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Organizational Rankings: #9

Today, we launch the top ten, heading towards the top spot and closing out this series. All of the teams that we discuss this week are legitimate contenders for both this year and the future, and these are the organizations that the rest of baseball is chasing.

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

Ownership: C

Honestly, this one’s a bit tough to figure out. Since the D’Backs were purchased by a group of investors, they’ve trimmed payroll back from the free spending days of Jerry Colangelo and operated more like a small to mid market franchise. They haven’t spent more than $70 million on the major league roster for the last five years, though they did increase spending last year when they had a chance to contend. The ownership group has mostly kept their hands off the baseball operations department with the exception of the Eric Byrnes extension – hopefully they learned their lesson from that one. Jeff Moorad, who was the face of the ownership group, just left to run the Padres, so that adds another level of uncertainty about how the ownership group will operate going forward. I have a lot less conviction about this grade than most others.

Front Office: B

From a big picture standpoint, Josh Byrnes has done a good job of building a forward thinking organization that develops talent internally and can contend for the NL West for years to come. They’ve made their share of mistakes, and I think they had a pretty bad off-season in missing out on opportunities to take control of the NL West, but overall, they’ve shown that they have a pretty solid grasp of building rosters that can contend with limited payrolls. There’s room for improvement, but they won’t be held back by a bad management team.

Major League Talent: B

The core of young talent in place is impressive – Justin Upton, Chris Young, Stephen Drew, Chris Snyder, Conor Jackson, Brandon Webb, Dan Haren, Max Scherzer… there’s quantity and quality across multiple positions, and several of them have already been locked up at team-friendly salaries for years to come. The problem, though, is that the team lacks enough good players around that young core to help make them a championship contender right now. Eric Byrnes, Doug Davis, Jon Garland, and Felipe Lopez will earn nearly $30 million between them this year, and given that’s about 40% of the D’Backs payroll, they just aren’t getting enough bang for the buck. It leaves them as a good up and coming team that is going to need a lot to go right to be playing in October in 2009.

Minor League Talent: C

Since the system was thinned out significantly with the Dan Haren trade, picking out the top prospect here doesn’t take an expert – Jarrod Parker is a big time arm with a high ceiling and a good feel for pitching at age 20. After that, though, it gets sketchy – Daniel Schlereth has a power arm but his uspide is limited as a reliever. Gerardo Parra is long on tools and short on performance. It’s a good thing the D’Backs have a lot of young talent in the majors, because they aren’t likely to get a big infusion of help from the farm system over the next few years.

Overall: B

The D’Backs don’t have any glaring weaknesses – the ownership isn’t great but gives them just enough to contend. The front office makes mistakes, but not enough to nullify the talent on the roster. They are a few players short of a championship club, but the core of their roster isn’t going anywhere. The minor league system isn’t good, but Jarrod Parker gives them at least one impact talent to hang their hope on. Being strongish across the board, with potentially the best group of young talent in the National League, is good enough to get them in the top 10.