Organizational Rankings: #8

As we finish out the top eight, all of the remaining clubs earn an overall grade of A-, A, or A+. These eight franchises have separated themselves from the rest of the pack – there’s probably a bigger gap between #8 and #9 than between #8 and #4, for instance. If you root for any of the upcoming teams, you should be very pleased. The future looks bright for all the upcoming franchises.

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
#15: Seattle Mariners
#14: Philadelphia Phillies
#13: Los Angeles Dodgers
#12: Texas Rangers
#11: Oakland Athletics
#10: Los Angeles Angels
#9: Arizona Diamondbacks

#8: Atlanta Braves

Ownership: A-

As we’ve mentioned, corporate ownership generally isn’t a great thing for a franchise. However, the Braves have been swapped between media conglomerations and been lucky enough to have both invest in the franchise during their respective periods of control. Liberty Media took control from Time Warner in 2007 and significantly added to the payroll last year, then went on a spending spree this winter. With a major media market and a broad following thanks to their years on TBS, the team has plenty of revenue and should be able to sustain high level payrolls going forward.

Front Office: B+

Over the last 20 years, no one has developed a stronger player development pipeline than the Braves. They’ve mastered the art of drafting local kids, getting them into their system, and turning them into major league regulars. It’s been the foundation of their success, and the system is still in place. That continual stream of young talent has allowed them to compete even while making some questionable decisions at the major league level, and while the Braves still operate with little regard for statistical analysis, they are so good at scouting and development that they can succeed anyway. They’d do well to complement their strengths with some better understanding of major league value, but what they do well dwarfs the things they do poorly. As long as they keep developing a bundle of home grown stars, they’ll be contenders.

Major League Talent: B

Atlanta spent liberally this winter to rebuild their rotation, importing Derek Lowe, Javier Vazquez, plus bringing back Tom Glavine for added depth. Given the presence of Jair Jurrjens, a rehabbing Tim Hudson, and a young flamethrower like Tommy Hanson, they probably have the deepest starting rotation in baseball. They’re going to have to get quality pitching to make up for some offensive deficiencies, though, as the outfield is weak and the line-up depends heavily on Chipper Jones‘ health. The team is good enough to contend in the NL East this year, but the core going forward is going to need some help. Brian McCann is a great foundation behind the plate and Yunel Escobar, Kelly Johnson, and Casey Kotchman have their strengths, the team needs a couple of young impact position players to keep winning beyond 2009.

Minor League Talent: A-

As always, the Braves system is stacked with talent. Hanson, as mentioned, is a premier young arm. Jason Heyward is an athletic outfielder who can hit, which is exactly what the Braves could use. Jordan Schafer and Gorkys Hernandez give the team a couple of center field options, Cole Rohrbough and Julio Teheran give the team some pitching depth. Freddie Freeman has solid upside as a power hitting first baseman. There’s just talent up and down the system, and the Braves future looks to be very bright given their up and coming talent.

Overall: A-

The Braves are the example for all franchises in terms of player development. Everyone should be envious of the way they are able to churn out high level talent from their farm system and keep it continually flowing from the low levels to the majors. However, some blind spots in their analytical processes have kept them from duplicating that success at the major league level, and while the 2009 team should be good, it’s unlikely to be great. If they ever integrate some more modern thinking about major league player analysis into their decision making, they could be unbelievably scary. For now, they’re just impressive.

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Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.

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We skipped B+?


“These eight franchises have separated themselves from the rest of the pack – there‚Äôs probably a bigger gap between #8 and #9 than between #8 and #4, for instance.”