Keith Law from The Athletic released his rankings of the top farm systems in baseball on Thursday. He had some good things to say about the Pittsburgh Pirates after ranking them as the sixth best farm system.
Law does note that he doesn’t believe that the Pirates have a true superstar in his ranks above the complex league. I’ll note that the wording seems odd, since he mentions at the bottom of the article that the system could look better once Termarr Johnson, Anthony Solometo and Bubba Chandler get to full-season ball, so I think he is including them as the complex league players. It certainly appears that way, but I could be wrong. All three played full-season ball for Bradenton this past year.
Law likes the strong depth for the Pirates system, noting that they have numerous players at the upper levels who should become better than replacement level players in the majors. It’s not just depth, it’s quality depth.
The Pirates rank third among National League teams in the rankings behind the Los Angeles Dodgers and Arizona Diamondbacks. The rest of the NL Central ranks eighth (Milwaukee Brewers), ninth (St Louis Cardinals), tenth (Chicago Cubs) and 13th (Cincinnati Reds). That’s not the best news for the Pirates, as the rest of their own division all rank well too.
We will post more farm system rankings once they are released, so we can see a comparison and average out the rankings.
For those who can’t get enough of the prospects talk, Baseball America released a podcast on Wednesday that covers the top ten prospects for the Pirates. I didn’t listen to it yet, but here’s the description of the 42-minute podcast:
Kyle Glaser and Mark Chiarelli break down the Pirates farm system, including where the organization has made strides in player development, status updates on Henry Davis and Nick Gonzales and a realistic timeline for the club’s rebuild to pay off.
John started working at Pirates Prospects in 2009, but his connection to the Pittsburgh Pirates started exactly 100 years earlier when Dots Miller debuted for the 1909 World Series champions. John was born in Kearny, NJ, two blocks from the house where Dots Miller grew up. From that hometown hero connection came a love of Pirates history, as well as the sport of baseball.
When he didn't make it as a lefty pitcher with an 80+ MPH fastball and a slider that needed work, John turned to covering the game, eventually focusing in on the prospects side, where his interest was pushed by the big league team being below .500 for so long. John has covered the minors in some form since the 2002 season, and leads the draft and international coverage on Pirates Prospects. He writes daily on Pittsburgh Baseball History, when he's not covering the entire system daily throughout the entire year on Pirates Prospects.
PSA – The almighty Keith Law doesn’t have a crystal ball. As a matter of fact I can guarantee he’ll be wrong more than he’s right about these young men. These ball players, and their coaches, will determine their future, not Keith Law, Kiley McDaniel, or any other “expert.”
If other outlets feel similarly, this is a huge jump and goes to show how quickly a well-run organization can bounce back.
I thought we were ranked Third by FG last year?
My reference was to the Brewers, who were 24th last year and 26th the year before. Back then it looked like we just had to weather a few years before our talent was much better than the Brewers, but they’ve closed the gap while remaining competitive at the MLB level.
Closing the Prospect Gap while being competitive at the MLB level – Is that possible to do? Just kidding. Sometimes a team has to play their hunches with prospects – keep the ones that fit, trade the excess prospects to add even younger prospects.
Right now we are set at the MI for at least 2 years, with a possibly generational talent in Termarr coming within 3 years. We are still waiting with house money on Nick Gonzales – Why?
Defensively, he does not fit a team like the Pirates, who are looking for multi-positional MI’s . Offensively he has not yet fully adjusted to upper level MiLB pitching, but his overall prospect status at age 24 could be interesting to other teams not blessed with prospects nearing the MLB level.
Nick Gonzalez- its not how you start a new level
its how you finish the level and then go on to carry your team to a AFL Championship in the desert
Also, looks like Termarr is starting this year in GBO
he will be in Altoona by the end of the year
What a swing he has
And do not give up and shop Gonzo!
You’re allowed to do that?! Be competitive AND build up the farm?!
Just takes a little $.
Imagine had we extended Marte, Musgrove, and Taillon while keeping Bell and Holmes, and for the fun of it, let’s assume we still swung a deal for Endy using a reliever since that didn’t necessarily require dealing Musgrove. Our MLB team in ’20-’22 would have been much better (maybe not a contender, but more fun to watch) and our farm would only be marginally weaker (or maybe not weaker at all given that guys selected below Gonzales and Davis are ranked much higher).
3rd in the preseason and 3rd in the update
Or the glass half empty view – we’ve spent 4 years losing miserably and doing nothing but build our farm system and we’re only rated sixth.
But part that four years being not great, is this years #1 draft pick. So if we get another top 35 stud this will give us 4 automatics in the top 100. Only grows our ranking. But your point landed.
The reason I don’t like the tanking model is that smart teams show that you can have both–put a competent team on the field while also building your farm system. The Brewers, Guardians, and Rays all do it with manageable payrolls. Maybe in the future that will be us. But looking back, perhaps we could have had a decent MLB team and still have built a top-10 farm. It would have taken a bit more spending, though.
I agree and would argue that is why Neil got fired. In theory when the Pirates were in the playoffs being a smart team they could have maintained it better. I start Ben with a clean slate.
On tanking (and Ben may have done this regardless), I do think sometimes the opportunity partially presents itself. Pirates were bad, arguably their best player (or at a minimum worth the most in trades) was now behind bars, their starting pitcher who was an overpay was suddenly not even a ‘work-horse’ starter and value was diminished. I guess in some ways if Ben was debating it at all some circumstances made it even easier to go that approach. And there is no half way on a tank (IMO). To your key point, the test will not only be Ben getting them to the playoffs, but maintaining a competitive team.
I’ve always thought some combo of Indians/Rays methodology seems like the approach.
This “list season” has taught me that FG is basically the only outlet outside I care about. BA replaced Tim with a guy that didn’t even realize Endy was a switch-hitter.
At least until their rankings come out and the Bucs are like 6th or 7th, right?
As many of us have been saying for awhile now: No ‘needle movers’.
Wrong thread for this, but would love the Twins and Pirates trade Choi for Kyle farmer two players that are now excess in their current team, great fit if traded and similar salaries.
Sign me up
i have actually pondered a Choi deal once Cutch said that he’s “mostly a DH now”.
Without penciling Cutch into LF every day, it’s tricky to make the Cutch Choi Santana pieces fit together.
THAT said, here’s a system i could see working and being in line with cutch’s comments about himself:
1) choi sits vs lefties, period
2) Cutch DHs vs lefties, santana to 1b, period
3) Vs righties, cutch can play LF *sometimes*, sit a good bit, and dh sometimes (IE, choi 1b and Santana rests)
That’s a system where MOST of cutch’s time is DH (per his commentary about himself), and the guys still get to play as much as they deserve/can/should.
Given what cutch said about himself, i wouldnt project cutch above 450 PA
and all THAT said…. things really free up if you flip Choi. i like the 2 legit 1b system though.
Not to mention Miguel Andujar might have a bigger upside than Choi, Santana or Cutch.
Yeah, he really doesn’t. Andujar hasn’t put up a positive WAR in half a decade.,
I think most people probably agree with you, but Andujar hasn’t played more than 45 games in a season in half a decade either. He had two pretty serious injuries and has been buried behind better players in New York. (His lack of fielding really hurts his WAR). His last full season was 27 homers 92 rbis at age 22. He finished second in ROY to Ohtani. I think at age 27, the jury is still out.
Yep, agree that it’s a 3-man carousel for 2 spots. 450 PA for Cutch is way on the high side imo. But I hope Shelton primarily gives the AB’s to the two guys who are producing. And then there’s some PH ABs that will arise too.
Agree. At this point on his career, Cutch is a DH.
This is spot on. I have never really seen Choi / Cutch as competing for a lot of at bats so Choi’s status didn’t change a lot with the Cutch signing. Choi only played against RH in Tampa, so in my brain he has been a strict platoon player since he signed. To me Joe (and Andujar) became expendable with the Cutch signing more than anybody else.
With the age of Santana and Cutch, I would think 400-500 plate appearances (assuming good production) feels about right. That has them sitting plenty against RH and full time in the lineup vs. LH. It also opens AB’s against RH’s for what could be plenty of left hitting options on the bench.
Why can´t Choi strict platoon only at first base with Santana and have Cutch platoon with Cal Mitchel?
you could do that. i just doubt they just paid carlos santana 7 million just to get 200 PA in a strict vs LHP role.
.655 ops vs rh pitching in 2022
.789 ops vs lh pitching in 2022
again, you are forgetting the effect of the shift which is now gone. all the advanced stats back up that he’d be hitting about 50 points higher without a shift against righties
How much ya wanna bet the effect of the shift won’t be anywhere near that much?
im aware! not really an argument against what i said though!
maybe he can still catch?
given that Cutch doesnt sound like much of an outfielder, per his own words, i dont think Joe is as redundant or expendable as you’re thinking, but who knows.
I think there’s more PA out there for Joe than you think.
Even if it’s just as a RH complement to Suwinski when the team is fully healthy, i think he’s worth having around due to his flexibility and minimal platoon splits (can play OF, 1b, and i imagine can still play 3b in a pinch)
I think there’s room for Njigba or Mitchell to get most of the LF time, and for Joe to chip in in both corners.
Good point. Maybe expendable was too harsh. I did picture Cutch playing more outfield than it sounds like may play out. I also have this weird fear of the ‘old guys’ (I include Joe) getting too many at bats which also would have me playing Joe less and seeing what Suwinski (not overly optimistic) and others may do against lefties.
I’ve voiced similar ideas before, but here’s hoping the pirates take the true 1.1 talent this year instead of trying to yield an extra “lonnie white” type with pool savings.
Should fill that “lack of superstar” void, but we’ll see.
I have a hard time thinking that Dylan Crews wont slot into being that type of top 20 prospect but i suppose you never know.
Termarr was a stone cold “best player available” but just isn’t the same mileage at 4th overall as it is at 1 overall, especially as an 18 yr old instead of a polished college player.
I like picking Jack Wilson´s son and then overslotting on high school pitchers
Ah, a return to the glory days of Tony Sanchez and Zack Von Rosenberg!
von rosenberg was perhaps one of my favorite all time prospects from those olden days.
dude does not strike out
would not be surprised that this new OBP philosophy trickles down into our draft strategy
plus the marketing department has recently taken notice of the value of nostalgia in making roster decisions
Yeh, but even the most highly touted 1:1 picks fail or under perform, so even that idea, while good in theory, doesn’t always work out,
i mean yeah. anyone can bust. we’ve all seen it plenty of times 🙂
Crews’ swing and miss is being questioned. Those types (see Clint Frazier) rarely succeed. I’d take the pitcher (forgot his name) at this point.
I agree. Something tells me Crews won’t end up being 1.1. Let’s see what kind of year he has. They need studs more than a lot of potential. Go best player at 1 and if its Crews or Dollander so be it.
youre thinking of dollander.
a lot can change between now and the draft. someone might overtake both of them. i have no idea.
i think youre probably nitpicking what i said a little much. i just want them to take the best guy instead of worrying about spreading funds to round 2 and 3. thats my only point.
we’ll see what happens with crews and dollander.
I agree with ‘best guy’. I did not get that from your comment, which is why I wrote my comment. 😎😎
I guess i struggle because I feel there is rarely a true 1:1. Harper and Strasburg jump into my brain. While Davis took less money, he was still listed as a possible first pick regardless of $’s. The high school SS taken later wanted more money but I believe that was more because they were HS prospects not that they were slam dunk higher ranked. I do agree with the general principal of not reaching at 1:1, I just didn’t consider Davis necessarily a reach, there just wasn’t an obvious 1:1. We will see how this crop plays out. I would love for the Tennessee pitcher to crush the season and make it a no-brainer.
I was admittedly in this camp but now cannot help but think the draft pool influenced this take.
It was just too hard not to let the value of going underslot affect perception of quality.
Mayer in particular is a friggin stud. We either wildly missed on the scouting eval or were too easily influenced by cost and talked ourselves into equal quality.
Would much rather have Mayer right now over Davis, or maybe even Lawler. Those guys are raking.
When there are 5-7 guys at the top and no clear cut stud, odds are very good that one of the non-Davis guys would be the best player. The Bucs could’ve taken Mayer… or a bust. The best judge of how they did will be Henry Davis’ career, which looks on track as of now.
And was Mayer drafted #2 ? Other teams passed on him too right? (Could be wrong)
God I hope it’s the latter. Because if it’s the former, that’s trouble.
Well, the podcast segment on Nick G was interesting. They weren’t at the “he sucks” end, but their discussion of the swing and miss was exactly what everybody here sees. One of them mentioned seeing him in an early season game his last year in college. Said he was swinging and missing on 87-88 mph FBs over the plate from a lefty.
The telling part was a comment about how, if you saw Nick in just a game or two, you could come away impressed by the swing. But if you saw him over a number of games, you’d be worried about the swing-and-miss. Raises concerns about the Pirates’ scouting.
I mean honestly…if money weren’t an issue would Hank have *truly* been the pick at 1.1?
I know I’d have taken Mayer’s upside all day.
I’ll give the wishy-washy answer. I don’t know. There were different rankings of prospects and many (I thought) were based off of pure ranking – not signability etc. So, I think where are many who would agree with you and some who might agree in hindsight but I also don’t think it was some major reach taking Tank. He was considered the best college bat regardless of position. What’s interesting given our current discussion, both Mayer and Lawler didn’t ultimately sign for much more than Hank. The big leap in $(scuttling any over slot signings later) was Leiter.
Oops..I do get that if Lawler or Mayer would have gone 1:1 they may have negotiated off of a higher base, but most players have some ball park that will work for them and Bucs still might have had money for an overslot or two.. likely not 3.
No I agree with you completely.
Hank wasn’t a so much a “reach”, but even Longenhagen said that if you put a gun to their heads most scouts thought Mayer was the legit top dude.
And while they weren’t getting Mayer for $6m, I still don’t think he was close to a full slot dude. If he wanted top slot, he’d have gone to college.
I agree. I liked Davis a lot, and if he stays healthy, he COULD become a needle mover.
Listened to the podcast last night, it was interesting. Also listened to the Fangraphs podcast for the first time since it had a Priester interview, it was a very good interview with good info!
the Cardinals are just so freaking good at this.
That 5 round 2020 draft is looking pretty special between Walker, Winn, Hence, and Burleson.
Tracking toward being a total Masterclass.
Had to look it up on MLB. Looks like a 60 FV and the rest that I saw all 55. Knowing the Cards they will probably reach or exceed expectations.
they had to have just taken covid and used it as an opportunity to just grind as opposed to cutting back. i dunno. just stunning work there. or at least thats how its looking now
good to see the pic of hank padded up with the evoshield on his wrist & elbow guard.
Agree. Wouldn’t mind if he wore a functional left arm of shining armor.
I think he should wear a half suit of armor on the whole left side of his body, for gosh sakes….
Is that Moran rounding third headed for home?
he is still getting down the 1st base line
He’s one player that coaches tell not to run out any routine ball in the infield. Got benched one time for actually legging it down the first base line on a one hopper to the second baseman.
Pretty sure your interpretation of the complex league comment is correct. Weird, because Solo never played there.