John Sickels Ranks the Pirates Farm System 12th Overall

For the first time ever, John Sickels of has released a ranking of the top farm systems in baseball. Normally Sickels ranks the prospects for each team in the majors and leaves it at that. This year he went a step further to put a ranking on every system in the majors. The Pittsburgh Pirates finished 12th on his list. Go here to read the rankings.

Sickels started off with a disclaimer on the ranking process, and why he never ranked teams prior to this. He mentioned about how the end result of saying “the Athletics are 11th and the Pirates are 12th” is very subjective to the person doing the rankings. He also mentioned that he considers depth more than other analysts, which explains the ranking for the Pirates. His number one team, the Toronto Blue Jays, had eight players with a B-plus rating to headline their system. Following that they had eight more players with a B-minus rating. By comparison, the Pirates had Gerrit Cole rated an A, Jameson Taillon rated an A-minus, Josh Bell a B-plus, then two B’s and three B-minuses.

The Pirates have the better system at the top. If you take the top five or six prospects and match them up, the Pirates end up better off than Toronto. But going beyond that, Toronto easily wins. A lot of publications seem to be top heavy with their analysis. I’d expect a top ten by Baseball America, and wouldn’t be surprised with a top five ranking. Baseball America has focused more on the top of the system in the past, rather than taking the approach Sickels took by weighing the middle guys heavier.

The difference is that there is no difference. It all comes down to subjectivity, and what the person doing the rankings values. Both rankings tell the same story about the farm systems. If I’m correct on my guess for Baseball America’s rankings, it will just illustrate what we know: the Pirates have a lot of impact talent at the top of the system. Sickels points out another thing that we know: the system isn’t loaded with top talent in the middle like the situation with Toronto. There’s a lot of guys who are rated C+ right now who have breakout potential, but right now we’re still waiting on those players to break out.


  • All these “top rated stars”…where Kevin?  They’ve got hype.  Cole and Bell have hype.  Tallion has hype, but where are the results?  Cole and is under performance in college and no pro stats, Bell and his 0 pro atbats, Tallion and what 70 innings pitched that weren’t all that great?

    Huntington has been on the job 4 years with top 5 picks in just about every one of those drafts and the only player with potential that has actually made it to the upper part of the minors and into the majors has been Alvarez and to this point he’s been a flop in the majors.  You can say Grossman, but it’s to early to call for a guy who had to repeat a level to become a legit prospect.  Most of the upper level top prospects in the systerm are leftovers from Littlefield and Huntington’s 2nd draft class appears to be a huge bust thus far.  The team is in slightly better position right now that it was when Huntington came to the team in terms of minor league depth, but a top 10 system they are not.

    • what results do you want? Marte and Grossman gave you results…Taillon has 1 year under his belt, all systems are basically judged off of potential…Are you a guy that goes off of minor league stats to determine if someone will be good or not??? If thats the case the buccos would have had a hell of a team with Andy LaRoche, Jeff Clement, Lastings Milledge, Brandon Moss, John Bowker just to name a couple, go look at their minor league stats, damn impressive…Major league level not so much.

  • For years, Baseball America (and Jim Callis in particular) have said that “you win with stars and not depth” so we’ll see if that tenet holds true when their ranking of the farms comes out.

    I’ve been keeping score of the Top 10’s as they are released on the BA website in recent months.  By my non-scientific count, I have the Pirates 7th with the Mariners still to come and definitely ahead of them.  So put me down for 8th in the BA list.

  • We had a discussion about this on the PBC PG Blog. Essentially, what Sickels is saying, is that a bunch of ‘middle’ prospects (the Cs) outweigh one blue chipper, which, in our eyes, was nonsense.
    I’ll wait for the BA rankings.

    • Agreed, weighing mid level prospect depth more than elite prospects is nonsense. There have been numerous studies that show that elite prospects are worth far more than several average prospects. Elite prospects make superstars and high WAR players, depth does not.

      That said, I don’t buy our lack of depth, we have a ton of upside prospects, it just so happens that many are in the low minors. We also have a good track record of producing useful MLB guys from low ranked prospects (guys like McLouth, Doumit, Presley et al).  

  • What’s the love with the Pittsburgh organization?  We’ve got Marte and Grossman as legit prospects.  The rest of the prospects in the organization have either not playing a professional inning (Cole and Bell), or haven’t really been terribly challenged (Tallion, high school pitchers).  Until these guys actually get some playing time the Pirates system isn’t impressive at all especially when you consider how long Huntington has been on the job and the amount of early round picks he’s had to work with.

  • How does Luis Heredia grade out as a B-? He clearly lacks polish, but he’s 17 years old!