Organizational Rankings: #30

Today, I’m kicking off a new series – over the next three weeks, we’ll rank all thirty MLB organizations, but rather than doing it just by some portion of their franchise (whether major league talent, minor league talent, front office talent, etc…), we’ll do an all encompassing overview of where each major league club stands. The following list should be viewed as something like organizational health, top to bottom.

Today, we kick off the list with the franchise that has more work to do to get back on track than any other in baseball.

#30: Washington Nationals

Front Office: D-

This was an F before Jim Bowden left. With him out of the picture, there’s a door open for the franchise to start making moves to send the team in the right direction. Unfortunately, Stan Kasten doesn’t seem to be walking through the door. A new general manager could overhaul the organization and establish a new path, but right now, the leadership is in limbo and no one really knows where they’re going to head.

Major League Talent: C-

There’s some good young players in the fold – Ryan Zimmerman, Elijah Dukes, Lastings Milledge, John Lannan, and Joel Hanrahan all showed that they have some major league abilities last year. Adam Dunn and Cristian Guzman are solid veteran role players. But the guys who have star power come with significant risks, and the guys the team can count on have limited upsides. It’s just not a roster that fits well together, either. In a best case scenario, the Nationals could finish .500 this year, and even that’s a longshot.

Minor League Talent: C

There’s some good young arms in Jordan Zimmerman, Collin Balester, and Ross Detwiler on the farm. And, if you give them credit for potentially drafting Stephen Strasburg with the #1 pick this summer, then there’s quite a bit of hope for their future rotation. But the depth of position player prospects is remarkably thin, and the Esmailyn Gonzalez revelation didn’t help at all. For a team that’s been pretty bad for a while, you’d expect a better farm system. This one’s not very good.

Overall: F

Yes, this is kind of kicking a group of men when he’s down, but it’s impossible to find an organization in worse shape than the Nats. They’re coming off a major league worst 102 loss season and their GM just resigned amidst a scandal over significant issues with their Dominican scouting operations. Rather than hiring a new general manager, the team president is just handling business himself while giving Asst. GM Mike Rizzo some increased authority without a promotion.

There are things Nationals fans can cling to in hoping for the future, but 2009 isn’t going to be much fun, and 2010 probably won’t be either.




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


36 Responses to “Organizational Rankings: #30”

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  1. t ball says:

    Is it too late for them to get in on the stimulus package or the bailout bill?

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  2. Joe says:

    Very cool idea for a series. Have you considered maybe including a financial prospective in the front office section? It could shed a some light on how a club does business.

    I’m excited to read the entire series.

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  3. Fresh Hops says:

    Are these going to be offered in reverse order of organization health or in order of last year’s record? Just curious.

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  4. John says:

    I’ll give them credit for Strasburg when they actually sign him.

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  5. Josh S says:

    Dave, nice idea. I’m looking forward to the series.

    I would disagree with your letter grades for the Nationals slightly though. First, they have a decent offensive core at the major league level. Zimmerman, Willingham, Dukes, Milledge, and Flores. The pitching is woeful-

    But the minor league depth chart is awful too. I’d have that well below a C.

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    • Dave Cameron says:

      Willingham isn’t much of a player, and given his escalating salaries, I’d say its unlikely they even tender him arbitration next winter.

      For the minor leagues, I’m giving them credit for the #1 pick in the draft.

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  6. ThundaPC says:

    Nice.

    Finally get the sequel to the post done by Dave over a year ago at USSM (which was more of an overview). I’ve become more and more fascinated by how front offices operate, particularly the ones that have gone through a major overhaul recently.

    Really looking forward to this series.

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  7. Ann Ominous says:

    You average a C, a C- and a D- together and get an F? That right there tells me that you’re in far worse shape than the Nationals are!

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    • Dave Cameron says:

      It’s not an average.

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      • ChapelHeel66 says:

        So what is it?

        Seems like for this to be understandable to your readers, there has to be some logical way that you get an F out of three higher grades. Is there a curve or something?

        Just curious.

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      • Dave Cameron says:

        It’s a grade.

        Think of it in terms of a baseball team – the Nationals were the worst team in baseball, but they didn’t score the fewest runs or allow the most. It was the combination of being bad at both that made them worse than everyone else.

        Being bad at everything leads to an F, even if you’re not the worst at anything.

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      • Will says:

        Are they bad at everything?
        By my understanding a C is average. According to you, they’re about average with minor league and major league talent, then pretty bad in the front office. How does that make an overall F, especially when they’re a Zduriencik-hiring away from being average or possibly above average in that category?

        I’m a Nats fan, and I actually think you’re being a little generous on minor league talent, granted picks #s 1 and 9a could change all that. I guess it just seems that your overall grade seems arbitrary and unnecessary. Either a GPA-based approach (which would give the Nats a 1.44 or slightly above a D+) or just eliminating the overall grade would make more sense, since ranking the Nats last is basically the equivalent of a failing grade, anyway.

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  8. Will says:

    If I take anything away from this, it’s if the Nats make the right move on two things (the next GM and the draft), they could easily vault themselves to the front of the middle of the pack.
    Picking a smart GM would instantly improve their grade to a B or A, and successfully signing Stephen “The Best Prospect Ever” Strasburg, pick #10 and the rest of their top 10, would improve their minor league talent to the B or A range as well.

    Too bad major league talent is the only thing that really matters in the end…

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  9. Ann ominous says:

    So I guess we can expect to see the other 29 teams get better than C, C- and D in those categories, eh? I better see that, or I’m giving you an F. It won’t be an average, it’ll be a grade.

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    • Dave Cameron says:

      This just isn’t that difficult to grasp. If you can’t get your mind around why the worst run team in baseball deserves an F, then I don’t know how to help you.

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  10. Ann ominous says:

    So, what kind of grade would you have given the FO if they’d named Rizzo GM? Because they’ve given him the job in all but name. He has all the authority of a GM. if he does a good job, he’ll get the title. If he screws up, they’ll bring in someone better. Are you categorizing Rizzo as a D- GM? If so, why?

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    • Nathan says:

      A front office is about more than just the GM. In a good front office the GM should be listening to his scouts and analysts, parsing the data, and making the final decision. Without good people under them, even the best GM won’t look like it.

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  11. Spam castin says:

    Your grading system has all the logic of a doctor telling his patient “all your vital signs are there, yet somehow you’re dead.”

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  12. Longgandhi says:

    I’m not sure one can grade the Nats based on last year. They had so many injuries that rating their talent based on the numbers from last season significantly undersells them. Even in the minors they suffered quirky injuries so to suggest they have little or no talent there is just not doing the due diligence. Baseball America rated their system as the 9th best last year and they certainly didn’t graduate a propenderance of their prospects. They have the youngest team in the majors and teams like that will certainly experience growing pains, but this organization is most certainly not the worst in baseball. And given how much talent Bowden acquired for basically nothing during his tenure – Soriano, Dukes, Kearns and Lopez most notably – and the years the Nats have gotten out of guys taken from the scrap heap, it’s intellectually dishonest to say he brought no positive value to the franchise.

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  13. Longgandhi says:

    Also, I think most teams would love to have a “role player” who has hit at least 40 home runs in each of the last five years and has a career OPS just shy of .900.

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    • The Typical Idiot Fan says:

      You’re right. Who needs all this wonderful information on this site about offensive value, defensive value, and how it adds up to the total value of a player in WAR when you know the guy hits 40 home runs and OPS’s over 900?

      Silly Fangraphs. Wasting your time like that with all that analysis.

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      • Longgandhi says:

        So are you suggesting those numbers have no value? or that his defense in left is so bad as to negate it? It says on this site that Dunn is in the top 50 in baseball in both in RAR/150 and WPI. Top 50 doesn’t sound like a “role player” to me. Is there some other metric you’d like to point out that shows his contributions are completely average?

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      • jhrekrojhf says: jhrekrojhf says:

        How about the one he just pointed out? You know, the one that ranks Dunn 123rd among position players over the last three years?

        If you think UZR has been a bit too harsh on his defense you can bump him up a few dozen slots, but any way you care to slice it, Adam Dunn is not an elite player. Not even close.

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      • Longgandhi says:

        I don’t recall saying that Dunn was an elite player. Perhaps you don’t have a category between “elite player and “role player”; I do – major league regular. To me, a role player is a guy who comes off the bench or provides part of a platoon and Dunn doesn’t fit that category. Did I miss the definition of “role player” in the glossary?

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  14. Kamau says:

    Like the others, I don’t get your math. And I think you’re being a bit lazy on your analysis, looking mostly at last years statisitics.

    Sure the Nats had the worst record in baseball last year — which had a lot to do with miserable management and injuries. Bowden is GONE. And, for the Nats, he wasn’t necessarily a total failure as GM — we are beginning to see some of his work bear fruit.

    I’m thinking you don’t agree with the projections for players like Zimmerman, Milledge, Dukes or Dunn — or the breakout potential.

    Last year the rotation was a wash coming into ST — this year they at least have major league level guys fighting for positions. 3-4-5 starters, yes, but definitely major leaguers.

    For what its worth, I think a better analysis will put the Nats at more like 20-25 in ranking. The season will bear this out.

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    • Ryan B says:

      A ‘better’ analysis? Or an analysis which comes closer to what you think of this organization?

      I don’t think Dave is trying to make these rankings line up with how a team is going to do this year….these are organizational rankings moving forward, not just how they might finish in 2009

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  15. Bill says:

    Daniel Cabrera Major League level guy. There’s a reason Baltimore let him go. He throws 89-93 mph with no control. Even in the NL, he will be brutal.

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  16. Bill says:

    Sorry, it took out my not equal to sign. Daniel Cabrera is not equal to a Major League level guy.

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  17. Brian says:

    Out of the AL east, and into the NL east, Cabrera will be a near shoe-in to post average MLB pitcher numbers. He played in the most homer friendly ball park in baseball over the last few seasons. He was called the team Ace and all the added pressure doesn’t help. He got poor run support which added pressure. Plus, now he plays in an average park with much lower expectations, weaker lineups that also have pitchers to face. He will get them an ERA in the mid to low 4s and pitch 200 innings as long as he stays healthy. That is a decent guy for a measly $2.5 million.

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