Organizational Rankings: #25

Today, we round out the bottom five in our organizational rankings series. And, for those of you who haven’t seen the first four 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

Ownership: N/A

Thanks to a messy divorce, long time owner John Moores was forced to sell the team this winter to a group of investors led by Jeff Moorad, and the sale is expected to be finalized in the next few weeks. The Padres will almost certainly be run differently, but exactly how it looks, no one really knows. Moorad has already said that he’s going to be replacing Sandy Alderson as CEO, and Alderson will be leaving the organization. This is an ownership group in transition, and we just don’t have enough information to give them any kind of grade. I will, note, however, that it’s at least got the appearance of shadiness that Moorad was allowed to enter an agreement to buy the Padres while employed by the Diamondbacks. Even if there wasn’t a conflict of interest, it sure looks like there was. Seems to me that could have been handled better.

Front Office: B-

Kevin Towers is a smart, likable guy, and currently the longest tenured GM in the game. He’s done a pretty good job building the Padres into a solid team without significant capital, and overall, you’d have to describe his tenure as a success. However, there’s some serious question marks about how the team will be run going forward. With Alderson on the way out, does he take Asst. GM Paul DePodesta with him? Can Towers avoid being fired if the team struggles in 2009, especially with new ownership? This is not a baseball operations department built on pillars of stone.

Major League Talent: C-

PETCO Park skews a lot of the perceptions about the talent on the Padres roster – the pitchers aren’t as good as advertised, and the hitters are a bit better than everyone thinks. But even with the park adjustments, the Padres scored 637 runs last year while getting a career year from Jody Gerut and an excellent age-37 season from Brian Giles. Regression needs to be expected from both, and there just isn’t much in the way of run production for the Padres outside of those two and Adrian Gonzalez. Chase Headley is a solid enough young player, but when he represents the hopes of your future line-up, things aren’t great. The club really should have sold high on Jake Peavy this winter, as now they have to hope he stays healthy, pitches well, and they can get comparable offers at the deadline. Even in a mediocre NL West, it’s hard to see this team contending for a playoff spot, and it’s not a roster that’s going to get better.

Minor League Talent: C-

This is a system with a bunch of polarizing prospects. Some people see Matt Antonelli as a potential all-star second baseman, while others think he’s more of an average-at-everything kind of guy. Some people are in love with Kyle Blanks‘ power, while others wonder where an NL team is going to play him. There aren’t any position prospects here that everyone loves, and the ranks of the pitching prospects are full of guys who throw 87 MPH and try to get by on smarts. It isn’t a horrible farm system, but it’s not a very good one either, and for a team in need of a talent injection, that’s a problem.

Overall: C

The Padres are a tough team to judge because of the transition period they find themselves in. Without knowing what kind of owner Moorad will be, how the front office will shake out under his leadership, and whether they’re going to try to rebuild or take a last shot at winning with the Peavy-Giles combination makes this perhaps the most uncertain franchise in baseball. If you’re a glass half full guy, you can hold onto the fact that the D’Backs were very well ran while Moorad was in Arizona, and that the front office is full of guys who could run a team well. If you’re a glass half empty guy, then you see an organization that lacks talent, has only a couple of really valuable players (two of whom have full no-trade clauses), and who plays in a division with two teams that are better, younger, and have greater revenue steams. I have a feeling that San Diego is in for some tough times ahead.

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

23 Responses to “Organizational Rankings: #25”

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  1. Jim says:

    I don’t think the Padres have a shot at competing even if they try….

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  2. Bodhizefa says:

    I love you to death, Dave, but I have to wonder aloud how in the heck you could rank this minors system so close to KC’s despite the fact that Kansas City has two guys who should both be five star position prospects followed by a string of interesting pitchers while the Padres have none. In fact, the ONLY defensible position you have to put them ahead of KC is the front office’s evaluation skills of big league talent, but I just don’t see enough of a strength there for the Pads to be considered ahead of an obviously superior Kansas City system overall.

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    • Walter Jones says:

      Both teams are crap. Who cares? San Diego didn’t sign Willie Bloomquist, so it’s obviously the superior team overall.

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    • JH says:

      Really? You think the several B-/C+ arms in the Royals system outweighs the fact that Kevin Towers knows how to fill out a roster and Dayton More locks up power positions with expensive replacement level players?

      I love prospecting, but that’s going way too far. Major leaguers are far more valuable than mid-level prospects. I’ll take the worst system in baseball and a GM who knows how to work the waiver wire and minor league free agent pool over a decent system helmed by a GM who doesn’t understand replacement level.

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      • Tim says:

        Uh I think he thinks the nearly 10 B+/B-/C+ arms in the KC minors, and the fact that Dayton has signed ONE replacement level player,(guillen) who likely only played at replacement level because he was injured most of the year.

        And and moore doesnt know how to accumulate talent? Take a suggestion from the Royals thread and look at the 2005 lineup and rotation and then comeback and say that.

        oh and finally, again I thought this was about the future of the teams, a team with maybe 3-4 above average players, some of which were flukes and with no Minor leauge talent to replace them in 3-4 years outweighs a team with a revitalized minor leagues and a bunch of young MLB talent?

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      • JH says:

        First of all, this is a process argument. The thread is not about the Royals, even though everyone on Fangraphs seems to want to make every thread about them.

        Second, you’re wrong.

        You’re much more impressed with a collection of mid-level arms than I am. The Royals’ current collection doesn’t compare very favorably with other recent pitching-rich organizations in recent memory. If they get 1 middle of the rotation starter and 1 back-ender out of that crop it’ll be a success.

        Guillen may be the only replacement level player he’s signed to an 8-figure per year contract, but between Guillen, Meche, Crisp, Farnsworth, Mahay, Jacobs, Gload, Horacio Ramirez, and Willie Bloomquist, Moore’s committed 45.35 million dollars for a group of players you can reasonably expect to provide between 6-7 wins above replacement.

        For more than the entire payroll of the 2008 Rays, Moore’s added maybe 7 wins if things go right, for a total of between 6.5-7 million dollars per win above replacement player.

        He might have made 1-2 decent moves in his tenure (with Soria being the big win), but there’s no defending a GM with that track record of filling out the roster. Moore is absolutely awful.

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      • JH says:

        That’s 45.35 million dollars in 09 alone, for the record. It also goes up to 45.85 million if they don’t exercise the $8 million option on Coco Crisp for ’10 (which they probably shouldn’t).

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  3. Will says:

    Dave, I’m a little confused. How can you say Towers has “done a pretty good job building the Padres into a solid team without significant capital”, then go on to give pretty crappy scores for their major and minor league talent?
    If I understand correctly, this is more of a guide for the future of the organizations, not of the past. So why are you grading Towers based on what he did a couple years ago and not based on the product he currently has on the field? He’s done a pretty remarkable job at destroying a good team without any notable major-league ready talent in the farm system.

    I can’t see the Padres fielding a good team for another 5 years. Peavy and Gonzalez are reaching their peaks and Giles is already well past his. Where will the talent come from? Dealing Peavy will certainly help, but I agree, SD is in for some tough times.

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    • Bodhizefa says:

      My gut feeling is that Dave has pretty much put the Pads ahead of the other teams behind them due to Towers’ track record alone. And while I admire Towers, I don’t think he’s enough of a talent for me to rank San Diego higher than Kansas City or Florida (and probably Pittsburgh, too).

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    • Teej says:

      The Padres have contended consistently under Towers’ stewardship, and it’s not really fair to blame the weak farm system on Towers when the owner refuses to spend money on the draft. Matt Bush, anyone?

      Towers isn’t perfect, but he’s done a pretty good job considering how little money Moores has been willing to spend.

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  4. TK says:

    I wish I could source this better, but I believe it was Keith Law who said that Moorad engineered the Eric Byrnes extension in Arizona over the objections of the baseball people. That’s not a good sign for his tenure in San Diego, and it’s certainly the kind of thing that could jeopardize his ability to attract and/or retain front office talent.

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  5. honcho says:

    alderson and podesta probably out of San Diego? Any chance the Nats can get one or both of them? Seriously, please??

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  6. Brett says:

    The Padres are not in as much trouble as you would think. Despite the lack of superstar potential on the farm, in the next 2-3 years the Padres will have a safe major league lineup full of league average players or better making league minimum.

    C- Hundley
    1B- Blanks/Dykstra
    2B- Antonelli/Sogard
    3B- Headley
    LF- Kulbacki
    CF- Hunter
    RF- Darnell
    4OF- Venable

    The only position without an answer is SS, which could be addressed with the 3rd pick in this years draft. With a cost friendly lineup, the Padres are able to keep Peavy and Young, and Latos can fill the #4 rotation spot. A trade of Adrian Gonzalez can land a #2-3 pitcher, and some other prospects. Padres also have a ton of 5th starter types- at least 1 will pan out. The farm system should also still be good with a solid 2008 draft and all the recent international signings and the top-notch Dominican facility.

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    • Bill says:

      I think it’s a stretch to project league average production out of the players listed. The failure rate on prospects with the talent level of these players is very high. Towers has done a good job in the past of building a competitive team on a shoestring budget. It was just two season’s ago that they barely missed the playoffs. So, maybe he will pull something out again, but I don’t see it. The division is also better than it has been in a long time. LA is decent. San Fran’s pitching staff could be great. Arizona has a decent pitching staff and their offense should continue to get better as Drew and Reynolds develop. Colorado still has much of the core that made it to the world series.

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  7. Tom says:

    Do these rankings really matter? The Padres aren’t anywhere near one of the 6 worse franchises in baseball, mainly because they play in the NL West. As bad as they were last season, they were a top 10 franchise since they moved to Petco Park. Add in the fact that Towers is one of the top GM’s in baseball (look at his record and the Padres payroll over his tenure) I don’t see why anyone would be down on the Padres.

    The fact is that because of the division they play in, the Padres are in a better position than Tampa Bay. The Rays need pretty much everything to right for them to stay competitive in that division — any injuries or if their prospects don’t pan out they will fall back to the bottom of the AL East.

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    • Teej says:

      The Padres are not in a better position than the Rays, regardless of division. Tampa Bay has a playoff-caliber team that made it to the World Series last year and has its young core locked in for a long time. The Rays will be in the top five of this list, and rightfully so.

      The Padres have a roster full of mediocrity, a below-average farm system and a huge financial constraint. It’s not even close. The Rays have a better chance in the best division in baseball than the Padres have in one of the worst. As one example, PECOTA has the Rays missing the playoffs by 5 games this season and the Padres falling short by 15. And the Rays are loaded for years to come, while the Padres don’t have much to look forward to in the way of the farm system or good young MLB players who will be around for a few years.

      Even in a weak West, the Padres are long shots and probably will be for a few years.

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      • Tom says:

        That’s only true if the Rays are able to keep a majority of their good, young players. They can possibly reload if they lose some of their players to free agency but that’s only if their prospects pan out (which is probably a long-shot). Their margin for error in that division is about zero. Last year, with basically everything going right last season, they still had to rely on injuries to the Yankees and Red Sox to make the playoffs. Sure that can happen every season but it’s unlikely.

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      • Teej says:

        That’s only true if the Rays are able to keep a majority of their good, young players.

        The Rays already have most of their good, young players locked up. Longoria is under team control through 2016(!), Upton through 2011, Garza through 2012, Kazmir through 2012, Price through 2012, Shields through 2014. And so on. They’ll get more expensive as the years go on, but none of these key pieces is going to be a free agent for a long time. This team, as currently constructed, is going to be a contender for years, and that’s not even getting into the farm system, which is still really good.

        They can possibly reload if they lose some of their players to free agency but that’s only if their prospects pan out (which is probably a long-shot).

        They’re not dependent on their prospects panning out, because they already have. It’s pretty clear that Longoria and Upton are good MLB players, and Kazmir-Shields-Garza is a potent top three. (Price hasn’t pitched much in the majors, but I think we all know he’s going to be above-average at the very least.)

        Last year, with basically everything going right last season, they still had to rely on injuries to the Yankees and Red Sox to make the playoffs.

        Kazmir had the worst year of his career, Upton’s power vanished, Crawford took a huge step back and then got injured, Longoria got injured, Percival got injured, and so on.

        The Rays aren’t a fluke. People who were paying attention predicted the breakout years ago. The Red Sox and Yankees have great teams, but they’re not so much better than the Rays that they have their playoff spots locked up.

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    • JH says:

      That just reflects ignorance about the Rays situation. The Rays will get a full season from Longoria this year, which along with natural improvement could kick him up to a +6-6.5-win player and Upton could easily improve by a full win. Pena and Crawford both played significantly worse than they’ve been in previous years, Pat Burrell takes over as everyday DH, and should produce much better than the .246/.322/.428 line they got from the position last year.

      In addition to having a good young player at every position who could potentially improve over ’08, the Rays can take a hit to any position on the diamond except shortstop and catcher and fill the hole in with a league average player. Some offensive improvement from Reid Brignac, and you can scratch shortstop off that list, too. Willy Aybar (2.5-3 WAR over a full season most likely) is ready to step in if Pena, Iwamura, or Longoria go down. Matt Joyce (2-2.5 WAR) should be ready to fill in for either corner OF in the event of injury, and if Upton goes down in CF, Crawford can slide over.

      That’s not even mentioning the upgrade in the rotation from Edwin Jackson to David Price, or the fact that if any of the starting 5 go down, J.P. Howell and Jeff Niemann are ready to step in as above average #5 starters, and Wade Davis and Jeremy Hellickson aren’t far behind them.

      People like to focus on Tampa Bay’s blue-chippers because the team lost for so long. The truth is, they’re only a small fraction of the reason for the team’s success. The Rays opening day roster is right there with the Yankees and Rex Sox in terms of overall quality and upside, and their depth is the best in baseball.

      Billy Beane gets most of the credit for being the best GM at winning on a limited budget, but Andrew Friedman has been absolutely brilliant at filling out his roster with quality players for next to nothing and building a potentially dominant franchise for the next several years in the process.

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