Organizational Rankings: #4 – Texas

What do Frank Francisco, Darren Oliver, Colby Lewis, Michael Young, and Vladimir Guerrero have in common, besides being members of the Texas Rangers? They were born in the 1970s. Why is that interesting? Because they are the only five players on the Rangers 40-man roster that you can say that about. The Rangers have five guys in the organization in their thirties. Five.

Name a position, and the Rangers almost certainly have a good player either in his prime or headed towards it. You would start your team with their double play combination before any other organization’s in the game. They have a a couple of all-star slugging outfielders that can drive in runs in bunches. They have a deep stable of starting pitchers, as they can easily pick between eight or nine guys, depending on who is healthy and throwing well. They have a kid throwing 100 in the bullpen.

Oh, and they have perhaps the best farm system in the game, led by a few more premium talents, one of whom could take the team’s first base job later this summer. The talent that the Rangers have to build around is ridiculous in both depth and ability. And they may be ready for prime time as early as this year.

Not only are the Rangers young and talented, but they’re also pretty good. If there’s a favorite in the AL West, it’s probably them, as they’re generally at the top of the pre-season projections, even if only by a game or two. Their commitment to defense has given them the ability to keep opponents from turning games into a slugfest, but they still have enough juice in their bats to put runs on the board themselves. They’re counting on the maturation of several young pitchers, which is always risky, but the talent is there for the Rangers to win the division and make some noise in the playoffs.

While Jon Daniels has taken a bit of flack for several trades gone wrong over since he took over at GM, the positive has far outweighed the negative, and the scouting staff around him have done tremendous work in reloading the system. The Rangers are legitimate contenders in 2010 and have a remarkably strong base to build off of for the future. They’re good now and could be great in a year or two, and that’s why they rank as the fourth healthiest organization in baseball.




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

40 Responses to “Organizational Rankings: #4 – Texas”

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  1. Danmay says:

    I’m and A’s fan and you have effectively convinced me of why I should be very afraid. Thanks, I guess.

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  2. MX says:

    I really don’t see the point of this ranking series. You either rank the present or the future. You can’t rank both present AND future. There are so many unpredictable things, which make this series meaningless.

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    • Sky Kalkman says:

      I don’t accept your premise.

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      • DavidCEisen says:

        Well if the point of this series is to take a long view of success, then you would assume that there would be similar rankings on a year to year basis–if long term success is predictable then the rankings should remain fairly constant from 2009 to 2010.

        Yet only 4 of last years top ten are still located there–last year the Mets were ranked at 5 and the Indians at 4, this year they are at 15 and 13, respectively. The Cubs fell from 7 to 18. Meanwhile the Rockies moved all the way from 23 to 7, the Twins from 18 to 5, and the Cardinals from 21 to 10.

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      • Sky Kalkman says:

        Well then maybe Fangraphs is doing the rankings poorly. But that doesn’t mean you can’t combine current and expected future talent into one rating.

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      • Mike K. says:

        Replying to David…the Mets in particular, the rash of injuries from last year still affect them this year. Reyes, Beltran, and Johan all had injuries from last year that are lingering, and are drawing questions to how durable/effective they will be going forward.

        As someone early on requested, if we could have a “score” for teams that would help. For example, if the Mets had a total of 780/1000 last year, and dropped to 730/1000 this year – combined with some other teams adding a little – it would seem much more consistent. Perhaps then also adding last year’s score in with the write-up would help.

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    • Danmay says:

      It’s only meaningless if you believe that nothing can be gained from trying to evaluate specific aspects of organizations and making judgements attempting to put a value on which organizations are better and worse at those particular aspects. Sure there is no way to definitively conclude anything but it seems as though fangraphs has identified some of the key aspects of a successful organization and presented them in a fun way we can all enjoy and argue about them.

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  3. Bronnt says:

    I don’t have a big problem with this, though I would almost certainly have put them at 3 and the Rays at 4. While the Rays have loads of cost controlled talent, a competent front office, and a good farm system, they also have one of baseball’s smallest payrolls in baseball’s toughest division.

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    • Sky Kalkman says:

      Yeah, if the defining metric here is something like “expected World Series championships over the next 8 years”, the Rays are at a big disadvantage. One, they have such a small payroll and revenue stream. But even if you account for that and still have faith they’ll put the third-best true-talent team on the field, they’re competing with the #1 and #2 organizations just to make the playoffs. That’s REALLY got to crimp their style.

      I guess it’s good to keep in mind that you could create lists like this with many many different definitions, which could create drastically different lists. This is just one definition.

      And since I’m not supposed to blame Dave for this ranking and spread the hate to the whole FG team, I guess I’ll blame RJ it. It’s always his fault.

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  4. Brick says:

    Horrible!
    Kidding…

    Didn’t realize how freaking young that org. is top to bottom. Michael Young is the only guy from that group that I’d actually expect anything from.

    What are we looking at as far as the track record for Jon Daniels’ trades?

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    • Kevin S. says:

      He gets killed for the trade where he gave up A-Gon and Chris Young for Adam Eaton’s sucktitude, but he got a king’s ransom for Teixeira (IMO, even better than the much-ballyhooed return the O’s got on Bedard) and cleared out Millwood for a relatively-cheap bullpen piece and the space to sign the higher-upside Rich Harden. I’m sure there were others, but those are the three that come to mind.

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      • Stringer Bell says:

        He traded Jon Danks for Brandon McCarthy as well. That was his 2nd biggest mistake.

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      • philkid3 says:

        I find it hard to believe Daniels would have known McCarthy was such a glass statue, or that learning a cutter would cause Danks to turn a corner (and now the organization is teaching cutters, I suspect partly because of that incident).

        It’s a mistake because it didn’t work out, but without the aid of hindsight it’s not a ridiculous trade.

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    • philkid3 says:

      He once dealt Adrian Gonzalez and Chris Young for Adam Eaton.

      The Danks-for-McCarthy trade made sense at the time, though. Hindsight is 20/20. Can’t say the same for the A-Gon traid.

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      • Ben George says:

        Lets not forget that it was Eaton and Outsaka, a very good setup man for Young and Gonzalez.

        Young is not a very good pitcher, he is more a product of his ball park than anything else. I think Texas would have loved to see Gonzalez reach his potential, but he has barely over the mendoza line in Texas and finally clicked in his 3rd organization after several months of poor results in SD.

        At the time it was an even to slight uneven deal. The fact that both pitchers that went to Texas got hurt and Gonzalez finally reached his potential in his 3rd stop is what makes it so bad in hindsight.

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      • B N says:

        @Ben George:
        It was still a horrible trade. I understand the logic behind it, but it’s still dumb. It was based upon three principles:

        1. Chris Young will only be marginally above average in the Rangers’ home park.
        2. Adrian Gonzalez is blocked by other guys at 1B.
        3. It was unclear if Adrian’s power would develop to this level.

        So they thought to trade for a starter who might do better in a home run haven, plus a great setup guy. … Except that’s still a really bad trade. Setup men just aren’t worth that much, especially on a club not expected to compete that year.

        Eaton, on the other hand, was consistently overvalued. I don’t know what clubs saw in him, but I never saw it. The guy never struck anybody out, he gave up a solid number of walks, neither his FIP nor ERA ever broke 4, and he played in an extreme pitcher’s park. How did TWO teams chase this guy?

        Chris Young should have had more value than him. He was younger, had more years of control, and had a better K rate with similar peripherals. Sure, he’d have more value on another club with a deeper park but that’s no excuse for trading down. They should have traded Young, definitely. He had more value elsewhere, that’s a great situation to trade somebody. But you’re supposed to trade them for an improvement- not a loss.

        Adrian Gonzalez should have been traded too. He was blocked and had value to other teams. He fielded well and might develop solid power. Even if he didn’t turn into what he did, he still could have easily been an Overbay or a Garko type (but with much better defense). That’s worth something more than a middle reliever.

        If they had traded either one of these guys to the Padres for Otsuka and Eaton, that would have been a solid trade. But both was just a bonehead move.

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  5. JCA says:

    Dave – unrelated to your post, but I thought you would “appreciate” this Tom Boswell rant from his chat today (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/discussion/2010/03/31/DI2010033102857.html):

    “Arlington, Va.: Why still no interest in Jermaine Dye by the Nats? At this point I’m sure he’d be willing to take an incentives laden deal. He has to be better than Willie Harris!

    Tom Boswell: Horrible UZR in the OF. That scares the Nats who probably now depend on modern defensive stats too much. But, seriously, you can’t have Willingham, Dunn, Dye and desmond’s arm on the same field at the same time. Pitchers would have a nervous breakdown.

    My computer just ate a nice post I did on UZR.
    The Fangraphs valuations just don’t come close. Something’s wrong with their method and I think its probably UZR. Folr example, they value the whole 84-win Rays team in ’09 at a salry of $229M, but they think the 80-win Brewers, just four less wins, are “worth” only $116M using their stat methods. Huh???? Even worse, they say the A’s and Blue Jays, both with 75 wins, are worth $162M and $176M, but the Astros and Pads, who won 74 and 75 games, are only worth $98M and $96M. Obviously, to me, there’s a big problem here.

    UZR is a big (negative) factor in the Nats thinking about resigning Adam Dunn. IMO, they need to get over it and trust teir own eyes, and scouts, more. UZR slaughters him. Your eyes say he’s just lousy, not toxic waste. In five years, the various new defensive metrics will be inproved, debunked or whatever. But the Nats shouldn’t trust them TOO much.,

    In other words, no Dye when you already have issues at LF, 1st and SS. But realize that part of the reason you can sign Dunn so relatively cheaply is that the biggest current market INEFFICIENCY may be some of the defensive stats themselves. Oh, that ought to bring ‘em out of the woodwork. Go on, explain those salary valuation. It can’t be done. Any method or theory that proposes to assign “win value” to every player has to be consistent with past win totals. Duh.”

    The “duh” is why he is such a good writer.

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    • philkid3 says:

      If I downvote this post, will you realize it’s meant for Boswell and not you?

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    • B N says:

      Two matters. Firstly, he’s clearly a dummy on this matter. I find it incredibly easy to believe that the Jays are nearly twice as good as the Astros. While the exact value may be debatable, the relative value is quite reasonable.

      The Brewers are a more complex situation. They were bad last year, and I’d say their performance was indicative of that kind of a gap between them and the Rays. And this difference is largely on defense and pitching, which are kind of important elements of the game- last I recall.

      Also, this Boswell fellow seems to have no concept of the difference between team value and team performance. The Rays are worth more than the Brewers, I’d say. Their performance is going to be not quite commensurate with this, due to non-linear effects (see lineup) and competition. Which Boswell seems unable to understand. “Obviously, there’s a problem there.”

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  6. Chair says:

    “Name a position, and the Rangers almost certainly have a good player either in his prime or headed towards it. You would start your team with their double play combination before any other organization’s in the game. They have a a couple of all-star slugging outfielders that can drive in runs in bunches. They have a deep stable of starting pitchers, as they can easily pick between eight or nine guys, depending on who is healthy and throwing well. They have a kid throwing 100 in the bullpen.

    Oh, and they have perhaps the best farm system in the game, led by a few more premium talents, one of whom could take the team’s first base job later this summer. The talent that the Rangers have to build around is ridiculous in both depth and ability. And they may be ready for prime time as early as this year.”

    None of these things can be said about the Ms, but apparently a good FO is enough to equalize things.

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    • Ari Collins says:

      To be fair to the Ms org, they not only have a good FO, but a clear owner willing to spend money.

      And while their rotation is deep, it doesn’t have anyone all that great in it.

      But overall, I agree. Ms too high.

      (I still had to nitpick with your argument, of course. This is the internet, after all.)

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      • Ari Collins says:

        And by “their rotation is deep,” I meant, “the Rangers’ rotation is deep.” Fricking antecedents.

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      • The Ancient Mariner says:

        I should say, if you would put the Phillies ahead of the M’s, you must really like the players they thought were worth more to them than Cliff Lee.

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      • Chair says:

        So I guess we are judging entire organizations on singular trades that have minimal long term impact, makes perfect sense.

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    • LibertyBoy says:

      Hey, never underestimate the value of having a catchy-sounding name.

      Actually, to say a team “will be competitive” or “is assured of future success” within 5 years is a given, just a symptom of revenue-sharing. Verducci’s latest in SI mentions that just about one team in each league every year goes from a losing record to a playoff berth. Not a Verducci fan, but he is a reliably keen observer of the obvious. Reach into the hat, throw a dart, flip a coin.

      That said, I would rate Texas highly. I like what they do with pitchers, like, let them pitch.

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    • The Ancient Mariner says:

      Umm, two things to note here.

      1. You do realize that the Rangers are ranked two spots *higher* than the M’s, don’t you?

      2. You do realize that the steps between spots aren’t all equal, don’t you?

      (I.e., there are clumps, and then there are big gaps. #s 5-10 are close, and then there’s a real gap between the fifth-best team (MIN) and the fourth-best (TEX).)

      In other words, there is no *equalizing* in place–the Rangers are at this point, according to this list, a significantly stronger organization than the M’s. Which is, I think, inarguable.

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      • Chair says:

        Well I think my point is obvious. The rankings place Seattle among the talent rich organizations of Texas, and the big three in the AL East. The Ms are not talent rich, lacking the many qualities here in described about the Rangers.

        I think it better to judge the actual health of an economy, not just to assume booms will result from smart leadership.

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    • Greg says:

      I had actually expected the M’s to be one slot higher, just because I’d heard so much more about their genius this offseason. But I didn’t know young the Rangers’ players are overall, so I guess I learned something.

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    • Teej says:

      Thank you. There was a huge shortage of Mariners-related comments yesterday and was having a hard time figuring out the general consensus among Fangraphs readers toward their ranking in this series.

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  7. adohaj says:

    “You would start your team with their double play combination before any other organization’s in the game.”

    Any in the game?

    The Phillie’s combo looks better to me.

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    • The Ancient Mariner says:

      Don’t forget age, especially since Rollins looks like he might be falling off a cliff.

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    • philkid3 says:

      He said if you’re starting a team.

      If I’m trying to compete in 2010 alone, I agree. That wasn’t his point.

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  8. bflaff says:

    Don’t we need to know what kind of revenues the new ownership group will commit before we lock down a 4?

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    • philkid3 says:

      I’m guessing this spot assumes ownership will be able to sustain recent payroll levels while avoiding MLB taking control of the finances. If they’re able to get back up to the previous payroll levels they’ve had in the past, they may actually deserve to be higher; if they fall even lower, they don’t, but neither of these extremes is a safe assumption.

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  9. Condor says:

    This is bullshit!! How the hell can you guys justify the Rangers being ranked No. 4? THEY PLAY IN TEXAS! THEY WILL NEVER WIN ANYTHING PLAYING IN THAT BANDBOX OF A STADIUM!

    Pfft, these opinion articles are getting out of hand. The authors of this site clearly do not know what they are doing and have never watched a baseball game. The Mariners should have been ranked ahead of Texas and below the Dodgers.

    /sarcasm

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  10. LaneC says:

    It’s an absolute travesty that Seattle ranked higher than a clearly superior organization like Texas…Wait, what was that? Fangraphs ranked Texas higher than Seattle?

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  11. CarstenCharles says:

    “they’re counting on the maturation of young pitchers”…
    Not what you want to hear in a season outlook. Their starting five of Feldman, Harden, Lewis, Hunter, and Harrison barely combine for 100 career wins, and none has ever pitched 200 innings in a season. Harden’s always an injury risk, and the back end of the rotation really isn’t proven. Starting pitching is still their achilles. This team doesn’t make the playoffs in 2010.

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    • philkid3 says:

      It’s not what you want to hear, but the Rangers were 18th in RAR from their starting pitchers in 2009 (with a huge drop to 19th, btw; weird to look at). They were 5th from the bottom in xFIP. And they won 87 games.

      Yeah, counting on the maturation of young pitchers isn’t the ideal strategy for a current season, but they also don’t have a lot to live up to from the season before, and the season before might just be enough to win the division (RLYW has the average AL West leading record at 89). Lewis and Harden replacing Padilla and Millwood, with the Hunter/Holland/McCarthy/Harrison/Feldman group repeating ’09 is no tall order. And there’s some real chance for upside there.

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