Keith Law Ranks Pirates As Seventh Best Farm System

On ESPN today, Keith Law posted his rankings of all 30 MLB farm systems(subscription required), rating the Pittsburgh Pirates as the seventh best system in baseball. He doesn’t mention any current prospects by name, and instead he notes that they have several players that should help the Major League club this year, while each affiliate should have at least one star on their Opening Day roster.

Indianapolis appears to have the most talent, with Jameson Taillon, Nick Kingham, Alen Hanson, Adrian Sampson and Elias Diaz likely to start the season there, although it’s doubtful that Taillon is on the Opening Day roster as noted here.

The NL Central is all over the rankings, going from the Chicago Cubs with the best farm system in baseball, to the Milwaukee Brewers, who rank 28th overall. The St Louis Cardinals are 13th, while the Cincinnati Reds are listed as 17th best. The only three NL clubs that ranked ahead of the Pirates are the Cubs, then the New York Mets in fourth place, and the Atlanta Braves are ranked sixth. The Braves needed to mail in this season to get that ranking, making six trades that moved them all the way up from the bottom five among farm systems when the season ended, according to Law.

  • Losing Snider is not a big deal to me, He had a nice season and NH got a decent LHP prospect for him. The PTBNL probably won’t be anything to get excited about but if this site would have ranked him in our top 15 I think its a decent trade.

    What did you expect to get for a 4th OF?

  • Does Law put more value on prospects that are close to MLB ready? It looks like he is placing more value on players that can move up this year than the true prospect potential of players.

  • If Taillon, Holmes, Barnes, and Meadows all have strong bounce back seasons in 2015 from their injury riddled seasons last year, that could put the Pirates back in the top 3-4.

  • Wow, what turnarounds by the Mets and Braves – who just two years, both were considered to have pretty weak systems. I am little surprised the Nationals are not ranked higher – I would take their system over the Braves, even with all of the prospects that the Braves have picked up recently.

  • The whole evaluation of the deal at the moment is a consideration of Snider’s record vs. Tarpley’s potential. Can’t count on the PTBNL, and people writing about “well, if it’s Christian Walker” are playing fantasy games. Yes, potential or upside is quantifiable to a point, but it is simply not the same thing as a track record in the majors. Snider seemed to have a valuable role for the major league team this year – 4th outfielder and power bench bat. 4th outfielder is important on any team with Marte who gets hit a lot, and a rookie rightfielder who has not yet proven he can stay in Pittsburgh. Of course, the Bucs may replace him with Lambo, but Lambo does not have any length of major league record to compare to Snider’s, especially his most recent work. Saying Tarpley will be significant in 2018 is saying that the McCutchen window is no longer valued. The Bucs seemed to be building a team to challenge for the pennant now. The move of a somewhat proven major leaguer for an upside arm in A ball confuses that goal.

    • If you can’t trade a 4th outfielder with two good months of baseball to his name over parts of SEVEN big league seasons, you’re basically saying you can’t trade anyone as long as the Pirates are a contender.

      There simply must be a middle ground.

    • I guess I place more value on a 4th outfielder and depth also. I think Lambo could fill in fine, when injuries happen things start to go down from there.

  • As much value as we place on the Farm system remember Snider was once Toronto’s top prospect and a top 10 in all of baseball.

    • So were Andy LaRoche, Andy Marte and Brandon Wood. Get real.

      • I bet myself $100 that you would be the one to respond to that comment. I just stated a fact, and I knew you really hate it when people bring up facts in here.

        • What are you talking about ? Are you going to try and tell us Travis Snider was one of the most highly rated prospects of all time ? Every guy I mentioned was rated as a better prospect than Snider, how do you like that fact ?

          • the original comment was in relation to the topic of farm systems and player ranking. It didn’t add any opinions to it. I’m not sure if they get that high of a ranking because they think they have the tools to be a perennial all-star and high impact players, or that they are the closest prospects to having some sort of Major League career.

          • When it comes down to ranking position players the only unknown factor is how they will hit MLB pitching. If they are fast, take good angles on defense, have a good arm and even good plate discipline those things will carry over to the Major leagues. I was just saying look how high they rates Snider. I’m not how we looked at 7 years ago. He has serviceable defense and doesn’t have great speed or the frame to be a power hitter.

            On the other points we have contested the drop from Snider to Lambo is probably negligible. My issue was with the depth and dealing with things like last year where Morel and Marinez had to play a bigger role than you would want on contending team. It’s more likely now we may get in that situation again in the OF. Hurdle uses the odds all the time to give him every little edge he can get.

  • Keith Law is the typical washed out exec. from a time that baseball values looked quite different in the few short years he has been in Bristol. As incredible a performance it may be , orchestrated by John Hart in Atlanta , and as impressive as a handful of the individual talents he acquired in rapid succession also may indeed be , I would warn against becoming blinded by a few shiny pieces.

    He added 7 very legit project-able major leaguers that bulked up their top prospect list between 2 & 17. Let’s even give the benefit of some added value to depth all the lesser pieces of those deals may have offered. It still raises my eyebrow when a half dozen shiny gold nuggets springboard a bottom 5 system one spot ahead of an organization w comparable gems in addition to an organizational depth John Hart dreams of at night.

    Seems convenient Keith Law doesn’t name names…. Law’s own grade needs to stand as incomplete.. Show your work, Keith.

    • LOL.

      • LOL !

        • So I’m assuming you subscribe to Law’s work and actually read his explanations?

          • No thanks. I’ll pass.. I have seen and heard enough with Colin Cowherd to know if he didn’t look nice on television no one would take him serious. You and I are likely both as much an authority , in addition to having real jobs. He is a windbag. I suspect his analysis has been so off base when I have read and listened, for no other reason than lack of real effort. He has cashed in. He is a TV personality now, not a baseball man. He is just collecting a paycheck. Wearing a nice suit, punching a clock and going home.. What could he explain w/o naming names? John obviously read the entirety of content. He doesn’t name prospects. He presents fluff. Fluff for hire.

            • Keith Law is a Harvard and Carnegie Mellon grad who impressed enough people with his knowledge while writing at BP that the Blue Jays gave him a job he didn’t even interview for.

              Keith Law could run circle around me, you, and every other contributor this blog has ever had.

              • I do not pretend to have an ounce of Keith Law’s intellect or baseball IQ.

                Don’t you see? There in-lies the problem… He doesn’t care to prove it anymore. I question his effort. His present day effort. In exile at Bristol… Likely intended to be a one year hiatus… He lost his fire…. I can make that argument because he is a brilliant and young man… What is he doing up there… He’s living comfortable and easy… Didn’t want back into the grind… I do not begrudge him that.. However , I am obligated to point out his laziness when 5 trades by John Hart make the Braves the an elite system 48 hrs removed from being one of the most depleted .
                Accountability. … I am sure he views the Pirate fan base as a real pain in the ass… Look at volume of comments to articles on our farm system vs. others… We are accountability for farm system annalists.

                • Dude, you already admitted you don’t read his work. You’ve literally disqualified yourself from judgement.

                  • See , you are forcing me to put substance behind my objection of his ranking order… I am not a list guy , yet I realize my issue is w his rankings…. I will come back tomorrow with fact, stat and analysis to back me…. Without reading Keith Law… You can defend that position.

          • Are you defending the assertion that Atlanta’s system could go from 28 to 6 with the addition of 6 very good young prospects?

            • No, I’m saying it is a truly pathetic display of ignorance to judge a man’s work without even bothering to read it.

              Of course Keith Law misses. A lot. We’re talking baseball prospects, after all. If you need someone to rip him a new one for it, I don’t think you understand the business very well.

              • NMR, My judgement takes into consideration that this sort of prognosticating is a set up to fail. I guess it can be thought of similiar to batting avg… I judge him , over time and more to the point against his peers.

                While a good prospect analyst hits 330 , Keith Law is a 220 hitter… I don’t care to read his work based on having heard him speak his overviews of deals and organizations and prospects on radio and TV. His opinions have often sounded flimsy and uninformed in the past…. I simply do not value his take.

                You and I may disagree … Often… But I believe myself to be very tuned in to our organization , and anytime needed I crash course myself on any other given organization..I.e., Scouring the Baltimore low level Pitching , as to familiarize myself w any potential PTBNL. I also have no doubt of you’re knowledge and understanding being as advanced as novice like us have time to be devoted to being…. I wouldn’t waste my time debating you if I didn’t consider you a worthy adversary…. And often , as today, you couldn’t resist throwing the challenge down.

              • I see you are a fan of Keith Law… That should not surprise me, as me being so critical of the same man should not surprise you…

                More fundamentally , not only do you and I have the right to criticize these figures , but we have an obligation to do so… We are not paid to follow as close as we do… We do it passionately .

                If you and I were being paid to debate Bastardo for Rodriguez , and do so on a public platform , bet your ass I would expect you to be as prepared as could be and force me to do real work to bring my A+ game as well.

                You are even more so responsible to call out Keith Law if you support him. His rankings are flawed. Without forcing me to site my reasoning…. Force him to site his.

                • I like you C.Feb, but Keith Law writes thousands of words every year defending his reasoning. That’s his freaking job.

                  And I’d love to take a look at your Prospect Writer Stat Sheet used to come up with that average. 😉

                  • You don’t need to attend Harvard to look at the depth of ATL and Pittsburgh and see he at least got carried away by the admittedly incredible heist spree J. Hart perpetrated all over baseball this winter..

    • Outstanding C. Feb, and that is not sarcasm. Guys like Law need called out more often.

    • Go check the 90s Indians, it is possible John Hart knows what he is doing. It is a bit odd the Braves decided to re-tool given the relative strength of their major league club, but I wouldn’t bet against Hart.

      You can certainly argue Law might think too highly of their current systems, but disagreements are interesting.

      • My problem isn’t with J. Hart…. Matter factually , Those half dozen or so trades he has made this winter are so incredible he may have been wielding a shotgun at the winter meetings… I could not be more impressed…. However, those 7 elite prospects don’t tip the scale so far as to offset the lack of depth compared to a Pittsburgh , built and sustained over half a decade…

        • Name them. Name the prospects without looking. There’s absolutely no doubt you can’t.

          Your entire argument is specious and doesn’t have any actual basis in scouting.

          • If I were payed, starting tonight, even a fraction of Keith Law, I promise , by tomorrow afternoon, I could go a paragraph 20 deep for both teams.

            That would be 40 more paragraphs on 40 more players than Keith Law. I’don’t even wanna know what he is paid per year.

        • Not sure there is a legacy bonus. It’ll will be interesting to see where the Braves rank on other lists, Baseball American seemed less impressed, I’m not losing sleep over one spot difference in the rankings.

          • Kiley McDaniel currently has them 6th according to his writeup posted today.

            Flame on, C.FEB.

  • Law is pretty accurate, I have seen the Pirates at 6, with Tarpley they might crack the top 5. The more I read, the more I like Tarpley, he reminds me of a left handed Glasnow, definitely a better prospect than Tony Watson was, would anyone here trade Watson for Snider?

  • Like pretty much everyone at ESPN, Law gets paid to attract eyeballs that can be converted to ad revenue, not to be right or accurate.

    • You don’t draw a distinction between free content and subscriber content?

      • With some sites, sure. But not with ESPN. They’ve moved significant content from free to behind the paywall with no corresponding increase in quality or accuracy. Kinda like how crack dealers work.

        • But, like, what if NMR was actually Keith Law?

        • Well you just cannot give away, 1999 Executive of Year’s opinions for free. I don’t mind Law I think he provides some very good content, opinions seem to be respected by what I would consider other good analyst. I do agree that it is increasingly harder to separate quality and agree with your overall characterization of ESPN.

          • I don’t think there’s a “prospect guy” better than Keith Law.

            • As a solo operation I’ll agree with that, though the Fangraphs guy while a bit acerbic is growing on me, provides a wealth of information.

              • Kiley is an animal. As far as I can remember, nobody has produced as much prospect content as thoroughly as him in his new role at FG. Really looking forward to the Pirates write-up.

          • I’m not sure if you’re being sarcastic, but if not, 1999 was 16 years ago. Bowden is only 54 and hasn’t had a FO job in six years… apparently there’s no demand for his talents.

            Let’s also not forget that Bowden was recommending the Pirates sign more than one $100 FA million contract in each of the past two seasons. The guy is worthless.

            • Sorry that was sarcastic, Bowden is a joke and a hack. Some mixed signals looking at his GM record, some solid talent was drafted under his watch, but that could just be that he had a lot of high 1st round picks.

              I don’t think he’ll ever work in baseball again, I think the FBI investigation into the skimming of Latin American bonuses has him blacklisted, which measurably worse than being a terrible analyst.

    • In the long run, he’s not gonna attract many eyeballs if he just flat out makes things up or gets things wrong all the time.

  • This is what happens when you’re a contender. You trade some prospect depth for guys during the season to strengthen your ML club, not to mention drafting later. The Pirates being ranked 7th is still very good considering these things.

    That being said, trading Snider, a 4th OFer who would see limited ABs this year, to grab 2 lower level, high upside players (once PTBNL is official) is an quick, easy, smart way to rebuild some of the lost talent in the system. Lambo, Decker or Tabata can fill that role. JHay can move to the OF if there are injuries (Kang/Pedro to 3B). SRod can play anywhere. Even if Snider becomes a stud in Baltimore, he wasn’t going to get that opportunity here, so his trade value would never have increased unless there was a significant injury.

    Strengthening the system while doing very little to hurt the ML roster. Small market baseball at its finest.

    • usually someone who is a contender leans more towards win now than win later. I think you need a good mixture of both, but I don’t think you downgrade the major league team to build you system up a possible prospect

  • Great top 10, but we have a lot of guys who were just drafted last year falling in at 11-20 and two breakout guys Elias Diaz Adrian Sampson. Clay Holmes returning from surgery, plus we graduated Polanco (a top 5 in the game). We have a solid system no doubt, but I can see how we fall from 6-10 rather than top 5

  • I would take the Pirates system over the Braves and Mets systems. Although I am only going by top 20 for all 3.

  • If we trade Mercer and Walker maybe we can have the best farm system. We can’t get too caught up in the present after all.

    • I do not think Travis Snider is going to be a 2.5 WAR player. Even if he is, he wasn’t going to start for the Pirates anyway. Lambo could very well end up better than Snider.

    • I think if you see Walker moved you would see a strong major leaguer and a prospect. I dont think you would see us acquiring a package of prospects. Similar to a Price deal, Franklin (prospect) smyly young starter

      • i was just joking, I don’t really want either of them moved. Based on the arguments of those for moving Snider they would seem to support it based on their arguments.

    • Tetrapharmakos
      January 28, 2015 12:45 pm

      Since first appearing in the majors in 2008, Snider has accumulated a career total of 2.7 WAR; last year Snider was a 1.7 WAR player over 359 PA. What makes you think that he’d be a 2.5 win player next year? How do you determining that Snider is/was a 2.5 WAR player? Were you projecting him to get 600 PA and repeat his career season, because those both seem like rather large assumptions, and in the case of playing time, totally unsubstantiated.

      • According to Baseball reference he has a 4.2 lifetime with a 2.5 in limited action last year

        • That would be Steamer, me and quite a few other serious observers saying he won’t be the difference between winning and losing. Of course, folks like Smizik and you are apprehensive. I would suggest getting a grip.

          • Funny how most news to think this trade makes no sense. Our own John Drecker seemed to have the same sentiment. They say the only way it makes sense is if there’s another move to follow it. There’s at least 20 players on the Pirates that you could say it wouldn’t make a difference if they were traded.

            • What “news sources” would those be?


              • look at Travis Snider’s page on baseball reference. they have a lot of stories linked to this trade.

                • This is Rum Bunter sight had to say, “Without knowing who the PTBNL is going to be, it is difficult to put a final grade on this trade. But regardless, this does not sit well with me. The expected objective should be to improve the 2015 Pittsburgh Pirates, not weaken it. No team with an eye on the present should be dealing a key player for player(s) who will not make an impact until the future, if ever. The Stephen Tarpley and the PTBNL may very well turn out to be quality ball players, but they will do nothing to improve the chances of the Pirates making a third consecutive post-season appearance.”
                  My views are pretty main stream on this. Leo would say they must not be serious observers if they just don’t love this trade. At the very least it will not help the Pirates this year, but the gamble is that it could hurt them.

                  • Haha, yeah, that’s about what I thought.


                    It is downright scary what folks consider “news sources” on the internet.

                    • what he seems to make a reasonable point, this does nothing to improve their chances this year unless there’s going to be a subsequent move

                    • I find it more reliable than what you or Leo say. John Dreker made some of the same comments.

              • Raise the Jolly roger says, “This trade could easily be justified from a pure long term value standpoint, and a few years ago it would have been a no brainer for a rebuilding team. But this is a move that makes the Pirates worse in the short term.”

                • You do realize you’re citing fan blogs, correct?

                  The only thing that makes those more reliable in your eyes than leo or I is that you agree with them.

                  • they do it for a living, and so does John Drecker and TIm, I’m just not all in like you and leo, As much as I want Lambo to get a chance I think he’s a little more of a gamble than Snider and Snider has more experience. That’s not a stretch to think that. Leo wants to attack anyone that thinks differently than him. My thoughts are also in line with many serious fans.

                    • Oh, John and Tim wrote that this trade “makes no sense”?

                      How bout you post a link to that.

                    • “The Pirates need Snider’s depth in the majors more than they need an extra pitching prospect in the minors.” Tim said this on the page announcing the trade.

                      As much as you just love this trade you must think it’s a blockbuster deal and we got a pitcher with more upside than Glasnow or Kingman.

                    • Your reading comprehension is atrocious.

                    • no he went on to say unless it is better that what Connelly is saying I don’t think the pitcher they got is much better than the one Connelly was talking about,

                    • My feeling on this is I just think Snider’s depth and is more valuable than an extra pitching prospect in the minors. As simple as that. I don’t think it ended all chances to be a contender this year. It just doesn’t really help them. I just hope the Pirates aren’t down to using Jaff Decker (or other roster depth from AAA) like we had to use Morel and Martinez last year. I’m just playing the odds. Weather you like the trade or not it adds a little more risk to this season.

                    • I think that’s a completely reasonable explanation.

                      I also don’t think that comes close to saying the trade “makes no sense”.

                    • I might even be able to say it makes some sense, but not doing it made more sense. The fact that it raises questions means it adds risk. Even though it can be covered it does take out one level of depth. With that, I really hope Lambo works out. If Lambo or another outfielder gets hurt we would be down to Tabata as the 4th outfielder.

                    • As I said below, if you cannot trade a 4th outfielder with exactly two good months of baseball to his name, you may as well close up shop and just go with this team as-is til Cutch leaves.

                    • I understand he’s just a complimentary piece to the puzzle. He came though last year when the Pirates needed him. I don’t know if that’s because he was over some injuries. I’m not worried that Lambo can’t handle the job or even do better. My concern is that it’s very possible we will need to go deeper in the depth to cover injuries. That’s when it could start to hurt. If the Pirates were still 2 years away from being a contender this would make perfect sense. If the plan is to add roster flexibility so they could add depth through a trade then it may end up making sense.

                    • The longer you go on, PieRat, the more reasonable your arguments seem. Clearly this is not a trade that was screaming to be made, nor was NH under any sort of duress (e.g., impending roster crunch).

                      The most logical conclusion I can draw from it is that the FO doesn’t buy Snider’s renaissance is a permanent thing. Given that his swing and K rates were career low by a wide margin, his HR/FB was above his career average, and he hit .420+ on contact as a lefty (ridiculous and unsustainable), the safe bet is to take the under going forward. So it’s not like there isn’t risk in staying the course with Snider. He doesn’t even have to dip all the way back to his career .715 OPS to be redundant – Lambo has done nothing but rake the last 3 years, Rojas continues to improve, even Tabata is only a year removed from a really useful season. The Bucs’ OF depth is so strong that Keon Broxton had nowhere to play at Indy, despite having nothing left to prove at AA.

                      If the best information NH has is that Snider is a 1 win guy going forward, instead of the 2.5 win guy his 2014 would extrapolate to, then this becomes more defensible. Maybe the same information suggests that any or all of Lambo, Tabata and Rojas could provide the same production (while conveniently alleviating a logjam in the OF at AAA). In which case, you’ve “traded” Snider for (let’s say) Lambo, a couple of low-A lottery tickets and a million and a half to help acquire trade deadline reinforcements. I’d make that trade.

                    • Brooks, I think NH said something like that. It sounds like Baltimore approached him. They are a couple injuries away from having to use organizational depth to fill that role now. Jaff Decker would probably come up before Rojas at this point. If 4th outfielders are that expendable if they get in crunch they can go get one during the season.

    • You have outdone yourself with that comment. You do realize that Steamer projections show Snider and Lambo as the same player ? Sorry, stupid question to ask you.

      • You really don’t get it do you. It was a crazy scenario. I bet though if NH made a crazy trade like that you would again be the one leading the charge on how great it is. You’d say they saved 8 million on Walker’s replacement and only lost 2 WAR on the deal. You’d say it was great because they could use that 8 million to more than make up for the lost WAR. You’s say they can move Kang to 3rd, Harrison to 2nd and they won’t even miss him. With the extra depth and saved money they got from the Walker trade they could then trade up on a first basemen. It was meant to be sarcastic because you could defend any move the NH makes. In fact I would guess your nose is brown, but you would say it smells like roses.

        • Now I know you have lost it….if you ever did have it. I’ll bet you didn’t know that I was advocating moving Walker to 1st base as early as last Spring after Harrison began swinging the bat better. So stop with the idiotic presumptions. Get back on your meds and things will be fine soon.

          • Why are you such a combative nitwit? 98% of those posting on PP, have respect for their fellow Pirate fans. You do realize that you can disagree in a manner that doesn’t scream “aizzwhole”. Try it sometime.

            I bet you’re a joy to be around 24/7. Lol.

            • I don’t remember addressing you about anything. Try minding your own business, it might help you increase your knowledge.

              • Brilliant comeback, as you would say. The real irony is that no one addresses you, but you’re first in line to take shots at them. Thin-skinned, hypocrite. Practice what you preach.

    • If the Bucs thought Snider could produce 2.5 WAR as a part time outfielder next year, they probably would have kept him. His Steamer projection is about 1 WAR, with a wRC+ of 108 and poor defense.