2011 Organizational Rankings: #29 – Arizona

Quite the fall from grace – not that long ago viewed as one of the best young teams in baseball, the Diamondbacks are rebuilding once again.

Present Talent – 69.17 (26th)

Diamondbacks 2011 Season Preview

Future Talent – 80.00 (t-16th)

Diamondbacks 2011 top 10 prospects

Financial Resources – 69.62 (27th)
Baseball Operations – 75.00 (t-25th)

Overall Rating – 72.38 (29th)

The Diamondbacks front office has been in transition since the middle of 2010. On July 1 ownership fired GM Josh Byrnes, just two and a half years after signing him to an eight-year extension. That left Jerry DiPoto in charge of the team for a few months until management hired Kevin Towers to take over the role.

Towers has more experience than most GMs in the game, having led the San Diego Padres from 1995 through 2009. Yet Arizona’s baseball operations score ranks tied for 25th in the league, along with Washington, Kansas City, and Pittsburgh. Why such a low mark, then, just a year after we ranked Arizona No. 16? The front office changes certainly play a large role.

Through the start of last season the team had a long-term plan in place. Josh Byrnes was under contract through the 2015 season, and there was little reason to believe his job was in jeopardy. The team had finished last in 2009, but finished first or second in the previous two seasons. But when things fell apart in 2010 ownership wasted little time in making a change.

The Diamondbacks do have quality people in place. We know Towers’ pedigree, both as a scout and as a GM. He has already helped improve the Diamondbacks, and while the team will likely finish last again in 2011, he’ll likely have them out of that position in 2012. If professional scout Joe Bohringer, whom we met twice during the FanGraphs Arizona trip, is any indication, the team also has hard-working, enlightened members in its scouting department.

Chances are we’ll see Arizona with a much better baseball ops score next year. But for now, with a major change to the team’s long-term plans and three general managers in the last year, the low score is understandable.

On the financial side, since their tremendous turn-of-the-century outlays, the Diamondbacks have been a team on a budget. In fact, the team’s current financial situation is largely dictated by the $268.9 million the team paid its players from 2001 through 2003. It’s not as bad now as it was in 2004, when the team owed $200 million to players who helped win the franchise only World Series title. But as of last April the team still owed $40 million to long-gone players.

Last year owner Ken Kendrick spoke with The Arizona Republic’s Nick Piecoro regarding the team’s financial situation. In addition to the $40 million still owed to former players, Kendrick also talked about the team’s payroll and profit situations:

If the team doesn’t perform well and we’re in a tough economy and we have the payroll where we have it, then it’s going to be tough to make a profit. We’ll deal with that when and if it comes. Our focus is putting a good team on the field, having a team that appeals to the fans and generating increases in attendance, and therefore revenue.

The team didn’t perform well last year, and ownership responded by having an interim GM trade its best pitcher. Losing Dan Haren was a further blow to a struggling team, but the team’s financial situation puts it in the type of position where such a move might become necessary. This shouldn’t prove an issue this year, since payroll will check in under $60 million and no player on the team will make more than $5.85 million. But it is clear that the team needs a contender in order to boost payroll beyond that point. At this point that appears to mean building a contender on the cheap and then raising payroll once they start winning again. That’s never a comfortable position for any team.

Just a year after ranking No. 16 on our organizational list, the Diamondbacks have fallen all the way to No. 29. In many ways it speak to problems that brew below the surface, which only come to light later. Heading into 2010 it appeared that the Diamondbacks were a quality franchise that had suffered an unlucky 2009. But throughout the season it became apparent that they were a bit worse than that. They might now be in good hands with Kevin Towers, but it’s going to take plenty of work, and some lucky breaks from the farm system, for Arizona to again climb the organizational ranks.

We hoped you liked reading 2011 Organizational Rankings: #29 – Arizona by Joe Pawlikowski!

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Joe also writes about the Yankees at River Ave. Blues.

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Tomas
Guest
Tomas

Arizona: the sad example as to why Royals fans should temper their excitement.

Nick
Guest
Nick

Though to be fair, as good as Arizona’s future looked a few years back, they didn’t have the quality of prospects that the Royals have now.

PiratesHurdles
Guest
PiratesHurdles

To be fair the Pirates had a hugely loaded system ranked #1 by BA with 7 top 100 prospects in 1997. How’d that work out?

Nick
Guest
Nick

I don’t use BA to determine how good a farm system is. I use my own judgement using the stats(as a framework) and scouting to determine how good a farm system is.

The Royals farm is the best I have seen in 20+ years.

Tomas
Guest
Tomas

By what standard? Just looking at BA Top 50:

In 2006 the Diamondbacks had #2, #5, #17, #20, #23, #32

In 2011 the Royals have #8, #9, #10, #18, #19

Nick
Guest
Nick

@Tomas- I heavily dislike BA’s rankings. Don’t agree with them much.

The D-Backs never had a Hosmer or Moustakas.

CSJ
Member

Nick, I mean this in a completely inquisitive way, do you have your own rankings or any more thoughts on this? I like to read dissenting opinions from main-stream stuff.

batpig
Guest
batpig

Nick – that’s a lot of hindsight making things look rosier for your current assertion. The D’backs were widely considered to be LOADED a few years ago with absolute stud offensive players at premium positions — Chris Young (CF) and Stephen Drew (SS) were considered among the very best prospects in baseball, they had a premium C prospect in Miguel Montero, and were loaded with slugging prospects like Carlos Quentin, Conor Jackson, some guy named Carlos Gonzalez, Mark Reynolds, and Chris Carter.

Shiny things always dazzle more when fresh and new…

Tomas
Guest
Tomas

@Nick – Fair enough, though I think BA might be more kind to the Royals than most other lists I have seen.

Moustakas must be pretty impressive in person, because just looking at his stats there are a number of red flags compared to a stud prospect like Upton was/is.

Nick
Guest
Nick

@ CSJ- Yes I rank them myself. Obviously I can’t go in person and see every single prospect I grade, but I try my best to dig up video on the internet and also read John Sickels a lot for some of his scouting notes, for instance if I wanted to know a pitcher’s velocity. I also attend as many games as I can in Fresno, San Jose, and Sacramento. I also use stats as well, but I don’t like to use stats as an end-all-be-all, otherwise I would have said Hanley ramirez was a bench player and that John Bowker was the next Luke Scott. They are still useful though when used correctly. I don’t put it online, I just store it on my computer’s hard drive.

@ BatPig- I wasn’t too high on Chris Young or Conor Jackson. I mean I knew Chris Young would be a solid regular, but I didn’t think he was a budding superstar. His contact rate and medicore BB % turned me off somewhat, and Conor Jackson’s lack of power always bothered me. Also thought he was a mediocre defender at best.
I never thought much of Montero’s defense behind the plate and thought he was an average hitter. I was high on Quentin, Reynolds, and Drew though, very much so.

@Tomas- Good catch, Upton completely slipped my mind. So I will have to rescind that statement.

However, I still believe highly in Moustakas and Hosmer. I feel Hosmer is the best 1B prospect in the game and think his ceiling is a .290/.370/.550 type for many years to come. I’m slightly less high on Moustakas, but I think his defense is underrated and he’s going to be an all star for a number of years.

But the big difference to me with Arizona a few years ago and Kansas City is the pitching talent in the minors. KC has a few studs while I never thought Arizona even had a #3 in their system.

Xeifrank
Guest

Didn’t they trade away the wrong ones, right?

CircleChange11
Guest
CircleChange11

I think one could say “The Royals don’t have an Upton”.

I think we’re gforgetting how highly regarded Young and Drew were, especially after the year they booted Chicago out of the playoffs.

I think the Royals have about 3-4 seasons to really make this thing happen before their talent is playing elsewhere. I think, in the end, we’re all going to very disappointed with how the “Royals thing” turns out, which is disappointing to me because I hold Royals fans in high regard, their stadium is awesome, and that city deserves a good team.

————————————–

Here’s what I disagree with … the assesment of the front office.

They are being docked for removing a saber-based GM and his puppet manager. I think both guys were overmatched in their roles.

The organization is replacing that GM with a better one, or at least one with a better track record. That aspect of their evaluation should have INCREASED.

What should take a hit is their current and future talent. Upton, Drew, Young, etc are NOT going to be the guys we thought they were. Justin Upton is as good as he’s ever going to be, and that’s not an insult to him … he’s good, and he should have a very good career. He’s just not going to the 40-40, gold glove, .290 type guy annually.

skippyballer486
Member
skippyballer486

Circlechange: http://www.fangraphs.com/graphsw.aspx?playerid2=5222&playerid3=114&playerid4=&playerid5=

If Upton ends up Sheffield level on offense with good to great defense, how would that be disappointing??

neuter_your_dogma
Guest
neuter_your_dogma

Which fan should temper their excitement? I know them all by name.

Jason B
Guest
Jason B

*Snicker*

baty
Guest
baty

The Byrnes signing was the beginning of the end for me… Their handling of prospect personnel back then was kind of confusing, too. After that everything that could have gone wrong did go wrong.

CircleChange11
Guest
CircleChange11

Yeah, to anyone that says fake hustle doesn’t pay … I give you Eric Byrnes.

The bad thing about the Byrnes deal (other than his hammy was ripped from the bone, killing his career) is that a GM has to take the blame for that, even though most think it was the owner’s decision.