Organizational Rankings: #23

Today, we start 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

Ownership: C-

The Rockies ownership has faced several significant financial problems in the past, ranging from the need to post calls for cash from minority owners to cutting payroll down to small market levels. Despite a beautiful stadium and a city that has shown that it will support a winner, the Rockies operate on a fairly strict budget that restricts the team’s ability to contend. They’ve increased the salary load they’ve been willing to take over the last couple of years, but that still didn’t keep them from trading away Matt Holliday in lieu of signing him to a long term extension. The Rockies face some unique challenges in dealing with baseball at altitude, and having to get by on a low end budget doesn’t help.

Front Office: C

Dan O’Dowd is a man with a lot of ideas. Some of them are very good, while others are a bit more questionable. Overall, he’s showed an ability to identify talent, but in trying to solve the Coors Field problems, the approach has been to throw spaghetti at the wall. They tried high priced left-handed pitchers, to disastrous results. They tried strikeout pitchers who would limit balls in play. Now, they’re trying groundball pitchers, assembling a staff of sinkerball starters who will hopefully limit home runs. In the end, though, it doesn’t appear that the organization is committed to a direction, but instead react to whether their experiments work or fail. Baseball in Denver is certainly different than the rest of the game, but the Rockies need to figure out how to use that to their advantage, and they haven’t been able to do so as of yet.

Major League Talent: B-

It’s easy to forget that this team was in the World Series two years ago. There is talent here, and a healthy Troy Tulowitzki will solve a lot of problems. But is there enough talent on the roster to keep up in the NL West? Todd Helton‘s a good player with a horrible contract. Aaron Cook and Ubaldo Jimenez are good pitchers, but probably not as good as they looked last year. They lost Brian Fuentes and Holliday over the winter, plus Jeff Francis will miss the entire year to an injury. In short, Tulowitzki just doesn’t have enough help, and the team needs to add a few more impact players.

Minor League Talent: B-

Dexter Fowler is one of those impact players that the team needs, and he should be ready sooner than later. Having him patrol center field could be a shot in the arm similar to the one the team got from Tulowitzki in 2007. Jhoulys Chacin fits into their good groundball pitcher mold and gives the team two elite prospects. After that, it levels off to lower upside guys (Seth Smith, Christian Friedrich, Casey Weathers) or prospects far from the majors (Wilin Rosario, Hector Gomez). It’s a decent, but not great, system that should provide a couple of solid assets for the Rockies long term. They could use a few more than they have, though.

Overall C+

There’s just a lot of ifs here. If the Rockies can figure out how to get all their talented players on the field at the same time, and if Dexter Fowler has a terrific rookie year, and if Franklin Morales figures out his mechanics, and if they can replace Fuentes in the bullpen, and if Helton’s back doesn’t go out, this could be a pretty decent team. Of course, the odds of all those things happening aren’t very good, as you have to plan for what’s probable, not what’s possible. There is a good group of young, cost-controlled talent in place, but for the Rockies to win consistently, they’re going to have to figure out how to retain their best players or develop some more good ones internally. Right now, they’re kind of stuck in the middle.

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Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.

20 Responses to “Organizational Rankings: #23”

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  1. Russell says:

    hmm… maybe there is an anti-NL bias? Yes the Rox have had pitching problems “in the past” and the contact that Helton signed “in the past” was awful… but aren’t we looking forward? Plus winning in the NL west means reaching .500 … the Rox are (by default) in contention to make the play-offs, and as we saw 2 years ago, that gives you an shot at the Series. How the Rox are worse off then the O’s is beyond me (unless one stud catcher is worth 25 wins.)

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    • Walter Jones says:

      O’s have worse ownership, no doubt. But they do have Adam Jones, Chris Tillman and a few other better, younger pieces than the Rox.

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    • Teej says:

      The O’s are loaded with talented young players, they have a GM who’s pulled off some pretty impressive trades (including one that drove me to alcoholism). They’re hosed in the AL East, of course, but they appear to be on their way to respectability.

      And while I doubt how true it is, it appears that Angelos has backed off a little and let MacPhail do his thing.

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      • Sentinel says:

        Let’s be honest, Teej. You were an alcoholic before the Bedard trade. ;)

        Hey, Dave! I see you were quick to throw in the WSJ bit. Good job.

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    • don says:

      I guess it depends on how you look at it. The AL is still a superior league by a decent margin… but that gives mediocre NL teams better prospects for success.

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    • Wally says:

      Its going to take more than .500 to contend in the west. The Dodgers and D-backs have some pretty good teams and should push 90 wins. Then, I don’t even see the Rockies all that close to the .500 mark. Last I saw Pecota had them at 75 wins…

      And Dave don’t you think Street could more or less replace Fuentes? Fuentes was great last year, but Fuentes wasn’t going replicate that. However, Street could more or less equal anything we could expect from Fuentes in 09.

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      • Russell says:

        .500 is 81 wins, so “pushing 90” doesn’t equal out of reach. And they’re only pushing 90 wins if they stay healthy. That said I don’t expect much from the Rox, I just think that there are AL teams — mostly in Baltimore — that are worse off.

        I don’t think you can evaluate a franchise and ignore the league and division they play in. The Twinkies have a great shot in the AL central, but in the East they’d be an also-ran. Being the 4th or 5th team in your division every year is a really bad thing, and that is all the O’s can realistically hope for.

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      • Wally says:

        Russell, the 87-89 wins might not be that far from 81 wins, but it is already a stretch that they make 81 wins. Maybe not by a lot. But the over under has to be closer to 75 than 81…Meaning they need to add ~11 wins stead of ~7. That’s a huge difference.

        And remember by “pushing 90” that also means they, particularly the Dodgers, could go over 90, which is WAY out of reach. That projection I saw that had the Dodgers at 89 win was before they signed Manny as well. The Rockies are out of it this year, unless something terribly fluky happens three times. Both the D-back and Dodgers get unlucky (Dodger would need more bad luck than the D-backs) and the Rockies get lucky.

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  2. Ophidian says:

    Dave, I’m surprised that there was no mention of Ianetta he’s got to be one of the young players they build around,no?

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    • Matt says:

      Also, what about Carlos Gonzalez? Doesn’t he figure into the plan somehow? Oh ya, and I know this is the new and improved NL West, but I still think it’s wild and that anything could and should happen. It’ll probably take a high 80’s/low 90’s team to win the division, and I don’t really see the Rox doing that, but stranger things have happened.

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  3. bikozu says:

    I’m glad to see you’ve taken San Francisco out of the cellar. They’re loaded with talent and setting themselves up to win for a long time, despite the Zito contract.

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    • Sentinel says:

      They’ve made some great signings this offseason. Especially picking up RJ on the cheap.

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  4. Joe says:

    Would you or the fangraphs web gurus consider starting a “Organizational Rankings” lookup category? Not they are difficult to find, but reading them in sequence would be a bit faster.

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  5. Fresh Hops says:

    I’m going to disagree about Ubaldo Jimenez and say that I think he could be one of the best pitchers in the majors if he weren’t in Colorado. “Could” is the operative word here: we really don’t know what he would do and what he would learn if he regularly pitced in a normal atmosphere.

    His road FIP is 3.4. He struck out 9.4/IP and gave up just 3 home runs in 95 IP of road games. He also walked an astounding 5.6/IP. His home numbers, of course, look like those of a totally different pitcher; he has a 4.0 FIP at home, with 6.3 K/9 and 3.7 BB/9. The guy has great GB stuff; he gave up just 8 HR in Coors last year (103.3 IP)

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  6. aweb says:

    “Rockies need to figure out how to use that to their advantage, and they haven’t been able to do so as of yet. ”

    It seems to me the Rockies have forgotten one of the bigest lessons they did learn in their early existence – good veterean players can and sometimes do have huge years in Colorado. From 1995-2001, the Rockies were basically a .500 team, hugely entertaining (scoring 900+ runs per year)…Bichette, Galarraga, Castilla, Burks… aside form the truly elite hitters (Walker, Helton), they always had a strong supporting cast to help out. Last year, they scored 747 runs.

    The Humidor experiment started in 2002, and since then, with tthe exception of one magical late season run, they have been thoroughly mediocre. They were only slightly better before that, but way more fun. I say throw away the humidor and embrace the fun.

    I also suspect that players are unusually reticent to sign with the Rockies – pitchers are scared, and elite hitters wouldn’t want the giant thin air asterisk on their numbers (even if Texas and Arizona are almost as bad these days, a lot of people don’t realize that).

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  7. Paul says:

    Here’s to hoping a O’Dowd makes a slick trade involving Atkins and the Rockies move up a tier in 2010…

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  8. Bic says:

    I could not disagree with you more, Dave. Quite honestly, I don’t know how this team ranks so low. Just from your list of teams so far, you seem to have a large bias towards teams that have recently performed bad.

    Moving on to the Rockies, how could fail to mention three young but enormous talents in the Rockies organization: Ian Stewart, Chris Ianetta and Carlos Gonzalez. Put them with Troy Tulowitzki and Dexter Fowler and you have yourself five potential all-stars who could carry this team for years to come.

    As soon as Franklin Morales puts it all together and Jhoulys Chacin makes his way to the majors, those two with Ubaldo Jimenez could make up a pitching staff that would hang with any team in the NL West.

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  9. Hindsight Twenytweny says:

    Perhaps 23 seems a bit low now that we have seen what Tulo can do healthy and with the emergence of CarGo? Ubaldo will regress, but he’s still a legit ace. Who really believes that there are 22 teams at this point witha better chance to win a WS tan these guys?

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