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Organizational Rankings: #16

Today, we keep looking at some teams that have legitimate hope, so it gets harder from here on out. And, for those of you who haven’t seen the previous parts (which are linked below), keep in mind that this is a forward looking exercise – we are evaluating clubs on their overall ability to contend for a World Series title in the future. We are not evaluating how they have performed historically. This is about the health of each organization going forward.

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

Ownership: C

Peter Angelos has a well earned reputation of being a meddlesome owner. He’s made no secret over the years that he expects to have a say in how the team is run, and has held veto power over transactions during his time in control of the organization. However, since the arrival of Andy MacPhail, Angelos has taken a much more hands off approach – my guess would be that this was a condition of MacPhail taking the job. If this continues, then the Orioles may have the best of both worlds – an owner who wants to win and is willing to spend money to do so but has marching orders from his GM to keep arms length from the baseball operations department. However, we can’t ignore that Angelos has meddled before, and will likely have the desire to do so again. It will be interesting to see how involved he wants to be the next time the Orioles are in contention and are looking to make a trade.

Front Office: B

After years of lousy decisions, no direction, and a total lack of leadership in the front office, MacPhail has been a breath of fresh air for Baltimore fans. Since taking over, he’s put the team on a path towards building for the future, has made several astute trades to acquire quality young talent, drafted well, and locked up the team’s two best players to long term contracts. Turning around the Orioles franchise was a monumental task, but MacPhail and his team have done yeomen’s work in that regard, and the Orioles are certainly on the upswing.

Major League Talent: B-

I don’t know if people realize it or not, but this team actually isn’t bad. Not just for the future, but right now. Their outfield defense will be among the best in the game, they have a couple of solid fielders up the middle on the infield, and their offense should be one of the best in the league. Nick Markakis, Brian Roberts, and Adam Jones are all-star talents (obviously, Markakis and Roberts are already there), while Aubrey Huff, Luke Scott, Felix Pie, and Melvin Mora should be solid role players and give the line-up some depth. The rotation is thin after Jeremy Guthrie, but there’s some potential for usefulness with Rich Hill, Koji Uehara, and Mark Hendrickson. Honestly, the Orioles could probably contend in the AL West this year – their division will hold them back, but the talent base is in place for a good run.

Minor League Talent: A-

Since Matt Wieters hasn’t made his major league debut yet, I’m sticking him here, even if he is probably a top ten major league catcher right now. He’s the best prospect we’ve seen in years, and as close to a sure thing as you’ll ever get from a guy who hasn’t stepped foot in the big leagues. But the system doesn’t end with Wieters – Chris Tillman and Brian Matusz are two of the best young arms in the minors, while Jake Arrieta, Brandon Erbe, and David Hernandez are an excellent group of second tier pitching prospects. The Orioles are about to get a significant infusion of young talent, and several of these players will join the core of the next good Orioles team.

Overall: B-

After being the laughingstock of the American League for most of this decade, the O’s are on the verge of being respectable again. It’s hard to imagine a better trio of position players to build around than Wieters-Jones-Markakis, and with some good young arms on the way and an owner willing to spend money to compete, Baltimore could be very good as soon as 2010. Yes, the AL East is a killer, but tough competition can only hold back talent to a degree. Good teams win baseball games, and the Orioles are going to be a good team in the not too distant future.