Organizational Rankings: #24

Today, we move out of the bottom five, and start looking at some teams that have legitimate hope, so it gets harder from here on out. And, for those of you who haven’t seen the previous parts (which are linked below), keep in mind that this is a forward looking exercise – we are evaluating clubs on their overall ability to contend for a World Series title in the future. We are not evaluating how they have performed historically. This is about the health of each organization going forward.

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

Ownership:: B-

The Reds have transferred hands more often than most baseball franchises, but under Bob Castellini, they finally have some stability. They’ve increased their payroll since moving into the new park and have a budget that would support a contending team. They’ve attempted to re-establish a connection with the fanbase, going so far as having Castellini publish an open letter to the fan base apologizing for last year’s team and promising better results in the future. That said, there been some snags along the way. Castellini mishandled the GM situation by hiring own friend Walt Jocketty to serve as an adviser while keeping former GM Wayne Krivsky theoretically in charge. It became pretty obvious, however, that his days were numbered, and he was fired a few weeks into the ’08 season. Not really the best way of handling that transition.

Front Office: C

This is going to seem like a harsh grade for someone with as good of a reputation as Jocketty, but while he’s certainly got some strengths as a talent evaluator, he brings a bit of baggage as well. When the Cardinals attempted to join the 21st century of analytics, he wasn’t very receptive to the ideas of Jeff Luhnow and helped create a divide in the St. Louis front office that eventually led to him leaving. He’s fairly set in his ways, and while the Reds could use some advancement in their analytical techniques, they aren’t likely to come while Jocketty is in charge. He’ll do a pretty good job of putting together a roster, but he’s not going to create sustainable long term advantages that can make up for their mid-market payroll size.

Major League Roster: B-

The core of a really good team is in place. Jay Bruce, Brandon Phillips, Joey Votto, Edinson Volquez, Johnny Cueto – that’s a very good group of players to build around for the future. And there’s some ancillary talents that could still make an impact as well – guys like Homer Bailey, Edwin Encarnacion (if they’d just move him to LF already), and Jeff Keppinger could make positive contributions above what their track record shows. The question, though, is what direction do they want to go in? On their face, this team isn’t good enough to contend in 2009, but they’ve got significant assets tied to Aaron Harang, Bronson Arroyo, and Francisco Cordero, who are just better fits for a contender than a rebuilder. But if they trade those guys, then there isn’t enough good talent around the young core to avoid a lot of losses. It’s something of a dilemma that Jocketty and company will have to figure out.

Minor League Talent: C

Yonder Alonso is a terrific young player, but he also presents a problem for an organization that already has Joey Votto and lacks the option of a DH. You’d like your best prospect to not be blocked by one of your best young players, ideally. Beyond him, Todd Frazier can hit but no one is sure where he should play (I vote for third base, personally), and while Drew Stubbs has done a great job of making better contact, there are still questions about just how much he’s going to hit in the majors. There’s virtually no upper level pitching in the system, either, which makes it tough to replace Harang and Arroyo if they do decide that dealing them is the way to go.

Overall: C+

There’s actually a pretty big gap here between the Reds and Padres, so don’t look at their placements next to each other on the list and think that I’m saying that they’re in comparable shape. Trying to sort out the next ten franchises was tough, and the Reds are closer to being in the top 15 than they are to being 30th, even though they land at #24. With a good ownership group, a good young core of talent, a new ballpark, and a GM who is fairly adept at building a major league roster, there are things going right in Cincinnati. Can they consistently contend in the NL Central going forward without upgrading their analytical departments and having a mid-level payroll? I’m not sure, and that’s why the end up here.

Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.

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I would think any Reds fan who heard Bakers comments about being excited about having young guys he could teach to play baseball the right way, would be scared out of their mind about the future.