Organizational Rankings: #4 by Dave Cameron March 26, 2009 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 #7: Chicago Cubs #6: Milwaukee Brewers #5: New York Mets #4: Cleveland Indians Ownership: B Since Larry Dolan bought the team in 2000, they’ve gone from a high payroll team down to a low-to-mid payroll franchise, but that coincided with a significant rebuilding period. As the team has grown back into a contender, Dolan has significantly increased his investment in the budget, and the team spent nearly $80 million in 2008. Dolan has shown a willingness to spend money on a contending franchise, and while they won’t be able to compete with the New York/Boston/Chicago markets in payroll, they’ll have enough capital to put competitive teams on the field. Front Office: A+ Mark Shapiro and his gang of advisers set the standard for how a front office should operate. The implementation of DiamondView gave them the ability to combine scouting and statistical data into a resource that could be used at all levels of the organization. They’ve established a fundamental system that works from top to bottom, and explore every area that could give them a competitive advantage. They understand how to value talent, where the inefficiencies are, how to build a roster that works together, and how to sustain winning teams through player development. It’s hard to find any chinks in the armor – the Indians front office is what everyone else aspires to be. Major League Talent: B If Travis Hafner shows that his recent struggles were an extended slump and not a nose dive off the cliff, they’d grade out better here. Even with his bat as a question mark, though, they are still the best team in the AL Central. Grady Sizemore is an MVP candidate, and the surrounding cast includes valuable players such as Cliff Lee, Fausto Carmona, Victor Martinez, Asdrubal Cabrera, Jhonny Peralta, and Shin-Soo Choo. The additions of Mark DeRosa and Kerry Wood help patch some holes from last year’s roster, and while the rotation has question marks, the team has depth of starters to cycle through until they find a combination that works. The team might be a player away from a true championship contender, but the core is strong for the future and they have the pieces in place to make a mid-season acquisition if they deem it necessary. Minor League Talent: B+ The team got some needed impact talent by trading away CC Sabathia and Casey Blake last summer, netting themselves their two best prospects in return – Matt LaPorta and Carlos Santana. Both are close to being major league ready and have the ability to contribute as everyday players. After those two, there’s significant depth of lower upside guys – Nick Weglarz is an interesting bat with some long term concerns about his abilities to stay in the OF. Beau Mills can hit, but his position is clouded, especially with LaPorta ahead of him. Adam Miller is looking at another surgery. Luis Valbuena, Wes Hodges, David Huff, Michael Brantley, and Lonnie Chisenhall profile as solid but not great major leaguers. There’s a good group of young players on the farm, but LaPorta and Santana are the only two who project out as significantly above average players. Overall: A- The Indians have a good major league team built around a solid young core, an above average farm system that should deliver several more young players into the fold shortly, and a baseball operations department that runs the team exceptionally well. Only their mid-market payrolls keep them from the top tier. This is a team that should be the favorite in the AL Central for years to come.