Originally written on Fangraphs  |  Last updated 3/27/12

Read the methodology behind the ratings here. Remember that the grading scale is 20-80, with 50 representing league average.

2012 Organizational Rankings

#30 – Baltimore
#29 – Houston
#28 – Oakland
#27 – Pittsburgh

San Diego’s 2011 Ranking: #20

2012 Outlook: – 38 (23rd)

The needle for San Diego Padres is pointing up, but that may not be saying too much. Suffice it to admit: 2012 might be pretty brutal for the Padres. Barring some breakthough, corner-turning performances, the team could be headed for another 60- to 70-win season.

The starting pitching staff ranked last in our positional rankings, their right field ranked No. 29, first base No. 29, and second base No. 25. The only real bright spots on this team, for the time being, are 3B Chase Headley, CF Cameron Maybin, and arguably SP Cory Luebke (age 27) and 1B Yonder Alonso (age 25).

Could this team surprise us in 2012? Yes. Could they move up the rankings significantly in 2013? Sure. Would I bet my favorite baseball cap on the matter? … Probably not.

With a surprise showing from the Arizona Diamondbacks, who jumped from 5th to 1st last year, the NL West was won with 94 wins. The Padres amassed 71 wins — with SP Mat Latos and SP Aaron Harang still on the roster. Their departure means the Padres need to vacuum up some 365 extra innings with an uninspiring rotation.

But the division is not as top-heavy as the NL East or NL Central, and the Diamondbacks may not have quite enough depth to repeat their 94-win season, but 90+ wins should be within reach for Arizona, so a Padres playoff season probably needs to approach that threshold — or pray for the second Wild Card to slip away from the NL East.

2013+ Outlook: 54 (11th)

The Padres have five prospects in Marc Hulet’s Top MLB 100 Prospects list, most notably the aforementioned 1B Yonder Alonso (No. 39) and the unaforementioned C Yasmani Grandal (No. 40). All told, the team earned Hulet’s top Minor League Systems Rank with a franchise rich in both pitching and position prospects.

Keith Law’s rankings were a bit more bearish than bullish, as he slotted the Padres at No. 16, describing San Diego’s system as, “Extremely top-heavy, followed by a lot of extra-guy depth — fifth starters, quality relievers, fourth outfielders, a few of whom will take steps forward and become solid-average big leaguers.”

How will Alonso grow some Power Wings? How will Grandal do when he comes up? Can Luebke build on his 2011 success? The answers to questions like these should have a huge impact on the 2012 through 2014 seasons, but after that, the questions increase — which is good for Padres because too much of the team is already without question (see Jason Bartlett, Orlando Hudson, Will Venable, and so on — the Known Commodities).

Behind Alonso, the Padres have OF Rymer Liriano (age 22 this season) and 3B Jedd Gyorko (age 24) and a slew of pitchers (RHP Casey Kelly, LHP Robbie Erlin, RHP Joe Wieland, etc.). Depending on how quickly — and successfully — these guys can rise to the majors (Gyorko, Erlin, and Wieland could/should see time in 2012), the Padres could be very good very soon.

Financial Resources: 39 (25th)

Had the Jeff Moorad news broke before we compiled our rankings, the Padres would presumably have done worse in the financial category this year.

As it stands, the finances of the Padres are in a state of flux: Moorad’s bid for the team is over, which leaves a giant biscuit of unknown on the table. The once-again current owner, John Moores, was quoted as saying about Moorad’s failed bid: “I’ve never consistently been so wrong about anything that’s happened to me. I’m not the best-informed person on the planet … now I’ve got to be.” So Moores has to suddenly resume the owner’s duties after a multi-year hiatus, and meanwhile he needs to find new buyers and finish what could be a franchise-making TV deal — a deal presumably in the final stages of completion.

TV deals have become the latest cash crops for MLB franchises (look at the Yankees’ payrolls relative to the league before and after they formed the YES Network or how the Texans’ and Angels’ finances sorted themselves out more recently), so getting a new, handsome, $25 million-per-annum contract could make the Padres a more lucrative buy as well as lead to a better on-field product. (According to some reports, the Moorad group was depending on the TV contract to be able to afford the franchise purchase in the first place; had the franchise sale gone through, it follows that the Padres on-field payroll would have tasted little to none of that sweet television nectar — at least for a while.)

Still, this is a team that ranked No. 20 on Forbes’ Business of Baseball list and had the fourth lowest revenue according to their estimates. The new deal will help, but more exposure and an improved record — and a subsequent bigger followup deal — would help even more.

Baseball Operations: 49 (13th)

The Padres represent the first of five strong ops teams to land in the lower half of the rankings. With a 49 rating, the Padres finish in the top half of the ops rankings (13th), but overall finish well beneath the halfway mark in the overall org rankings (26th).

The transition from GM Jed Hoyer to GM Josh Byrnes was unusual and unexpected — unexpected to me at least — but Byrnes and Co. should be able to assemble some competitive teams despite the equally bizarre ownership scandal at present. Hoyer may have left, but he left behind not only some strong drafts, but a large swathe of his staff. Byrnes (who was with the team before Hoyer left) and the Padres front office presumably had little in the way of transition this offseason even though they swapped out GMs.

The team has finished Stage 1 of any good rebuilding process — that of stocking the minor league system with weapons and ammunition — but as the team sneaks closer to contention (and deals with more MLB-ready talent acquisition and retention), we will get a clearer picture of the quality of process this front office employs. Because the management group descends from the Theo Epstein tree, we start our expectations higher.

Overall: 36 (30th)

San Diego dropped six slots from last year’s No. 20 ranking, and though it is important to remember the new methodology this year hopefully rates things a bit more accurately, the No. 26 rating is a bummer for San Diego fans. In 2011, the team was coming off a 90-72 season and the Diamondbacks were still a 5th place team. The team and the division has changed, and now the Padres are firmly in the lower half of MLB.

How a person views the Padres’ minors — and the FanGraphs writers mostly agree with Law’s general assessment of middle-of-the-pack — is ultimately how a person views the team. The Byrnes leadership group should be solid, but the recent upgrades in competitiveness around MLB front offices dulls the competitive advantage their analytics might have been 10 years ago. The NL West is still a pretty backward division, but the market for player talent is open to all bidders, and for now, the Padres’ purse strings are somewhat knotted.

San Diego may not be great right now, but the Padres have plenty of reasons to have faith.

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