Dave Cameron laid out the methodology behind the rankings last Friday. Remember that the grading scale for each category is 20-80, with 50 representing league average.
2012 Organizational Rankings
Minnesota’s 2011 Ranking: #6
2012 Outlook: 42 (23rd)
Quite a difference a year makes, as the Twins lent credence to the dreaded #6org meme for a second consecutive year by losing 99 games in what was likely the worst season in club history. A good portion of the damage done was self-inflicted — though injuries certainly had their way as well — and steps have been taken to ensure that no repeat of 2011 will occur.
Firing Bill Smith — in November, no less — was the right move, but that didn’t cure the Twins of its ills overnight. In a meticulously crafted offseason, old-but-new GM Terry Ryan managed to add mostly depth to a team that for all intents and purposes is only one season removed from dominating the American League Central.
But times have changed.
For one, firing Smith doesn’t undo the Matt Capps or J.J. Hardy deals, and secondly Prince Fielder moving to Motown means it’ll be an uphill battle for any team to challenge for the Central crown, let alone dig out from a near 100-loss season. The Twins should be considerably better in 2012 — I have them pegged for 84 wins in my own personal projections — but that makes the club unlikely to contend for one of the new wildcard spots instituted for the upcoming postseason.
2013+ Outlook: 43 (25th)
There isn’t a ton of help on the immediate horizon, but at least in my perception, the Twins do well to add quality in spots where it isn’t usually projected. Chris Parmelee has been a pleasant surprise, and has forced the Twins’ hand into placing him onto the Opening Day 25-man roster as either a right fielder or first baseman. He, Joe Benson, and Liam Hendriks — thirteenth, ninth, and seventh in Marc Hulet’s 2011 Twins prospect rankings, respectively — are the few beacons of light that might immediately provide shine from the Twins metaphorical lighthouse.
The rest of the club’s big time help is offshore a considerable amount, as Miguel Sano, Eddie Rosario, Aaron Hicks, Oswaldo Arcia, and Levi Michael all represent the next crop of big prospects likely to descend on Minneapolis in the next handful of campaigns. They’re closer in proximity — a number of them will suit up for the Beloit Snappers — than proclivity.
The three wild-cards in the Twins deck are right-handers Kyle Gibson (arm surgery), Alex Wimmers (yips), and whomever the club selects with the second-overall pick in the upcoming amateur draft — a lot that may still include high school phenom Lucas Giolito, who allegedly hit 100 on the radar gun in one of his final starts before he too fell victim to season-ending arm woes.
Nonetheless, the farm system is a bit of a teeter-totter — with some depth on either side but a bit soft in the middle — but overall doesn’t stand out, especially when placed in comparison with the Royals or even the Indians, a system whose prospects are mostly graduated and playing full-time roles.
In terms of big league talent, the Twins are forced to retool rather than rebuild due in large part to owing Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau roughly $40 million in each of the next two seasons. The success of both 2012 and subsequent seasons will hinge greatly on the health of the Twins incarnation of the M&M boys.
Financial Resources: 47 (t-20th)
According to recent Forbes figures, the Twins are the 14th most valuable franchise at $510 million. Certainly, moving to Target Field has boosted the team’s value, as has not having to share or outright pay to the Vikings the concession dollars collected from the previously shared Metrodome. The Twins have long maintained that they use ~50 percent of revenues toward on-field personnel, and Forbes’ suggestion that the team’s revenue of $213 million in 2011 falls right in line with the $113.2 million payroll the club funded last season.
One thing worth watching will be the attendance as the Twins head into year three at Target Field. Oddly, though the Twins were 31 games worse in the standings from 2010 to 2011, attendance only dropped about 55,500 — roughly 700 heads per date — and the club actually jumped from third to second in the junior circuit in attendance. The Twins announced in August last season that there would be no increase in season ticket prices, and despite recent cold calls I’ve received from the ticketing department, all signs seem to point to another great year of season ticket renewals according to team president Dave St. Peter.
One place the Twins simply can’t keep up with is television contracts. While teams like the Angels have been able to procure astonishing, astronomical TV deals — the Halos opted out of a $50 million per year deal to strike a new one with Fox worth $150 million per annum for 20 years — the Twins are sort of stuck in flyover country, pulling in a reported $29 million per season to be broadcast on Fox Sports North.
Baseball Operations: 40 (t-28th)
This ranking is no doubt the hangover of the Smith era at the helm of the front office. In Smith’s short tenure in the GM’s chair — four years, five weeks — the trades were few but ultimately, quite disastrous.
* Matt Garza, Jason Bartlett, and Eduardo Morlan for Delmon Young, Brendan Harris, and Jason Pridie
* Johan Santana for Philip Humber, Kevin Mulvey, Carlos Gomez*, and Deolis Guerra
* Capps for Wilson Ramos
* Hardy for Jim Hoey and Brett Jacobson
To Smith’s credit, he did turn Gomez into Hardy.
Now this isn’t entirely to besmirch Smith’s character as GM; his late-season/waiver-wire deals were generally good — including Brian Fuentes, Carl Pavano, and Jon Rauch — and he did sign Jim Thome for peanuts, but all-in-all the writing was on the wall that Smith just wasn’t the man to resurrect the suddenly downtrodden franchise. Want some perspective on how big of a deal the Twins firing someone is? The Twins permitted Tom Kelly to manage the team despite losing seasons from 1993-2000. Only when Kelly retired was he replaced by incumbent skipper Ron Gardenhire. In short, if you’re a Twin, you’re often a Twin for life. Consistent with that notion, Smith was retained as a special assistant to Ryan and St. Peter.
Overall: 43 (25th)
As I stood in the clubhouse at the end of last year’s dismal run, Twins legend Tony Oliva — in full team attire, mind you — ambled into the middle of the room and asked why everyone was so glum. “Sure, today it’s raining,” Oliva offered. “But sometimes you have to go through the rainy days in order to see the flowers.” It was a simple phrase spoken through broken English, but Oliva made a good point: If a team needs to have a 99-loss season to right some wrongs and get back on track, maybe it’s worth it.
The 2011 season was all sorts of ugly for the Twins; every single regular with the exception of since-departed Michael Cuddyer and holdover third sacker Danny Valencia missed significant time, and the Tsuyoshi Nishioka experiment sort of cemented the notion that Smith was in over his head in terms of player evaluation.
The climb back to the top of the rankings is going to be exponentially longer than the fall was, but as long as Ryan is at the helm — he’s still mum on what his long-term plans are — it would seem likely that a consistent climb is in the future.