Today (well, I'm still up, so as far as I am concerned it was today) Dave Cameron wrote up the organizational assessment of the Royals for Fangraphs, ranking them the 27th-best organization in baseball. 27th-best could also be read as 4th-worst, but if there were one true thing that was true about me it is that I am ever the glass-half-full guy. OK, so that's not even remotely true. While I want to be able to write off his criticisms as the naysaying of an outsider, much of what he says holds water.
To start, Cameron grades Ownership out at a D. If anything, this evaluation errs toward generosity. In Glass's defense, he has begun upping payroll at the behest of his General Manager. Cameron also designates Glass as a meddler, although not to the level of Peter Angelos or Drayton McLane. I guess I cannot speak unequivocally to the degree that David Glass is a cook in the baseball operations kitchen at this time, but I get the impression that he has more or less handed the reigns over the Dayton Moore. Of the complaints levied against Glass, this may be the only one that is somewhat overblown, but again, his history should be a huge knock against him, so I'd tend to agree that the D has been earned. Really, much would need to be done to raise that grade in my book.
As Dave Cameron moves on to the Front Office, he gives Dayton Moore a D as well. The crux of his argument against Moore's effectiveness is that Moore has thrown money around fairly carelessly in his short time here, and nearly all of it has been handed to players whose previous performance did not warrant the paycheck. Now, obviously Moore hit on Gil Meche, but most of his other big free agent signings have been in the (Bruce Hornsby and the) range of disappointing to disastrous. The thing is while Moore has signed and acquired guys that have occasionally bordered on dubious, he has also pulled off deals that have turned the Tony Graffaninos of the world into Coco Crisp (with JDLR and RamRam in the middle of that sandwich). He got Joakim Soria in the Rule V Draft. He oversaw what was overwhelmingly deemed a great draft last year. He has filled the organization with a lot more depth than he had when he took over for Allard Baird. His teams have improved every year. I completely understand the criticism of his free agent signings in the past (although I am hesitant to chide him vociferously for his acquisitions this past offseason until some games are played, and there are some actual results by which to begin to assay his work this winter), but the Front Office has probably performed slightly above the D level.
Cameron gives a C to the Major League club, which is probably justified. The one thing he probably short-changes is the bullpen, which really could be one of the best in baseball. Obviously, past the top two starters nothing would seem certain. He classifies DeJesus and Gordon as guys who would play for any team in baseball while ignoring Crisp. And while we all expect Aviles to regress, coming off of last year, he'd be starting on nearly every team in baseball.
When evaluating Minor League Talent, he also hands out a C to the system. As Royals fans, it might be a little hard to look at this farm system and see it as only a C. This comes largely because we're not far removed from the days where the only Royal on the Baseball America Top 100 Prospect list was David DeJesus somewhere in the 70s (I want to say 73). So keeping that depressing fact in mind, it can be hard to see a system that might actually produce Major League talent as only a C. When it comes down to it, the Royals farm system is probably only average. Everyone outside of the top two have question marks around some pretty solid potential but the question marks a deserved. Maybe a full summer with the 2008 draft class shows us something, but our hopes as a fanbase are largely pinned on the promise of a hopeful draft class. We were given three arguable first-rounders last season, but these guys don't always pan out. Ask Colt Griffin. So, for now, we're looking at an average farm system, but that's a whole helluva lot better than things used to be.
The only teams Cameron has that are worse off than the Royals are the Astros, Marlins, and Nationals. I, for one, have a hard time believing that the Royals are worse off than the Pirates. I think teams like the Mariners and Rangers (I know their farm system is supposed to be great and all, but name one effective pitcher they've had in the past, I don't know, 15 years--you can't because there wasn't one--I'd imagine even can't-miss Neftali Feliz won't pan out unless he gets a change of scenery) must always be in the conversation, too.
Really, the Royals hopes this year are pinned on two starters, a near-great bullpen on paper, and two young studs breaking out on offense. Oh, and the fact that the AL Central is just bad enough that an average team could actually win the division. I guess we'll have to take what we can get...