Should the Pirates Have More Top 50 Prospects?

Taillon was the only Pirates prospect in the top 50. Should the Pirates have more players on the list?

The top 50 prospect list came out yesterday, and the Pittsburgh Pirates only had one player on the list, with Jameson Taillon coming in at the #18 spot.  With the Pirates focusing on the draft the last few years, the question of whether the Pirates should have had more players in the top 50 needs to be asked.

The Pirates have put the bulk of their focus on the middle round, over-slot prep players since Neal Huntington took over in 2008.  Their first round picks have been Pedro Alvarez (2008), Tony Sanchez (2009), and Taillon (2010), plus Victor Black as a first round compensation pick in 2009.  They have also reached over-slot deals with the following players:

-Robbie Grossman, Quinton Miller, Wes Freeman, and Jarek Cunningham in 2008.

-Zack Dodson, Zack Von Rosenberg, Trent Stevenson, Colton Cain, and Jeffrey Inman in 2009.

-Stetson Allie, Nick Kingham, Drew Maggi, Ryan Hafner, and Jared Lakind in 2010.

In order to grade the Pirates, we need to analyze the rest of the top 50 to see where the players came from, and when they were drafted/signed.  Here is the breakdown of the top 50 players:

Year Acquired

2005: 3

2006: 6

2007: 9

2008: 12

2009: 16

2010: 4

32 of the 50 players were drafted or signed since Huntington took over.  Now, let’s break down each individual year:

Draft Round


4th Round: 1

International: 2


1st Round: 1

3rd Round: 1

5th Round: 1

10th Round: 1

20th Round: 1

International: 1


1st Round: 4

2nd Round: 1

8th Round: 1

International: 3


1st Round: 10

4th Round: 1

5th Round: 1


1st Round: 10

3rd Round: 1

5th Round: 1

8th Round: 1

International: 3


1st Round: 4

As you can see, 29 of the top 50 players were first round draft picks.  As for the 2008-2010 years, only five players came after the first round, and only three players came through the international ranks.  The Pirates have focused a lot of their rebuilding on late round picks, especially with prep players, so let’s focus on the picks after the first round.

Late Round Picks

2005: Jeremy Hellickson, 4th Round, Prep

2006: Zach Britton, 3rd Round, Prep

2006: Chris Archer, 5th Round, Prep

2006: Desmond Jennings, 10th Round, JuCo

2006: Domonic Brown, 20th Round, Prep

2007: Freddie Freeman, 2nd Round, Prep

2007: Matt Moore, 8th Round, Prep

2008: Dee Gordon, 4th Round, JuCo

2008: John Lamb, 5th Round, Prep

2009: Wil Myers, 3rd Round, Prep

2009: Brandon Belt, 5th Round, NCAA

2009: Jonathan Singleton, 8th Round, Prep

Out of the 2008-2010 drafts, John Lamb is the only prep pitcher on this list who was drafted in the later rounds.

Should the Pirates Have More Top 50 Prospects?

The bulk of this list is made up of first round picks from 2005-2010.  The only first round picks that the Pirates have, who are prospect eligible, are Jameson Taillon (2010), Tony Sanchez (2009), Victor Black (2009), and Daniel Moskos (2007).  Moskos and Black don’t belong on this list, while you could make an argument for Sanchez near the back end of the list.

As for the over-slot prep players, it’s still early for them to be top prospects.  There are only three late round prep players from the 2008-2010 drafts on this top 50 list (and two of those picks are in the Kansas City farm system).  Even if someone like Zack Von Rosenberg had a breakout year in 2011, and made the 2011 list, it would be early, and a special accomplishment.

The only other Pirates prospects who I feel should contend for this list are Stetson Allie and Tony Sanchez.  You could make a case for each of them to be near the back of the list, although neither player made the 51-60 list.  At the same time, neither player is a huge omission if they’re not on the list.

Going back to the question, should the Pirates have more top 50 prospects?  I would say no.  The Pirates are obviously building through the farm system, and spending a lot to do so.  However, it’s too early for the prep players they’ve drafted to be expected on this list.  Most of the prep players they’ve added have only pitched half a season in the lower levels of the minors.  Considering that 18 teams had just one player in the top 50, I don’t think it’s a big deal.  The Pirates currently have four very talented young players in the majors in Pedro Alvarez, Jose Tabata, Neil Walker, and Andrew McCutchen.  The point of this list is to display how the young talent ranks, and the Pirates definitely have some young talent.

Would it be nice if the Pirates had another guy on this list?  Absolutely.  But that doesn’t mean the Pirates should have another player on this list, especially when you consider how rare it is for 2008-2010 late round prep pitchers to end up on this list.

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Tim Williams

Tim is the owner and editor in chief of Pirates Prospects. He started the site in January 2009, and turned it into his full time job during the 2011 season. Prior to starting Pirates Prospects, Tim worked with, providing MLB, NHL, and NFL coverage to various national media outlets, including ESPN Insider, USA Today, Yahoo Sports, and the Wall Street Journal. He also writes the annual Prospect Guide, which is sold through the site. Tim lives in Bradenton, where he provides live coverage all year of Spring Training, mini camp, instructs, the Bradenton Marauders, and the GCL Pirates.

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  • cocktailsfor2

    Tim –

    A very well-reasoned, sane article. Of course, that means nobody’ll see it. Why can’t you be more like Passan?


  • Anonymous

    Not buying it. The FO also traded away a number of players with the stated purpose of building up the farm system. Ohlendorf and Tabata are in the majors, but not one of the other players we got in these trades is on the list either. If you take the full body of work, there certainly should be more than one player on this list. At best, this FO get an “incomplete” grade. To me, it still feels like a C- effort.

    • Tim Williams

      A big problem with top 50/100 lists is that people think that if a player isn’t on the list, they’re not a good prospect. Jose Tabata wasn’t on the top 100 lists last year, and he’s not a bad player. Same with Neil Walker.

      You can’t make a judgement on a player because he’s not on the list. All that says is that the player isn’t one of the top 50 prospects in the game.

      Also, as you point out, a lot of the best players they’ve acquired are in the majors, and no longer prospects. If one of Tabata/Alvarez would have been held back, they’d have two prospects on this list. Does that make them better? Are they worse because they graduated three guys who would have easily been on this list? Is it bad that they have one player in the top 50, but three players who could be in the 51-100 range (Sanchez, Allie, Heredia)?

      I just think too much gets made of these lists, and the expectations are unreasonable, considering what it actually takes for a player to make the list. You’re willing to give credit to other teams, then criticizing the Pirates for not being like those teams, without giving them the same time frame that those other teams had to work with.

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