Organizational Rankings: #10

Today, we launch the top ten, heading towards the top spot and closing out this series. All of the teams that we discuss this week are legitimate contenders for both this year and the future, and these are the organizations that the rest of baseball is chasing.

Rankings So Far

#30: Washington Nationals
#29: Florida Marlins
#28: Houston Astros
#27: Kansas City Royals
#26: Pittsburgh Pirates
#25: San Diego Padres
#24: Cincinnati Reds
#23: Colorado Rockies
#22: Detroit Tigers
#21: St. Louis Cardinals
#20: Toronto Blue Jays
#19: San Francisco Giants
#18: Minnesota Twins
#17: Chicago White Sox
#16: Baltimore Orioles
#15: Seattle Mariners
#14: Philadelphia Phillies
#13: Los Angeles Dodgers
#12: Texas Rangers
#11: Oakland Athletics

#10: Los Angeles Angels

Ownership: A

Since Arte Moreno bought the Angels, he has pushed the team’s payroll over $100 million and left it there, allowing the team to have significant funds to add big ticket players to the roster. Moreno wants to win, and he’s willing to put up more than enough money to do so. However, he doesn’t involve himself in baseball decisions, and plays the role of owner very well. It’s hard to ask for much more than what Moreno gives the Angels.

Front Office: B-

The transition from Bill Stoneman to Tony Reagins was fairly smooth, as the Angels continue to push forward their specific brand of baseball. They like position players with speed, hitters who make contact, starting pitchers who throw strikes, and a bullpen full of power arms. The names change, but these qualities are always associated with the Angels roster. The problem has been, however, that this speed and contact offense that Mike Scioscia prefers often lacks power and patience, and limits the amount of runs the Angels can score in a season. The Angels do a pretty good job of evaluating talent, but the “Angel Way” of playing baseball limits their options, and they’ll have to be willing to make more adjustments as they did with signing Bobby Abreu this winter. The team scouts well, but they will eventually have to integrate some new thinking into the front office.

Major League Talent: B-

Mike Napoli is dealing with health issues, and Jeff Mathis isn’t an adequate fill-in. Their two best hitters are aging fairly quickly, and both are free agents at the end of the year, as is the team’s best starting pitcher. The core of the team that’s in place for the future is filled with talented question marks, and while the Angels should contend in 2009 with what they have, they’ll likely have a very different look in 2010, and it’s not certain that they’ll have enough to hold off the rest of the teams in their division. They are quite likely to add another big name piece this summer, though – I wouldn’t be surprised at all if Jake Peavy ended the year as an Angel.

Minor League Talent: C+

While there isn’t a sure thing prospect in the bunch, there are enough intriguing talents that the team should get some quality just out of the sheer quantity of prospects that they’ve assembled. If Nick Adenhart busts, Jordan Walden could break through as the team’s next good young starter. Or maybe Trevor Reckling. Or Sean O’Sullivan. If Hang Conger doesn’t hit, Mark Trumbo might. Peter Bourjos gives them a potential premium defender to add to an outfield that could certainly use one. All of these guys come with significant risk, but also some legitimate upside, and the Angels should get some future help from this farm system, even without an obvious top prospect in place.

Overall: B

Strong ownership supported by big market revenues gives the team all kinds of wiggle room, and allows them to overcome mistakes like the Gary Matthews Jr signing. The front office isn’t the best in baseball, but they scout well enough to develop talent internally, and that home grown core gives them the ability to spend a lot of money on established veterans, who are usually fairly easy to identify as good talents. The team’s stars are getting older, though, and they’re going to have to figure out how to replace the production they’ve gotten used to seeing from Vladimir Guerrero, as he heads into his decline. With their three division partners all pushing their organizations in the right direction, the Angels are going to have to make a lot of good decisions in the next 12 months to keep their hold on the top of the AL West.




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Dave is a co-founder of USSMariner.com and contributes to the Wall Street Journal.


48 Responses to “Organizational Rankings: #10”

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  1. Joe says:

    Quick nitpick,
    the Major League Talent portion has no grade. Otherwise, I think it is a very good and accurate summary.

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  2. chiz says:

    Hi Dave,

    I’ve been enjoying this trek through the league, and I am wondering if Red Sox finish first or second?

    -14 Vote -1 Vote +1

  3. alskor says:

    Im having a hard time imagining anyone but Boston being #1…

    -8 Vote -1 Vote +1

  4. Lawrence says:

    Dave, this series has been awesome and I look forward to it each day, thanks a ton.

    My prediction for the rest:

    1. New York Yankees
    2. Boston
    3. Chicago
    4. New York JV Squad
    5. Tampa
    6. Cleveland
    7. Atlanta
    8. Milwaukee
    9. Arizona

    I put Chicago and NY’s JV team above Tampa because of league and payroll considerations. I don’t really know enough about the minor league systems or FOs for 6-9, so that is my best guess.

    I’m obviously biased, but am genuinely optimistic about the Yankees in a way I have never been, whereas 3ish years ago I was very pessimistic. It is very sad to see George lose his influence and personality, but it will be a good thing for the team on the field. Overall I put them first because with Cashman taking control, they have successfully changed their organizational philosophy in the past few years, and they have the biggest war chest. But carry on and talk about the Angels.

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    • Ali says:

      Here is my prediction:

      1. Boston
      2. Cleveland
      3. Tampa Bay
      4. New York Yankees
      5. Atlanta
      6. Milwaukee
      7. Chicago Cubs
      8. New York Mets
      9. Arizona

      I think Boston, Cleveland, TB and the Yankees are easily the top 4 though the order of 2-4 may be switched depending on how Dave weighs the respective front offices compared to ownership.

      I also think that the Mets and Arizona have to be the next two to come down – they seem to me to be most clearly the weakest organizations of the nine remaining.

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    • djw says:

      It is very sad to see George lose his influence and personality

      I agree, but I hate the Yankees….

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  5. JMB says:

    I would have given the Angels a C overall, discounting their grade by one full letter due to the ridiculously annoying “rally monkey”.

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  6. Kevin S. says:

    There’s no way Boston’s behind the Yankees, much as that pains me to admit. Their minors blow NY’s out of the water, and the current Boston FO simply has a better track record than New York’s. Based on how these rankings have gone, I’m sure the limitless budget will go a very long way, but probably not far enough to offset the advantages that Boston has. I do think 2/3 will be New York and Cleveland, though, and Atlanta’s probably four.

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    • Omar says:

      Isn’t it based on future ability to succeed? New York has an awesome core of talent at the major league level, a recommitment to the farm system (monetarily and in decisions) and they’re still willing to outspend anyone. What about the way Cashman took the rest of baseball to school and showed everyone how a negotiation with Scott Boras is done with the Teixeira signing? Or how about how Boston was willing to lose the cream of the best FA crop in years over 12 mill across eight years? Or how they’re banking their entire season on kids in the minors panning out or broken players to hold it together? This offseason has changed quite a bit in my eyes. Cashman just recently took full control, and most moves he’s made have been very good ones.

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  7. Gina says:

    I don’t see why Boston would behind the Yankees. And I would really be surprised ot see the Cubs so high. They have money, but their front office seems to be pretty questionable and they don’t seem have a lot of young talented players.

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    • Gina says:

      Also I feel like Arizona would be higher, at least above Milwaukee, they don’t have a big payroll now but they’re in a market where they could support one.

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  8. Teej says:

    As someone who roots for a team whose owner has never been to a game, it’s refreshing to see an owner like Moreno, who almost seems like a kid who just loves baseball. From lowering ticket prices to spending time in the stands, Moreno seems like a good dude.

    At the same time, he’s a savvy businessman. As much as we make fun of the name change, it’s been great for marketing. And if Forbes is to be believed, he’s doubled the value of the franchise in the short time he’s been the owner.

    So kudos to him, even if I do wish misery upon his team.

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  9. ThundaPC says:

    I kinda figured that this would be the current state of the Angels organization. Should be interesting to see how they maintain the pace with the rest of the division.

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  10. Evan says:

    The entire AL West in the 10-15 range. That’s a tight division; it should be exciting and competitive starting right now.

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  11. chiz says:

    #9. Atlanta- getting cheaper and cheaper
    #8. Milwaukee- letting best talent leave
    #7. Cleveland- only this high because of Grady LOVE
    #6. Arizona- can’t possible go any higher
    #5. Yankee’s- without the dough #20, Cashman very overrated
    #4. Cubs- like Yanks $$ saving them
    #3. Tampa Bay- not willing or able to spend with big boys
    #2. Mets- can’t win it without better pitching prospects
    #1. Red Sox- not even close, and Theo is overrated. J.D. Drew was unforgivable

    -11 Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Teej says:

      #8. Milwaukee- letting best talent leave

      They offered C.C. the biggest contract in team history. I wouldn’t say they let him leave. Though they may have to get rid of Fielder pretty soon.

      #1. Red Sox- not even close, and Theo is overrated. J.D. Drew was unforgivable

      Drew’s fragility made the signing scary, and 2008 was bad, but he was a four-win player last year and was underpaid, per WAR. Dude can hit, and he’s a solid right fielder. “Unforgivable” is a bit strong, especially for a team that has the financial ability to overpay.

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      • chiz says:

        Drew- one good month every year does’nt warrant $14 mill. Not even close, and if #’s say that about Drew then those numbers are a joke.

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      • Teej says:

        Even if you ignore June, he hit .261/.389/.409 for a wOBA of .355. I think that’s a little above average for a right fielder, he’s got a solid glove, and I’m ignoring his “one good month.”

        Drew’s a frustrating player, but he’s not the bum he’s often made out to be.

        +12 Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Reg says:

        The Brewers will keep Fielder through the end of the 2011 season most likely. Money won’t be an issue because they have cheaper players coming up to replace some of their starters(Escobar, Gamel, Green, Lawrie maybe) and big contracts(relative to their payroll) dropping off(Hall, Suppan, Cameron). They might trade Fielder, but it won’t be because of money.

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      • Teej says:

        Reg,

        Right. I didn’t explain myself on that one. Fielder isn’t going to break the bank, but because he’s a Boras client and therefore unlikely to sign an extension, and because he has good trade value as a team-controlled slugger for three more years, I could see them trading him if they got a great offer. Who knows, though.

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      • Teej says:

        Oops, my comment should say 2007 was bad.

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      • Teej says:

        Wow. A negative rating for voluntarily fixing a typo so that my message was clearer. What the hell happened to this place?

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      • Joe R says:

        Chiz, if you tried some research, you’d see that he’s averaged ~3.56 wins / year above replacement since 2002.

        If you like baseballprospectus’ #’s better, he has a career 376 BRAR, 25 FRAA, and a 41.2 WARP1 in 4781 PA, or 5.17 WARP1 per 600 PA’s. If we call 600 PA’s a season of baseball, that pretty much puts his career in line with, then that’s basically in line with Miguel Cabrera’s 2008 (684 PA, 5.3 WARP1).

        And he’s the biggest earner on the Red Sox.

        If JD Drew is the official anchor of the Red Sox payroll, I think Epstein’s doing a good job.

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    • Terry says:

      The Rays have increased payroll >200% over the last two seasons.

      +5 Vote -1 Vote +1

  12. El rey says:

    My prediction:
    # 9 Dbacks
    # 8 Cubs
    # 7 Brewers
    # 6 Mets
    # 5 Braves
    # 4 Indians
    # 3 Rays
    # 2 Yankees
    # 1 Boston

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    • Ali says:

      9. Dbacks
      8. Mets
      7. Cubs
      6. Brewers
      5. Braves
      4. Yankees
      3. Rays
      2. Indians
      1. Red Sox

      I think the top four are well above the rest here though the order of 2-4 may be played with depending on how FO and Ownership is weighed (Indians/Rays better FO but less money). Based on what I know about Dave, I can see him valuing the stronger FOs.

      I also think the Mets and Diamondbacks have to be the next two to come down the chain. They seem significantly weaker organizations than the other 7.

      It will be interesting to see how Dave values classical scouting based organizations like the Brewers and Braves compared to the more Saber savy orgs in the pack.

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  13. Christo P. Ney says:

    Four picks in the first 49 in this year’s draft should help a bit w/r/t restocking the system.

    +6 Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Brock says:

      I’m pretty sure they have 5 top picks, getting 2 for K-Rod, 2 for Tex, and a sandwich pick for Garland. They also lost their first round pick on Fuentes. It’s about time too, this will be the first time in three years they’ve had a first round pick, and they’ve only had two top 55 picks picks in the last 4 years.

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  14. Joe says:

    Just to provide some additional detail as to the savvy business dealings of Arte Moreno, just prior to the start of the 2006 season, he was able to implement a 10-year TV deal with Fox Sports Net for $500 million.

    http://articles.latimes.com/2006/apr/03/sports/sp-freewaynotes3

    He’s also done a terrific job in building up the value of the organization. He purchased the team in 2003 for $184 million. As per Forbes’ April 2008 valuation, they had the Angels as the sixth most valuable MLB franchise at $500 million.

    http://www.forbes.com/lists/2008/33/biz_baseball08_Los-Angeles-Angels-of-Anaheim_338666.html

    Unfortunately for Arte his team has probably passed its peak. The last five seasons will represent the high water mark for this organization, as it is highly unlikely they will be able to replicate their past success.

    AL West review for the past 5 seasons. Cumulative won-lost records/winning pct./avg wins.

    Angels : 470-340 (.580) 94.0
    Athletics: 423-386 (.523) 84.6
    Rangers: 402-408 (.496) 80.4
    Mariners: 359-451 (.443) 71.8

    It is rather remarkable that the Angels were able to sustain a .580 winning percentage over an 810 game span. The future for the team is much less certain.

    +12 Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Joe says:

      I forgot to add:

      I think Dave’s write-up about the Angels is excellent. It is as good an assessment I have come across about this team going forward.

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    • Eric says:

      As far as how much he’s improved the value of the franchise… your numbers don’t tell the whole story.

      First, he bought the team for 81% of Forbes’ previous estimate… so some of the gain between the $184M and $500M numbers has to do with him getting the team cheaply relative to Forbes estimates.

      Next you have to compare that to league average for it to be really meaningful.

      The average in this TP is +60% in Forbes valuation. The Angels are slightly over double that at +122%, which means the team has increased $140M more than average.

      Here are the leaders and trailers in percent change:

      WAS +307%
      LAA + 122%
      MIN +122%
      TOR +112%
      PHI +101%

      BAL +28%
      CLE +26%
      TEX +24%
      SEA +21%
      ATL +17%

      Here are total dollars changed above or below average:

      WAS +$279M
      LAA +$140M
      CHN +$106M
      PHI +$99M
      MIN +$91M

      COL -$115M
      SFN -$117M
      TEX -$119M
      SEA -$150M
      ATL -$180M

      So– assuming we count Washington as a special case with the improvement in their value largely tied to an improvement in market alone, then I guess Moreno HAS done pretty well. The Angels are tied for the best percentage increase as well as having the best $$$ increase above average.

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    • TheTruthAboutWally says:

      Hey Wally….ya know who pays attention to penis length? Guys with small ones….

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  15. erik says:

    Their minor league talent is closer to D than C+.

    -5 Vote -1 Vote +1

  16. devin says:

    I’d love to see an absolute scale (eg. 1-100) in addition to the ranked ordering. The AL West is tightly packed in the 10-15 range and are ranked from B-minus to B. I’m not sure if that translates to 80-87 range or an 83-84 range.
    Basically I’d love your thoughts on how tight the pack is…

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    • ThundaPC says:

      It’s going to depend on the teams that are put on the field. For 2008, it’s still Angels/Athletics in the upper group with Mariners/Rangers in the lower group. But now, all four organizations are capable of putting a quality team on the field going forward so things could get REALLY heated in a few years if not a year from now.

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    • Sammy says:

      Given the inherent weirdness of assigning a blanket letter rating to an entire organization, I’m not sure how helpful giving numerical ratings would be, other than in leaving a false impression of immutable precision. Dave already alluded, for example, that he was tempted to rate the M’s a lot higher. I think he could have just as easily justified moving the M’s to the head of the AL West pack, and I think it’s nice that Dave has kept the series honest by acknowledging the messiness of assigning grades and ratings in the first place.

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  17. MG says:

    Angels are going to be one of the more interesting teams in terms of big player moves the next 12-18 months because they have so much payroll flexibility. Allows them to go after an expensive-player like Peavy but they are also going to have to make a bunch of difficult decisions too. Either way Reagins is going to get an immediate shot to make this mark on this team’s immediate future in a big way.

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  18. Omar says:

    B- I’m sorry but the Angels lack of understanding of OBP and SLG make it impossible for me to like their front office. They signed Abreu in spite of Abreu’s skill set, he was just too good of a bargain to pass up; I’m not very impressed with the Angels franchise.

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    • Joe says:

      Apparently an old dog can learn new tricks. Mike Scioscia has recognized the alarming lack of plate discipline and is starting to drill the message into the organization. This article provides some depth as to the changes that are happening within the Angels system.

      http://www.ocregister.com/articles/angels-scioscia-philosophy-2325695-guys-going

      With regards to understanding OBP, Scioscia addressed that matter directly a few days ago as it pertained to Howie Kendrick:

      “Howie might not be the guy with a .400 on-base percentage, but if he hits .320, he’s going to have a .350 on-base percentage, which is enough to hit in front of the middle of our lineup,” Scioscia said. “The way he runs, the amount of doubles he’s going to hit, he’s going to be very productive ahead of that grouping.”

      http://www.latimes.com/sports/la-sp-angels-fyi22-2009mar22,0,6636326.story

      Early in spring training this year Scioscia addressed the potential of Erick Aybar to hit first or second in the lineup:

      ““If you’re going to set the table, you’re going to need to be in that (.350 OBP) range. I mean, league average is somewhere around .330, give or take a couple. … Erick has the ability to get in scoring position an awful lot so maybe his on-base percentage doesn’t have to be off the charts. But it has to be better than .320 or .330 if he’s going to hit in front of your big boys.”

      http://headlines.ocregister.com/sports/aybar_15693___article.html/angels_winter.html

      +7 Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Brock says:

        Teixeira really had an influence on this team last year, his OBP will be missed more than his power. The whole team was talking about how Teixeira’s approach changed their out look last year.

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      • Omar says:

        Excuse me if I remain skeptical. They’re Dustyesque towards the hitting approach. If they do, fine, good for them bad for the AL. They were 18th in OBP last season (below average despite a monster streak from Teixeira), I might be wrong…but given the line up:

        Chone Figgins (career .356, which is good)
        Howie Kendrick (.333)
        Bobby Abreu (.400, though a reluctant signing)
        Vladimir Guererro (.389, .356 last season) sick move by Arte
        Torii Hunter (.326)
        Mike Napoli (monster, but he doesn’t seem to be te type of player that they’d love to get playing time)
        Gary Matthews Jr. (.333 I’m giving them credit for DHing Abreu or Vlad)
        Kendry Morales (approx a .40 IsoD in the minors, gross)
        Erik Aybar (.298, ouch)

        So I see some improvement, but they weren’t all over guys like Burrell, Dunn, or Abreu (OR MANNY!!!11!1!!!11!one!!1!) from the start…which is what I’d see a team that craves OBP.

        And I don’t consider a .350 OBP a good option for a table setter. Who knows, maybe I’m wrong.

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    • Ando says:

      You’re right, five playoff appearences, four division titles, and a WS win all in the past 7 years isn’t at all impressive. If only they’d taken a few more walks.

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  19. Joe R says:

    But imo, top 3 should definitely be the Red Sox, Rays, and Indians. If only the Indians ever made a play on a real big name FA instead of always building stars from the system, they could be #1.

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    • Omar says:

      Yeah, because those NY teams in no where near as good of a spot to be a consistent contender as the Rays and Indians. C’mon, I love the way the Rays and Indians are ran…but the NY teams are fairly well ran (especially the Yankees, IMO) and they have an enormous payroll to overcome bad contracts. Imagine if the Indians were saddled with a mistake like Pavano that looked good at the time, but ended up turning out poorly. Some people have a taste for cleverly ran teams as opposed to good ones.

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