2011 Organizational Rankings: #11 – San Francisco

I know, I know, they just won the World Series, how could they rate behind ten other organizations? Remember, though, that this is a forward looking exercise, and we’re not doling out credit for what happened in the past. The question posed was how well do the Giants stack up going forward.

Present Talent – 82.27 (10th)

Giants Season Preview

Future Talent – 75.00 (t-20th)

Giants Top 10 Prospects

Financial Resources – 83.18 (10th)
Baseball Operations – 77.73 (19th)

Overall Rating – 80.32 (11th)

The fact that the Giants will be handing out World Series rings on Opening Day is the big elephant in the room here, so let’s just get that out of the way. The Giants played well in October, and certainly deserved to win the World Series. You could even argue that they were the best team in baseball last year – they did, after all, have the highest team WAR in baseball, so perhaps they never should have been considered underdogs to begin with. But we can’t overlook the fact that they didn’t seal up a playoff spot until the final day of the regular season. Had things gone a little bit differently on that last day, the Giants may not have even made the playoffs, much less won the whole thing. We have to be careful not to ascribe too much emphasis to October performance. The Giants deserve a lot of credit for how they performed in the playoffs, but when it comes to future production, those three weeks are just a small sliver of the information that we need to account for.

Rating the team 10th in present talent isn’t meant to be an insult, though I’d imagine a few Giants fans will take it as such. If we could expect Andres Torres and Aubrey Huff to be MVP candidates every year, they’d certainly rank higher, but there’s legitimate skepticism about how much of their 2010 performance they can carry over into the future, and they were the Giants best position players by a huge margin last year. It’s also unlikely that the Giants continue to get 33 starts apiece from each member of their rotation. The Giants had a lot of things go right last year, and when we’re forecasting the future, we can’t project those same kinds of fortunate outcomes on a year to year basis.

The Giants placement is most affected by questions about how well the Giants will be able to respond to less rosy outcomes going forward. The baseball operations department graded out in the lower half of the league, in large part due to a history of questionable acquisitions that cast some doubt on how the front office evaluates talent. The contracts handed out to the likes of Barry Zito and Aaron Rowand continue to be problematic, and it took monster seasons from low-cost flyers like Torres and Huff to compensate for the lack of production the team was getting from the high-end-salary players on the roster. Can they continue to hit home runs on these guys who are mostly ignored by the rest of the league? If not, than the front office will have to be far more judicious in who they give long term contracts to in the future.

The Giants have the money to be competitive long term, but there are legitimate concerns about whether those financial resources will be spent efficiently. Given that the farm system is Brandon Belt and then a lot of hopes and prayers, the Giants aren’t going to be able to continue to rely on cost-controlled young talent to come in and keep the team competitive while overpriced veterans soak up large chunks of the payroll. The escalating salaries of Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain will also erode a pretty significant part of the value found on the roster, and the team is going to find it challenging to keep their stars in place while also filling the holes on the roster with competent veterans if they keep overpaying for mediocre free agents.

This team can be a perennial contender if the front office identifies the right players to throw money at, and, more importantly, begin to avoid the wrong players. There is a good base of talent to build around, and if they can keep the young arms healthy, they won’t be bad any time soon. To be in the mix in October every year, though, they’ll need a better plan than getting monster years from the likes of Huff and Torres. This organization has some strength, but they also have some deficiencies that lead to questions about what the 2012 and beyond rosters might look like. If the organization learns from their mistakes and identifies better ways to spend the resources they have, the Giants could be good for quite some time. But another big misstep in free agency could leave them with too many holes to fill and not enough money to go around.

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Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.

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