2011 Organizational Rankings: #6 – Minnesota

Something tells me this year’s #6org will be slightly less controversial.

Current Talent – 84.09 (7th)

Twins Season Preview

Future Talent – 85.00 (T-5th)

Twins Top 10 Prospects

Baseball Operations – 84.09 (9th)
Financial Resources – 81.67 (9th)

Overall Rating – 83.50

The days of the Twins as a small market team are decidedly finished. Target Field has been a tremendous boon to the Twins finances, leading late mega-gazillionaire owner Carl Pohlad and current owner Jim Pohlad to finally allow Bill Smith, Terry Ryan and company to open up the checkbook a bit. And by “a bit,” I mean the Twins are now looking like a perennial $90 million payroll team, if not $100 million, a mark the team will hit for the first time this season. Although some of the financial gains from the stadium may cool off as the “new stadium smell” dies down, Target Field practically prints money compared to the Metrodome. That should allow the team the financial freedom to hold on to such homegrown mainstays as Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau, whereas in the past the Twins would opt to trade such a player (see Santana, Johan, although he was a Rule V draft pick).

It is the ability to create such homegrown talents as the Mauers, and Morneaus that gives the Twins a leg up on other organizations. The 2011 Twins will feature five position players and three starting pitchers who they drafted themselves. Francisco Liriano counts as a victory for the player development staff as well, with a large majority of his development time spent in Minnesota’s system. This ability allowed the Twins to win with smaller budgets in the past decade and will continue to serve them as payroll expands.

The player development machine of the Twins can be accurately characterized as elite, but the Twins baseball operations department only ranks ninth in the league, barely in the top third. This is because Twins management has tended to throw away a good deal of their competitive advantage in player development when making deals at the Major League level. The Twins under Bill Smith have shown a propensity to latch onto a player and ignore opportunity costs. If a player is a “Twins guy,” he’s going to remain a Twin and likely for too much; if he doesn’t play Twins Baseball, you can bet he’s out the door soon.

This offseason, we discovered that J.J. Hardy was definitively not a Twins guy. Despite posting 2.4 WAR in under 400 plate appearances, the Twins decided that Hardy’s contributions – fantastic defense and solid power for the shortstop position – weren’t enough because they didn’t come with the speed they expect from up-the-middle players. With an impending arbitration award of $5-7 million impending (it turned out to be $5.85 million), Hardy projected to be a huge bargain in 2011. Instead, the Twins dumped that salary to the Orioles, receiving only two minor league relievers and will go with their guy Alexi Casilla at SS. Casilla is projected to be nearly a full win worse than Hardy with the bat this season by ZiPS and likely isn’t the same caliber defender either. Because of the organization’s fixation on “Twins baseball,” the team cost itself valuable wins in what should be a hotly contested division this season.

That’s not to say that Smith is a complete zero when it comes to operating at the Major League level. I would argue that the Twins lost on the handling of Michael Cuddyer‘s option ($10.5 million to a 1.0 WAR type player), the Matt Garza-Delmon Young trade, the Wilson Ramos-Matt Capps trade, and the recent Scott Diamond-Billy Bullock deal. However, Smith has a decent amount of feathers in his cap as well: the Carl Pavano acquisition, the Jim Thome signing, the Orlando Hudson signing, the Jon Rauch acquisition, and the initial trade to acquire J.J. Hardy (for Carlos Gomez) included. Smith hasn’t been active in the long-term free agent market, so he receives an “incomplete” in that regard. Overall, he can cost his team wins at the MLB level, but he can also make some moves to improve a team. Unfortunately, the propensity to stick so hard to certain organizational traits or characteristics gives me (and others) worry and keeps the Twins out of the elite class of baseball ops groups.

This year, it appears that the Twins have the talent to compete in the AL Central, as usual. Mauer, Morneau, Liriano, and Nathan are a very good core, but there are questions as well. Specifically, questions in the middle infield (Can Alexi Casilla play short? How good is Tsuyoshi Nishioka?) and the rotation (Really, Nick Blackburn is in the rotation?) abound. Looking towards the future, much of the impact talent should remain, with the only major question mark being Francisco Liriano’s status given the trade rumors this winter. What talent does leave should be replenished by a healthy farm system. The Twins are in good shape. The only question is if Smith, Ryan and crew can make the right moves maintain that position. Most likely, though, as long as their player development system remains a well-oiled machine, Minnesota should continue to be a perennial playoff contender in the AL Central.




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80 Responses to “2011 Organizational Rankings: #6 – Minnesota”

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  1. TFINY says:

    I am a die-hard Twins Fan. This ranking seems a bit high. (as in they should be closer to #10, not #1. They have a fairly good farm–closer to the #15 than #5. and I have major questions about their front office. It seems to me that the bad outweighs the good; sure they can make a good pickup here or there, but they hurt the team more with what they leave behind. Other than that, nice write-up.

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  2. glassSheets says:

    Carl Pohlad no longer owns the Twins. He passed away in 2009.

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      • CarterHayes says:

        You might want to look at the wording in your correction. Pohlad died 5 Jan 2009. Target Field opened for operations 4 Jan 2010. Unless Jim is conducting seances with his dad, Carl’s not had much to do with how the team has allocated its increased resources since his death (including Joe Mauer’s new contract, among others).

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    • legaryd says:

      I think you’re making quite an assumption. Al Davis has been dead for 5 years and he still runs the Raiders.

      +11 Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Bill says:

      May he rest in …. What’s the opposite of peace?

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  3. John Franco says:

    We’ve been waiting with bated breath to find out who the new #6org is. Now we know!

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    • j6takish says:

      Am I missing something about #6 orgs? Whats the deal with this reference?

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      • neuter_your_dogma says:

        Not missing a thing.

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      • MCR says:

        Last year, the Mariners were controversially ranked number six in this series, mostly on the strength of their front office. After the ranking was published, GMZ made a string of questionable moves. The fact that Dave Cameron did the writeup didn’t help matters.

        A ton of people commented on that post; many with legitimate questions and criticisms of the ranking, but far more with borderline illiterate trolling. From that post forward, nearly every post written by Dave or about the Mariners contained one or more oh-so-witty souls posting ‘#6 org!’ or similar.

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  4. guayzimi says:

    Did I miss something? How many teams are tied for 5th in future talent?

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  5. What says:

    UhOh–Are the twins gonna lose 101 Games?

    #6Org Lives

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  6. BWOzar says:

    I wish Cameron did this write up… :-)

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  7. drivlikejehu says:

    The Twins’ front office is somewhat unusual in that the GM probably is less important than with most franchises. The most defining aspect of their baseball operations is its consistency over a long period of time. Promotions are generally made from within and the degree of turnover is small compared to other organizations.

    There are good and bad aspects of this. The bad is that they are ‘old school’ and are extremely reluctant to incorporate advanced metrics into their decision-making process. They make some bad trades because their player evaluations are tinged by seemingly-inconsistent ‘intangibles’; e.g., trading the hot-headed Garza for the moody Delmon Young.

    On the good side, the imperfect system they’ve developed works pretty well. In particular they have consistently been able to field solid pitching staffs, even without a lot of pitchers with great stuff, by avoiding walks like the plague. The Twins have issued the fewest walks in the AL in 6 of the last 7 years, and were last below 3rd in 1996.

    There is less consistency with position players, but so long as their are some stars to anchor the lineup they should be fine. Bizarre moves like replacing Hardy with Casilla are balanced by smart moves like re-signing Thome and (hopefully) picking up Nishioka for a reasonable amount of money.

    Even though they have some weaknesses, I think the existing talent (MLB and minors), as well as the longer-term positives, justify a ranking in this range.

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    • drivlikejehu says:

      Two typos- should be 1995 instead of 1996, and there instead of their in the next paragraph. Not counting grammar errors.

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    • Luke in MN says:

      Yeah, Bill Smith doesn’t strike me as a guy who either could or would be a very strong executive. His predecessor (terry ryan) that he came up under is still with the org. Gardy’s a force. I think the scouts drive a lot of his decisions. I think Bill Smith’s more the current care-taker of a system that predates him and has operated more or less the same both before and after he ascended to the throne.

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  8. rogue_actuary says:

    Trading away Santana also happened recently. While they didn’t get much in return, they’re also not paying $20M/year for a 31 year old pitcher who has averaged 3.1 WAR over the last two seasons and who won’t pitch a full season this year due to injury.

    They’re obviously two very different pitchers, but Zito was worth 2.1 WAR last year in the same number of innings. Santana was at 2.7 WAR. Zito made $18.5M. Santana made $21M.

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    • Luke in MN says:

      Yeah, I think you could make an argument that simply not giving out any big long-term contracts–especially to pitchers–has been a very smart move. Mauer is now the big exception (although Morneau signed a 6-year 80 million dollar contract a couple years ago that doesn’t seem to get much attention as one of the better medium-big deals in the sport), so we’ll see how that goes. The franchise will continue to ride high as long as Mauer’s knees hold up.

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    • Kevin S. says:

      They also passed on Phil Hughes or Jon Lester in favor of a Carlos Gomez-headlined pu-pu platter because they didn’t want to trade him to a league rival, and they lost the division on a play-in game, something they probably avoid altogether if Johan stays on the team through ’08. The Santana trade could only be considered a plus if you think that extending him or taking the Mets’ chaff were the only options.

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      • CarterHayes says:

        Do we actually know that the Red Sox or Yankees were prepared to make that deal, or were they playing the AL East version of the Cuban Missile Crisis over Santana? I think it’s entirely possible neither team was going to part with the talent reported.

        Also, there were major questions about Lester’s health (remember he made a late 2007 comeback from non-Hodgkin lymphoma). I don’t think it’s fair to hold Lester’s subsequent success against the Twins.

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    • Ninja_Actuary says:

      Hello Rogue…

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  9. robdeer says:

    The middle infield and their bullpen are unknowns, but the Twins rotation is the least of their worries. Even if you think they made the wrong choice by putting Slowey in the bullpen, they’ve got 6 viable starters on their MLB roster and a 7th in the minors if you believe Gibson could step in to the rotation at some point this season.

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  10. xeifrank says:

    #6 Bingo! Right where I have them. Solid recent track record of making the playoffs, pretty good efficiency on money spent in terms of wins and playoff appearances. Slightly above average to average in everything else.

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  11. bill says:

    So the top 5 teams are all in the East? EAST COAST BIAS!

    My guess -
    5. Tampa Bay
    4. Philadelphia
    3. Atlanta
    2. New York
    1. Red Sox

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    • descender says:

      If the redsox are #1 there is a serious flaw with the future talent rankings.

      5. Philly
      4. Boston
      3. Tampa
      2. Atlanta
      1. NY

      that’s much more realistic.

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      • descender says:

        OK I will be the first to admit after rereading this putting boston behind tampa is probably not right. feel free to interchange those 2.

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      • Justin Bailey says:

        That list is only realistic if you live in an alternate reality.

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      • Tom B says:

        I live in the one where Boston has no farm left, which one do you live in?

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      • slamcactus says:

        No farm left is ridiculous. They’re lacking top-flight impact guys right now, but they have great depth. The demise of the Boston farm system post-Gonzalez trade has been greatly exaggerated. It’s a lower-half system right now, but it could easily become top-10 again very, very quickly. Ranaudo, Workman, Vitek, Coyle, and Cecchini are an excellent influx into the system from last year’s draft. And Kalish has graduated as a “prospect” but remains a very valuable piece of the team’s future.

        Even after the trade, Boston has one of the deeper systems in the majors. They get a bad rap because they don’t have a current top-50 (or even top-75) guy, but it really isn’t the terrible system people are suggesting. I’d give good odds on Ranaudo becoming a consensus top-30 prospect by mid-season (and could even see him reaching top-15 status), and reports out of ST are that Workman looks absolutely nasty – wouldn’t be at all surprised to see him crack the top-100 next year, either. Beyond those two, there are a huge number of potential breakout guys – far more than most systems boast.

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      • slamcactus says:

        And no, I’m not a Red Sox fan. Far from it.

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      • Bronnt says:

        Actually, I really like the Red Sox future talent. I just don’t like their farm system. They’ve got a core of players who are presently under thirty or right at it who should all be very productive over the next 3-4 seasons. They might be in a little trouble after that, but then, it’s very difficult for me to say exactly what is going to happen in 4 years anyway.

        Over the period of time in which there’s any value in prognostication, the Red Sox are going to be a very good team.

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      • reillocity says:

        TB will be receiving a 74ish score for financial resources (#23), so I’d say they’re the favorite to be #5.

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    • Luke in MN says:

      I think it sort of has to be that way. But do the Red Sox get the top spot? The Yanks are superior in resources and farm system. The Red Sox get an edge in present talent I’d say, but it’s not huge. It’s basically the difference between which one of them has most recently made a big FA signing. The Yanks will answer soon enough.

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  12. CircleChange11 says:

    The Twins Love at FG is out of control.

    Compare the present talent ranking to CWS and DET. MIN is not the favorite to win the division at many sources.

    Why the heck are they 7th inpresent talent?

    I actually think their BaseOps could be higher rated, but for different reasons than the ones given. The quality of homegrown talent is high. The FG love of JJ Hardy needs tempered.

    Wasn’t Punto a “Twins guy”? As a Cardinals fan I wish he still was.

    Mauer won’t repeat 09, Morneau has serious questions, and the corner outiflders could be league averag or replacement levl.

    Wherever DET and CWS are, MIN should be right with them.

    I respect MIN like crazy. I don’t agree with FG’s view of them.

    At this point, I just don’t want to see them in the playoffs. Id rather watch Legends of the Fall than th Twins in the playoffs, even though I already know the endings to both boring viewing activities.

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    • Dan L says:

      Agree with some of the things you’re saying maybe but…

      “Wherever DET and CWS are, MIN should be right with them.”

      You realize that the Tigers and Sox each have one of the worst farms in baseball, right? And that the Twins farm is probably in the top ten in the league?

      That alone explains most of the difference between the ranks.

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      • CircleChange11 says:

        You realize that the Tigers and Sox each have one of the worst farms in baseball, right?

        … that’s why I specifically referred to present talent.

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  13. Jeff says:

    How does Mauer, Morneau, Liriano, and Nathan net 7th in current talent, while Cabrera, VMart, Verlander, Scherzer nets #22 or whatever????

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    • Jeff says:

      If you want to go by supporting casts…

      Cuddyer, Young, Casilla, Baker…

      or

      Jackson, Valverde, Ordonez, Benoit…

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      • Luke in MN says:

        I think the Tigers are ranked way too low in present talent and too low overall, but I don’t think the Twins are too high. The Twins have 3 of the top 9 AL hitters over the last 3 years by wRC+ (min 1200 PA) and good hitting depth after that. One of those players is a very good defensive catcher. Starting pitching depth is pretty great. Team pitching was second in FIP and first in xFIP in the AL last year. Not that much as changed and the Central race wasn’t all that close last year. Adam Dunn and Victor Martinez are nice, but neither one is a 7-win improvement.

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      • slamcactus says:

        Don’t forget Thome. All he did was post a .437 wOBA last year.

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  14. Joe Twinsfan says:

    Convenient of you to leave out Span, Pavano, Thome, Kubel, Nishioka, Slowey, Capps, and Valencia there. The Twins have far fewer black holes than the Tigers, especially in the back off the rotation. That counts for more than you may think.

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  15. Otter says:

    While I usually love everything that Fangraphs does… I’ve been totally underwhelmed by the organizational rankings. It seems like Future Talent is receiving far too much weight in the rankings and Financial Resources probably not enough (even if the top teams are going to be the Yankees and BoSox, the Mets and Cubs (for example) are far less hamstrung by bad contracts even with their current financial issues).

    Also, it seems totally silly to not consider ownership more in these rankings. There is a reason that the Pirates, Royals, Nats and Orioles (and sure Cubs and Mets) stink/underachieve year-in-and-year-out* and that the Rays and Brewers suddenly started having success when their ownership changed. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the Yankees started to turn a corner when Steinbrenner was banned (and then removed himself upon his return).

    It seems to me that we’re falling in love with the new guy far too quickly… I like the Blue Jays and their future as much as the next guy, but isn’t there a chance that Anthopoulos had a “career year” last year? Shouldn’t a guy like Dombrowski get a little more credit for being a pretty good GM for a long time? Maybe Anthopoulos will be a much better GM than Dombrowski, but for lack of a better phrase, his sample size is much smaller than Dombrowski’s.

    *The Marlins are the one team that seems to have been able to over come bad ownership, but this might mean that their ownership isn’t as bad as we thought it was.

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    • steex says:

      I somewhat agree, though I think the biggest issue for me is the overall lack of differentiation within the components. If a rating system is having bunches of teams tied all over the place, I don’t think it’s doing enough to seek out the differences.

      Granted, I understand that makes it a much more substantial and effort-intensive undergoing, which may not be feasible. I still appreciate these rankings, they’re useful and better than FG doing nothing instead.

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      • david h says:

        Bronnt, they are not using straight point values for place rankings. It looks like the staff graded the four categories on a typical educational scale from ~60 up to 100 (last place in each category was either 62 or 65). Teams have been bunched together closely in points in several places (or tied, as seen in all the teams with 85.00 for future talent). So I don’t think the scaling problem that concerns you exists.

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      • david h says:

        whoops, replied in the wrong spot.

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    • MCR says:

      As far as issues with the weighting, there’s very little the FG staff can or should do about that, as the weightings were determined by the community. I don’t agree with them myself; I think present talent is overvalued and financial resource is undervalued. Rightly or wrongly, though, they’re using the weightings they were given.

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      • Otter says:

        Good point and fair enough.

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      • CircleChange11 says:

        My only commentary on that is that if they are going to invest all the time in a series, it should be as accurate as possible.

        If they authors know more than the community, then they should go with what they know is more accurate.

        Otherwise they could have just had us vote or weight the teams, and then compile our votes.

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      • Bronnt says:

        Well, they weren’t determined exclusively by the community. They polled the community to see where it should be, and they tempered some of their own ideas with what the voting results showed.

        Honestly, I think it’s pretty close to correct. Financial resources could be getting heavier weight, but there’s scaling issues, there. I mean, if you’re issuing straight point values for place rankings, you’re seriously underrated the Yankees. If the Yankees get 30 points for financial resources, the #2 shouldn’t get more than 24 points. Plus, there’s the issue that financial resources aren’t a fixed asset for many teams, even though people assume it is-I could easily see the Phillies becoming very constrained in salary in a year or two if they miss the playoffs, while a team like the Pirates or Royals might see a huge boost if they could get into a pennant race.

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      • CircleChange11 says:

        I agree with that.

        For finances, I’d come up with a score that represents “average”, say 75. And then figure everyone else’s financial score based on how much above/below average they are.

        That same type of thing could be applied to the other categories.

        Present Talent, for example, could be viewed by calculating the projected WAR for each player and a team’s total calculated from that. 75 could represent the MLB average and then the other teams’ scores could reflect how much above/below they are from that.

        It doesn’t have to be linear.

        Baseball operations could also likely be worked in a system that compares dollars/WAR, and combined with expected wins, playoff chances, etc. Baseball Operations is the tough one (IMO). Teams are often rewarded for not having big contracts, but that is not always their choice. The teams that are “smart” with their money in the form of not having big contracts often are not doing it by their choice, but because it is their only choice. More of them might be like Washington and give Jayson Werth big money even though it doesn’t make them all that much more competitive.

        Future Talent could also be figured by the projected WAR for say the next 3 seasons. Oliver projections provide such things with the 6-year forecast and things of that nature. I would give a bonus for organizations that have legit/top prospects. In other words a 5-WAR prospect would count more than 2, 2.5 WAR prospects.

        It might also help “sort out” some of the clustered teams. If teams have similar “expected wins” (via WAR), but one team spends 15M less than the other, say 85 win, teams … then that would count as a big positive for their baseball operations. If a team, like the Blue jays, sheds 20M/y contract, without suffering a significant reduction in “expected wins”, that would also count as a big plus.

        A team like the NYY or BOS might have so much more present talent (via expected WAR), that their rankings in the other might not matter so much in the overall picture … sort of how KC’s “future talent” doesn’t make a huge difference because their present talent is so bad.

        I’m not ripping or ridiculing the system or this activity, because I have very much enjoyed it and the discussion (even where I disagreed).

        Present talent often will be incorporated in the “finance” part because the teams that can pay the most or are willing to pay the most sign the best players. Finance is seemingly most important in the ability to generate revenue. Even if KC, for example, does everything right … and their prospects all develop into really good players, and they are competitive, can really only expect so much potential revenue due to being a region of 1.5M people, and not necessarily a wealthy area.

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  16. Steve says:

    Over-rated current talent and farm. Bunch of 3′s and 4′s in the rotation along with a pitcher, liriano who is at the very best a 2, pavano is an aging 3 to 4, blackburn, slowey, baker, meh, duensing could be ok. the relief is a mess. who knows what or how nathan will be for a whole season. fat daddy capps doesn’t instill shutdown fear. 23Million a year for a catcher who will be dh’ing regularly in 2/3 years, and an injury prone and repeat concussion first baseman. nothing stands out with this over achieving bunch.
    The worst thing with this and the teams left tells me that even with as respected a baseball site as fangraphs, they do what so many a$$##### do at the 4 letter network, the people that write for these sites can’t be objective with their opinions or “in their heart favorite team” so they push them up in front of teams that are as good or better to feel better, which is unprofessional. Be 100% unbiased and honest please. and the redsox are the biggest hypocrites in all of baseball.

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  17. Jojo says:

    Twins are in the bottom 10 of baseball. Outside of Sano and Gibson, they have nothing.

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    • Steven Ellingson says:

      Exaggerating doesn’t help you make your points. It makes you sound stupid.

      (Yes, I’m repeating myself).

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  18. potcallingkettle says:

    What a bunch of nerds, arguing over baseball rankings. The blowup doll business is alive and well…..

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    • Carligula says:

      But someone like you who isn’t even participating in the argument, but is around to cast stones anyway, doesn’t even have a blowup doll. Maybe a Sears lingerie catalog. If you’re lucky.

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  19. JohnnyK says:

    I’d love to read #5 (Atlanta), but the link to read more is dead (as are the post title and the link to the comment for that entry)

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  20. Dane says:

    Twins > Rest of MLB

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  21. Drew says:

    Looks like that twins 7th-ranked current talent is performing as such so far this season

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  22. numbersixorg says:

    cursed

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  23. jimbobran says:

    shows how much you know about baseball..
    despite the injuries the team is under performing in every facet of the game

    #6, more like the 6th best team in the PCL

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  24. Jerome S. says:

    #6org

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  25. #6 org lol says:

    The Twins are a terrible organization with terrible players and terrible management, why they are in the top half of your rankings is a mystery to everyone.

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  26. Latos Intolerant says:

    My prediction is that 2012′s #6org will be cursed to the divisional basement

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  27. MattM says:

    Whats funny is after their godawful September they could lose 101 games just like the last #6org team…

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  28. Osprey guy says:

    Generally, I agree. However I wish there were more quality places to buy Osprey and Pertz Climbing equiptment. Buy Climbing online and save. Great Blog. Cheers for the info.

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  29. Yikes says:

    And the final tally is: 63-99, -185 Run Diff.

    No matter what you think of them, please pick the Yankees #6 in 2012.

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  30. Blueyays says:

    LOL The curse of #6org strikes again :D

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