Pirates Prospects began in 2009 as BuccoFans.com. Tim Williams started the site while working for AccuScore.com. While it didn't have the Pirates Prospects name yet, the site was originally modeled after SoxProspects.com, aimed at giving Pirates fans the same resource to track the farm system. At the time, Williams lived 40 minutes from the Pirates' High-A affiliate, the Lynchburg Hillcats, who won the Carolina League championship that year. In addition to Alvarez, that team featured many future Pirates: Chase d'Arnaud, Eric Fryer, Jeff Locke, Starling Marte, Bryan Morris, Jordy Mercer, Matt Hague, Josh Harrison, Alex Presley, Tony Sanchez, and Justin Wilson. BuccoFans.com provided video and game reports all throughout the playoffs, leading to the idea of what Pirates Prospects could become in the future.
Williams had been laid off in 2009 during the recession. He spent over a year trying to find work -- including working at a bakery for a year -- before going all-in on the idea of Pirates Prospects. While working as a courier for the US Census, Williams built up the daily content of the site and planned a book, with hopes to turn this into a full-time job. In July, BuccoFans.com became PiratesProspects.com. At the same time, the site was joined by John Dreker, Wilbur Miller, Kevin Creagh, and many other writers to follow. Pirates Prospects/Bucco Fans saw over one million page views in 2010, and the first Prospect Guide was being written by the end of the year.
The 2011 Prospect Guide was released prior to Spring Training, with information on every prospect in the Pirates' system. This came at a time when it was starting to become obvious that the Pirates were finally putting a real focus on investing in their farm system -- something which would continue in a big way when the Pirates broke the draft that summer by drafting and signing Josh Bell. Pirates Prospects reported live from Spring Training and all four affiliates. Tim Williams received the site's first MLB credential at PNC Park to cover Chase d'Arnaud's MLB debut that summer -- d'Arnaud was the first player interviewed for the site in Lynchburg in 2009. Pirates Prospects saw over three million page views in 2011, and with sales from the Prospect Guide, was becoming a full-time job for Williams, though it would become more...
2012 - 2014
JOINING THE BEAT
Pirates Prospects became the first independent, new media outlet to receive full-season credentials from the Pirates in 2012. Kristy Robinson joined the site as the MLB beat writer in Pittsburgh. Pirates Prospects covered the entirety of Spring Training for the first time in 2012, and had live coverage from every affiliate throughout the farm system. Other Pirates Prospects contributors during the 2012 season included Matt Bandi, Tom Bragg, Kevin Creagh, Randy Linville, and Nancy Zinni, who provided reports from Indianapolis since 2010.
At the start of 2013, Williams moved to Bradenton, Florida, where he would provide year-round coverage from the southern home of the Pirates. Meanwhile, James Santelli joined the site, pairing with Tom Bragg on the MLB beat, with Bragg returning for a second year as the West Virginia correspondent. The site was also joined that year by Nate Barnes and Jamey Conlin. The Pirates broke their 20-year losing streak in 2013, and Pirates Prospects was there to cover it every stage of the way. That summer, James Santelli wrote an article titled "Pirates’ Defensive Shifts: The Hidden Secret Behind Baseball’s Best Team", which won a SABR award for his reporting on what was helping the Pirates to their winning season. Pirates Prospects had full coverage of the playoffs, including coverage from Santelli and Williams in St. Louis during the NLDS.
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Pirates Prospects set a site record in 2014 with over ten million page views, and covered the Pirates for the second year in a row in the post-season. David Hague became the site's photographer in Pittsburgh. Ryan Palencer joined the site as the new Indianapolis writer, and added reporting from the Triple-A level to the site. Will Cleveland joined the site to cover the State College Spikes and all of the new draft picks entering the system. Nate Barnes led the Pirates beat, joined by Pete Ellis and Jeremy Tepper. Through the 2014 season, Pirates Prospects had been supported by ad revenue, which was beginning to decline as the internet switched to higher paying, more intrusive video ads...
2015 - 2018
In March, Pirates Prospects went behind a paywall, with Williams looking to expand the site's reporting. The move launched Pirates Prospects from a blog that routinely reported news, to a full small-scale media outlet, with reporters in every city. In 2015, the site added Sean McCool as its Altoona writer. Williams moved into a reporting role to cover the entire system, including a trip to the Pirates' Dominican Academy that summer. Pete Ellis returned as the site's beat writer.
Pirates Prospects expanded to more frequent minor league coverage in 2016. Alan Saunders joined the site as the new MLB beat writer. Brian Peloza was added as the Indianapolis writer. Abigail Miscowiec took over the Low-A beat in West Virginia. This marked a period of a few years where Pirates Prospects became the source of news, to the point where there was at least one instance of a group of players finding out about their promotion to a new level from a report on PiratesProspects.com.
During the early part of Spring Training 2017, Tim Williams wrote a story on Tyler Glasnow developing a changeup. The story led to a lot of replication, which represented the predicament Pirates Prospects was suddenly in while behind a paywall. The site led the team coverage that spring, with every other outlet focusing their reporting on changeup usage for several weeks of camp. Pirates Prospects had become a leader in coverage of the entire organization, but with all of the articles hidden behind a paywall, it was more of the best kept secret for the majority of Pirates fans.
The Pirates were no longer contenders like they were from 2013-15, and the team was bleeding fans. As a result, Pirates Prospects was losing subscribers with fans losing interest in the team. The site maintained system-wide reporting through that summer, with Matt Gajtka joining Alan Saunders on the MLB beat. By that summer, site owner Tim Williams was starting to experience burnout from years of running the site like he was 25 years old, and needed to step away from reporting. This led to fears that more subscribers would leave and the site would eventually close. Fortunately, the site's supporters stepped up in the site's darkest time, and gave the boost needed to move Pirates Prospects in a new direction...
2019 - 2022
Pirates Prospects moved away from reporting in 2019, and Williams moved away from writing on the site by the end of the year. Ethan Hullihen joined the site to provide payroll and baseball business updates. Williams joined Baseball America as the Pirates' correspondent, but spent most of 2019 thinking about what Pirates Prospects had been, and what it still could become. The Pirates overhauled their front office at the end of 2019, while Williams was working on a concept called "Pittsburgh Baseball Network."
The COVID-19 pandemic led to the cancellation of the minor league season, and most of the MLB season. It also led to a lot of uncertainty for small businesses. Fortunately, Pirates Prospects was able to stay afloat from the support of our long-time readers. The support allowed Williams to move forward with the launch of PittsburghBaseball.com, which led to Pirates Prospects temporarily closing down on July 31, 2020, with Pittsburgh Baseball Network launching.
Pittsburgh Baseball Network was largely a concept to sort out the next version of Pirates Prospects, away from Pirates Prospects. On July 31, 2021, one year after temporarily closing, Pirates Prospects returned. Williams returned to reporting by the end of the year, and made offseason plans for a new version of the site.
On January 4, 2022, Pirates Prospects launched the idea of "Article Drops", releasing all articles on Tuesday. The new approach was joined by daily coverage and weekly features, which eventually built up the Pirates Prospects you see today. Anthony Murphy joined the site as a Prospect Analyst, and Ryan Palencer returned to cover the Triple-A affiliate. Jeff Reed also joined the site from the comment section as a weekly contributor.
Pirates Prospects has been many things over the years. It started as a blog, then became a source for news. Then, it became THE source for Pirates news. At the heart of it all, Pirates Prospects has always been a place where you can go and find out information on every player in the Pirates' system -- many of whom aren't covered by any other outlet. This site will maintain and expand upon that focus in 2023, with a new Daily/Weekly approach to publishing, and the removal of the paywall. Pirates Prospects has been many things over the years, and the next phases for the site will lead to the best version yet.
-Tim Williams, Pirates Prospects Owner and Producer