Williams: The Pirates Player Development System is Providing Hope For the Future

Over the last week, the Pittsburgh Pirates minor league camp has felt like Major League camp.

That’s in part due to the amount of media covering Minor League Spring Training, which is a vast change from me being at Pirate City all by myself for years once MLB camp went over to LECOM Park and took all of the MLB writers with it.

I have a feeling that even if MLB finalizes a lockout deal, and gives the Pirates an alternative, there will still be a lot of attention paid to the minor leagues.

And why wouldn’t that be the case?

In a best-case scenario, you might be able to envision the Pirates getting up to a mid-70s win total. Depending on how many playoff teams there are in the final CBA agreement, that could make them contenders.

The Pirates have some interesting young players to follow. I’ll be watching to see if Mitch Keller can carry his offseason momentum into the season, and if Ke’Bryan Hayes can improve his power in the majors. For now, there’s Bryan Reynolds to watch, and a lot of younger players on the way, with Oneil Cruz and Roansy Contreras already providing an early preview.

Still, the minors will feature one of the top farm systems in the game, some of the best overall prospects in the game, and most importantly of all, hope.

Hope that this Pirates organization has finally figured out their issues with player development.

Hope that the Major League atmosphere in minor league camp is something that will translate over to Major League players.

Hope that all of the similar hopes that were dashed in the past don’t get a new fallen soldier.

By everything I’ve seen, the Pirates are heading in a good direction. They’re being innovative in how they’re teaching their prospects, but also just generally treating them like adults and human beings who have agency over their own lives.

The latter provides a stark difference compared to the previous player development system, where there was more strict, top-down instruction, and no such concept of a player-centric development plan.

Vic Black Has Created a Video Library to Assist With Teaching Pitching Mechanics

It’s easy to feel optimistic and find hope when you see such a clear contrast from a system that didn’t work. That’s not to say that this system will work just because it’s better than the previous development system.

Where I find hope is the continued input from the players. I’ve been hearing positive reactions to this system that have only been getting stronger and stronger as the system has gained traction. Players formerly in the system lay out the massive differences that now allow them control over their careers. Players who are new to the system have immediately bought in. Who wouldn’t buy into a concept where you’re given control of the biggest decisions of your career?

With any hope, this player development system and the top farm system that they’re working with will one day make that MLB team just as entertaining to follow.


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Tim started Pirates Prospects in 2009 from his home in Virginia, which was 40 minutes from where Pedro Alvarez made his pro debut in Lynchburg. That year, the Lynchburg Hillcats won the Carolina League championship, and Pirates Prospects was born from Tim's reporting along the way. The site has grown over the years to include many more writers, and Tim has gone on to become a credentialed MLB reporter, producing Pirates Prospects each year, and will publish his 11th Prospect Guide this offseason. He has also served as the Pittsburgh Pirates correspondent for Baseball America since 2019. Behind the scenes, Tim is an avid music lover, and most of the money he gets paid to run this site goes to vinyl records.

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