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Williams: Prospect Rankings

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This site hasn’t featured prospect rankings since the start of the 2022 season. Two years after that last list, rankings will return to this site, but in a new way.

I don’t personally like ranking human beings. The reality of baseball development is that it’s a game of attrition. There are only 26 spots in the majors, and only 40 spots on the MLB reserve list. There are over 200 players throughout every level of the organization competing for those 26 spots. The reality is that not every player is going to make it to the big leagues. However, that ignores the same reality that there are more players with the talent to reach the big leagues than there are spots.

The idea of prospect rankings is simple: Who has the best chance to reach the majors, while putting up the best career at the big league level.

The reality of prospect rankings is simple: No one knows the future. Even if you could identify the top 30-50 candidates in the system to excel at the MLB level, you couldn’t possibly predict how thing will turn out for each player. As a result, the very best list ranking the prospects in the system will only give an idea of what might happen in the future. And there’s no “best list”. There are just different opinions and preferences.

I’ve got a list of every player in the Pirates system, ranked. I don’t know how my opinion stacks up to other outlets, as I’ve tried to ignore the prospect ranking season. This is a list I’ve worked on for months, with considerations as to how prospect rankings should be handled.

Long-time readers know that I prefer tiers over numerical ranking lists. Everyone would have Paul Skenes as the number one prospect in this system, but there’s not much difference in value between the number two and number five prospect in the current system. Likewise, there’s not much difference in the values of prospects six and nine, nor prospects ten and twenty. The value of tiered rankings is showing the depth of the system in quality.

The value of ranking a system is to let people know the future chances of their favorite team winning. The new rankings on Pirates Prospects will lean into this objective. You’ll be able to see how many players in the Pirates’ system have the chance to be elite players in the majors, how many have a chance to be starters, how many can be role players, and how many are on the fringe, battling for one of the few spots.

In a game of attrition, having one player who could profile as an above-average regular is somewhat meaningless. More valuable is knowing how many players in the entire system could profile as above-average regulars.

The prospect rankings on this site will be released in the April 2nd premium article drop, which is the minor league season preview drop. My hope is to display a different way to view and evaluate development, as we all play scouts, scouting directors, and General Managers in our foolish attempts to view the future.

Spoiler alert: Paul Skenes will be the number one prospect.

Tim Williams
Tim Williams
Tim is the owner, producer, editor, and lead writer of PiratesProspects.com. He has been running Pirates Prospects since 2009, becoming the first new media reporter and outlet covering the Pirates at the MLB level in 2011 and 2012. His work can also be found in Baseball America, where he has been a contributor since 2014 and the Pirates' correspondent since 2019.

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