters with power potential are generally better off than comparable lefties. The Padres did give up two solid relief pitchers, Edward Mujica and Ryan Webb, to get Maybin. But given the team’s strong track record of grooming and acquiring good relievers, and the need for potential high-level everyday players, it was a move that made all kinds of sense.

The other position player with star upside is Chase Headley. We have to take one-year UZR samples with a gigantic grain of salt. Still, the huge jump in Headley’s defensive value (-6.7 as a left fielder in 2009 to +16.5 as a third baseman in 2010) has to excite his employers, even if future regression toward the mean might be expected. The question now becomes, when or if Headley’s offense will blossom. There are subtle signs of improvement, including a strikeout rate that dropped from 31.4% in 2008 to 22.8% in 2010. But Headley’s power has also ebbed during that span, from a .151 ISO in ’08 down to .111 last season. He’s got a history of solid power production in the minors, albeit generally in hitter-friendly parks. Entering his age-27 season, is this the year that Headley establishes himself as an elite player, someone with enough sock to overcome even Petco’s supernatural offense-squashing powers? The Padres really need that to happen.

There is that potential down on the farm, though, and the Padres will be patient in letting that talent develop at its own speed. Slugging minor league first baseman Anthony Rizzo is the known commodity among the two position players acquired for Gonzalez, and the 42 doubles and 25 homers he socked last year between high-A and Double-A bode well for his chances of growing into, if things break right, a poor man’s Gonzalez. The real prize among the two position players, say scouts who like to dream big, could be Reymond Fuentes, the 20-year-old skinny Puerto Rican with exciting speed and the potential to become an impressive two-way outfielder. Fuentes remains raw, though, so much so that even if Maybin does buck the odds and become a star, he might be playing for someone else by the time Fuentes becomes a legitimate big league outfielder.

The pitching side of the ledger looks more encouraging, and not just Petco can make non-adjusted numbers look Nintendo-ish. Mat Latos is the real deal as the staff ace, fanning more than a batter per inning last year and emerging as a top-flight starter before age 23, in just his second year in the majors. Other, less-talented hurlers figure to put up numbers thanks to Petco, with Clayton Richard back for year two in SoCal after coming over from the White Sox, and Aaron Harang replacing Jon Garland as mediocre pitcher you now want in your fantasy league because of Petco (there could be some legitimacy to Harang’s numbers too; he’s flashed strong K/BB rates throughout most of his career, with his home run tendencies often being his biggest weakness).

The bullpen remains overloaded even with Mujica and Webb dealt for Maybin, and Adam Russell and Brandon Gomes thinning out the prospect stock a bit in San Diego’s deal for shortstop Jason Bartlett. Heath Bell is one of just 15 MLN pitchers with FIPs of 3.50 or lower in each of the past three seasons (in Bell’s case, the last four). Luke Gregerson‘s Slider of Death would make him scary in any park, and Mike Adams has followed Bell as a buy-low guy who’s turned into an elite option in Whale’s Vagina.

Hoyer enters his second season as Padres GM with a big comedown likely in store. No one expected anything close to 90 wins last season, yet that’s what the Padres managed; acknowledging the flaws with using Pythagorean record to peg a team’s won-lost record, it’s still interesting to note that the Pads by that measure were a 91-win club, buoyed by run prevention results that looked damn good even after accounting for Petco. There are more quality pitchers nearing the big leagues, with Red Sox transplant Casey Kelly and homegrown right-hander Simon Castro the best of a promising bunch. There’s athleticism in the pipeline in Donovan Tate, a potential power bat they sorely need in Jaff Dacker, and other goodies on the farm. Some of the key personnel who helped build the team’s minor league depth left along with former GM Kevin Towers. How new(ish) Scouting Director Jaron Madison and other new-regime hires fare will tell us a lot about the sustainability and upside of the Padres’ youth movement.

More than losing Gonzalez or a likely building-and-waiting process for at least the next couple years, that 29th ranking in Financial Resources should worry Padres fans the most. In 2009, Jeff Moorad became the lead partner in a group that stepped in to grab majority control of the team from financially-strapped owner John Moores. But the takeover is expected to occur gradually over a five-year span, with Moorad still owning 12% of the Diamondbacks (am I the only one who thinks that’s completely crazy?) and the team unlikely to start spending heavily during that time of transition. It’s tough to say what Moorad’s financials might look like in 2014, or if the Padres will be at the appropriate phase of their building cycle to go on a spending spree at that time.

For now, we wait. We wait to see if Maybin and Headley can become front-line players, if Venable has room for improvement entering his late-20s, if Latos can turn into a perennial Cy Young candidate, if the trend of building killer bullpens and flipping relievers for real talent can continue, if the next wave of pitchers can form a formidable future Padres rotation, if the Padres can figure out a way to fully harness Petco’s unique Petco-ness, and if Hoyer and his lieutenants can offer more surprises, even if a step back from last season’s 90 wins is a mortal lock.

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Jonah Keri is the author of The Extra 2%: How Wall Street Strategies Took a Major League Baseball Team from Worst to First -- now a National Bestseller! Follow Jonah on Twitter @JonahKeri, and check out his awesome podcast.

46 Responses to “2011 Organizational Rankings: #20 San Diego”

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  1. tdotsports1 says:

    I’m still not giving up on Kyle Blanks, the minor league resume is too good and his cameo in 2009 was impressive. Maybe not 2011, but 2012 and beyond he should make some sort of an impact.

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    • Fergie348 says:

      From what I saw, he’s got to get quicker to the ball. Dude has a big long swing that pitchers exploited with ease. Fastballs in his kitchen never got hit, he also looked ridiculous on breaking stuff down and away. If he covers the inside fastball, there’s a chance.

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  2. Temo says:

    Holy crap, the NL is getting savaged in these rankings. Maybe deservingly; other than the Dodgers I can’t say I’ve disagreed with much.

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    • Kevin S. says:

      Is it that shocking? In interleague games, the AL’s been something like a mid-to-high 80s win team against the NL for close to a decade now. That implies the financial resources and baseball operations are generally going to be stronger, the even higher performance in the last couple years would likely point to a stronger present talent grade for the league as a whole, and despite having much better draft positions since the NL started getting taken to the woodshed, AL teams will even have better Future Talent rankings, given how they’re generally much more likely to ignore slot recommendations and pay heavily for amateur talent.

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    • siggian says:

      Yes, that’s 9 of the bottom 11 in the NL.

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    • Apparently I was wrong back before when I said there were notable AL teams coming. I didn’t expect the Brewers to be as low as they are (and I’m not sure I agree with the ranking based on the calculation of the present talent), but most of the others I can’t really argue with at the moment.

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  3. CampBrice says:

    Got to figure Mariners, Cubs and Orioles somewhere in the next 3-4

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  4. Mark says:

    Call me crazy, but I like this Padre team. I’m bullish on Hawpe, O-Dawg, Bartlett and Maybin.

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    • maestro876 says:

      Personally, I think this team is more talented from top-to-bottom than the one that won 90 games last year. I know it’s easy to write them off in a division that includes the Rockeis and Giants, but the Padres outperformed those two teams for the vast majority of 2010.

      The loss of Gonzalez is definitely significant, but Hoyer and co. have done a good job of improving and upgrading elsewhere to the point that with a little luck, there shouldn’t be any large net loss in team WAR.

      Just saying, people picked them for ~90 losses last year and look what happened. This team could easily contend again.

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      • fredsbank says:

        they outperformed the rockies who were riddled with injuries and underperformances while literally universally regarded as playing way over their heads, and the giants who had career years from numerous players….

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    • tdotsports1 says:

      Bullish on three veterans with zero upside? Maybin maybe, but to be bullish on the Pads for those 4 is a bit odd.

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      • jaywrong says:

        why not? odawg is better than eck. bartlett and hawpe are upward regression candidates. and maybin is young with great d.

        those 4 seem like natural choices. i’m bearish on your opinion, thats for sure dot.

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  5. Ryan says:

    No mention of the fatal flaw of letting Eckstein walk.

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  6. Bryce says:

    No links to season preview and top prospects?

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  7. Danmay says:

    I would like to say that I have loved this iteration of the organization rankings, but this particular write-up bothers me a little. It’s not that I disagree with anything in particular, because I don’t, I think the ranking is fair, but the write-up in inconsistent with the standards that have been followed for most of the other teams.

    Namely, you spend almost the whole article talking about the talent that has come and gone, despite linking to the team preview and minor league talent, rather than actually justifying your high baseball ops ranking.

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  8. batpig says:

    Just FYI, it was announced on March 12 that Moorad is no longer a part-owner of the D’backs. Here’s the press release: http://arizona.diamondbacks.mlb.com/news/print.jsp?ymd=20110312&content_id=16925858&vkey=news_ari&c_id=ari

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  9. Brett says:

    The real prize in the AGon trade was reymond fuentes? Really?

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  10. Jonah Keri says:

    Thanks batpig, hadn’t seen that. Man, that was just absurd while it lasted.

    Links to Team Preview and 10 Top Prospects list have been added.

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  11. Xeifrank says:

    I have the Padres ranked 15th, so a slight disagreement here. I think given what the Padres payroll generally is, they get a lot of bang for their buck. Their expected win total this year is around 79 games which is pretty good for a team that is predicted to have a 2011 payroll of only $38M. The Seattle Mariners on the otherhand are projected (Vegas) to win around 74-75 games with a projected 2011 payroll of $87M. There should be some penalty for being a bad team with a higher (in comparison to SD) payroll.

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  12. Joaquin says:

    “Mike Adams has followed Bell as a buy-low guy who’s turned into an elite option in Whale’s Vagina.”

    So Mike Adams’ was the dude banging my ex!

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  13. jetsfansam says:

    I didn’t know you spoke German, Jonah.

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  14. chris says:

    What do people think of Blanks? Is he still a viable big league player? Last year he was being considered to Adam Dunn and now he is just a blip on the radar

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  15. Jason says:

    Jonah, I’d appreciate it if you could explain why it is a “mortal lock” that the Padres will not approach their success of last season. Being in this business, you should know not to speak in absolutes.

    Yes, the Padres lost Adrian Gonzalez. But their middle infield was in shambles last year. Eckstein, Everth Cabrera, and Jerry Hairston produced next to nothing last year. Moreover, their OF situation was beyond awful. Scott Hairston, Anthony Gwynn, et al. were terrible.

    I find it hard to believe that full seasons of Ludwick, Hawpe, Bartlett, and Hudson won’t make up for last year’s futility and help offset the loss of Adrian. You acknowledged that their pythagorean win-loss was 91 wins. Why then, are they dismissed as a fluke? Adrian Gonzalez’s absence will not cause a 20 game swing in the standings.

    And by the way, Anchorman references stopped being creative half a decade ago. It’s just sad at this point.

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    • erich1212 says:

      I’ve been quoting the same anchorman lines for ten years and in no way is that depressing.

      Having said that, I kind of agree. This is a team that can certainly win in the eighties this year and compete for the division, especially if stauffer becomes the pitcher he was projected to be in the last best league.

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    • Jonah Keri says:

      I agree, overstated it.

      On the other hand, also not implying that the Padres will win 70 games (and am confused how anyone would get the impression that “a step back” means “apocalyptic nightmare”). Do think the West has some strong teams, 85 wins would an ambitious projections, and I don’t believe 85 wins would be nearly enough, even if that ambitious scenario did pan out.

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  16. chris says:

    Anchorman references will never get old….you poopmouth….

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  17. evanbrunell says:

    Hey Jonah,

    Moorad completely divested himself of the Diamondbacks share a couple weeks ago: http://arizona.diamondbacks.mlb.com/news/print.jsp?ymd=20110312&content_id=16925858&vkey=news_ari&c_id=ari

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  18. reillocity says:

    The combination of a terribly weak financial position and an absolutely awful sports market makes this the NL organization that is least likely to exist and/or be in the vicinity of its current home come 2020. With those two factors alone I think you could argue that the Padres should be in the #26 to #30 range.

    I do recognize that the ranking algorithm is based on a 30% Present Talent, 30% Financial Resources, 25% Baseball Operations, and 15% Future Talent weighting scheme, but I’m thinking that Financial Resources probably should be more like 50% to 60% given how much it impacts the other 3 categories and how little turnover there tends to be in ownership (incl. market strength) in comparison to the other 3.

    I think that even Yogi would agree that at least 90% of baseball is half financial, so that’s my basic criticism with the Fangraphs’ organizational rankings.

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    • maestro876 says:

      Really? A (relatively) new ballpark and an upward trend in attendance and payroll make them the least likely to be in Petco in 10 years? Please.

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    • Padresfan says:

      40 million dollar payroll.

      Our team was better than the red Sox last year

      RF Will Venable
      He will be much better than last year and break out
      Projected stats: .275 25 HR 60 SB and 3 robbed HR
      SS Jason Bartlett
      Rebound. He is a strong upgrade over E-cab and JHJ
      projected stats: .280 15 SB 8HR good D
      2B O-dawg
      He is solid, David Eckstien was great but is a better coach than player. Hudson is a lot better
      Projcted Stats: .280 10 SB Gold Glove
      Ryan Ludwick
      Rebound, better than himself last year.
      .289 26 HR 90RBI
      Rebound. makes up for 1/3 of Gonzo’s production
      .290 26 HR 85RBI
      Chase Headley
      .280 20HR amazing D
      .240 18 HR 60RBI
      Even his last year is better than Gwynn’s
      .260 30SB 17HR

      And a full year of Stauffer and Harang=Garland

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      • Padresfan says:

        Oh! here is my blog:


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      • CircleChange11 says:

        So, everybody is going to rebound or improve?

        How many teams have actually expereinced a situation like that?

        Latos IP in 2010 was 60 IP over his previous best, and they’ll likely need him to jump up some more. It’ll be interesting to see how his body handles it. His 23% sliders is concerning, and it puts him in the top 15 for the frequency of using the pitch. Love his arm action/speed, though.

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      • Jason B says:

        Ahh, spring. I like the unfailing optimism of homer fans, I really do. I’ll gladly take the under for any amount of money on HR from Ludwick (26), Hawpe (26), Maybin (17), or any combination (or all) three.

        Any amount. ANY amount.

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  19. CircleChange11 says:

    If Charlie Sheen keeps giving interviews he may replace all Anxhorman quotes.

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  20. Wes says:

    The Padre pitching and hitting coaches should be locked in a room for several days with the goal of trading ideas. The pitching coach should tell the hitting coach how easy it is to get the padre hitters out. This seems like such an obvious point…but it should be addressed. Also the pitching coach should give explicit instruction as to what batter adjustments could or should be made in order for the hitters to make contact.
    The hitting coach do alot of listening and head nodding.
    All of this may take alot of time…perhaps the Padres should suspend play till Spring till all the details can be worked out.

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