This is a few days old, but a reader at Minor League Ball took John Sickels’ recently-finished prospect rankings and applied a numerical value to his grades and used that to rank the farm systems. He also put together some cool visuals for his graphs, which are worth checking out if you haven’t seen them yet.
I’m also posting it now because the Pirates ranked 18th (I’m not sure I posted a link to Sickles’ Pirate rankings: you can find them here) and I’ve seen a bit of grumbling about how low that is; not that it’s unfairly low but that the Pirates should be higher than that right now. It’s true that 18 isn’t terribly high, but there’s always a bit more to prospect rankings than meets the eye.
The first thing that’s worth noting is the big imbalance between the Pirates’ pitching prospects and hitting prospects. By Sickels’ rankings, the Pirates’ system is sixth best in terms of pitching prospects and that’s with guys like Taillon and Allie and Heredia and even Von Rosenberg and Cain ranked pretty cautiously because of their relative lack of experience as professional pitchers. Actually, the Pirates have the sixth best pitching system in Sickles’ rankings and not one of their pitchers on the list has thrown an inning above Double-A to this point in their careers. That sort of thing cuts both ways, obviously, and it means that the pitchers in the system could go the other way with injuries or poor performances, but this confirms what we’ve all been saying for six months now; the Pirates have built up an incredible amount of young pitching talent in the lower parts of their minor league system.
That’s because the Pirates have focused on pitching in the drafts every year since Neal Huntington took over except for 2008. Huntington inherited a system that only had Brad Lincoln in it (unless you count Rudy Owens, who was a virtual unknown back in 2008) and he was able to adding hitting talent to Andrew McCutchen pretty quickly by drafting Pedro Alvarez and trading for Jose Tabata. The Pirates do have the start of a good young lineup with those three and maybe Neil Walker and those names don’t go into the prospect rankings.
I’ll be really interested to see where the Pirates rank on lists like this in a year. Last year they showed up right around 15-20 on most lists and we knew that they’d be graduating Pedro Alvarez and Jose Tabata to the majors. This year, there’s a decent chance that every guy on this top 20 will still be considered a prospect in 12 month’s time and the Pirates will have the first overall pick and the first pick of the second round to add to the system.
Of course, that’s not a guarantee of success either. Prospect rankings are fluid things; being 18th isn’t great for the Pirates but I’m not sure it’s the end of the world. Being in the top five would be a whole lot nicer, but it wouldn’t really mean anything until those prospects made it to Pittsburgh.