Pirates Rank in Jim Callis’ Top Ten Farm Systems

In his latest Ask BA column, Jim Callis released his top ten farm systems. He noted that the list was his own personal list, and not the official Baseball America rankings, which is a group effort.

The Pittsburgh Pirates finished eighth on his list. Callis had a one line summary for each system, and for the Pirates he noted that they weren’t deep, but “has impressive trios of arms and bats that most can’t match”.

Last year a lot of people wrote that the system was top-heavy and lacked depth. It seems to have gone even more in that direction this year. Breakout prospects like Alen Hanson and Gregory Polanco have given the Pirates even more potential impact players at the top of their system. They will likely finish with one of the highest counts of players in the top 100 lists heading into the season. Behind that, there’s still a lack of depth. It’s the same situation as last year. They have plenty of guys with upside, but most of them are at the lower levels and not a lot have broken out.

In 2013 we will probably see a continuation of this trend. Gerrit Cole will probably graduate to the majors, but top prospects like Hanson, Polanco, Jameson Taillon, Luis Heredia, and Josh Bell will likely remain prospects. They could be joined by other potential breakout prospects like Dilson Herrera, Tyler Glasnow, and Clay Holmes. The depth problem won’t be solved until the Pirates start seeing a lot of their prospects carrying their success over to the upper levels, but having a top-heavy system isn’t a bad thing, since you win with impact players.

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Kevin Anstrom

I like Jim Callis and I like Baseball America. Having said that I think ranking systems is almost useless.

Many people say that the Cards have the top farm system in baseball. Martinez, Miller, Tavarez, Rosenthal, …

Back in 2010 and 2011 the BA Prospect Handbook ranked the Cards 29th and 24th, respectively. Most of the big names currently in the system were already on BA’s radar plus many major leaguers (Lynn, Garcia, Carpenter, Jay, Kozma, Kelly, Rosenthal, Freese, Craig, Descalso, etc). That is an absolutely loaded system and the experts in the field rated them next to last.

2013 will be the Pirates first time in the BA top 10 fwiw


Our depth problem will be solved this year when we only graduate one player of value (I don’t count Sanchez) and will likely have someone (Hererra, Gift, Glasgow, Kingham, Osuana, etc.) take the jump PLUS two draft picks in the top 15.


Callis is entitled to his opinion and that is just what he has, opinions, far better that he think we are 8th than 30th or something like that! As far as the system goes, I grade them for how much upside talent they have, not how many blue chippers they have. The system that Huntington took over had one blue chipper in the entire system, but had some players that could develop into major league players, such as Presley, Pearce, Marte, Walker, none of which was doing that well when Huntington took over as GM, even McCutchen was not tearing up the minor leagues (.283 BA).


After looking at Callis’s list, you can argue our system higher pretty easy. I have no idea why he is so high on MIA, TB or MIN. I would rank us 5th behind St Louis, Boston, Texas, and Seattle. I would also have SD in my top 10.

It will be interesting to see how we are ranked by the BA consensus.


Callis has habitually said that “you win with stars, not depth” so it is curious about the back-handed compliment for the Pirates. I agree that TB is not a Top 10 system, but Myers/Odorizzi/Archer/Guerreri/Lee is a nice top 5.

FLA has a strong farm after their trades and own drafting.

MIN is also a Top 10, especially after adding Alex Meyer and Trevor May to Sano, Buxton, and Arcia.

For me, SEA is the #1 farm. They’re actually a “PGH hopefully one year from now” farm due to all their top talent at AA/AAA and producing at key positions. Having to pick from Walker/Hultzen/Paxton, with a top SS (Franklin), and C (Zunino) is enviable.


JJ Cooper (of BA) has us listed with 4 of the top 30 prospects in MLB. Being top heavy isn’t a problem. Impact talent is just that, the kind of players that have impact on a franchise. I’ll take 6 or 7 of those types over a system full of bench players and back end starters.

Lack of depth at the upper levels is still true, but we have more depth than last year and I’m not sure its as thin as many think. The lack of quality latin america signings under DL and the 2009 draft productivity are the primary causes of the current issues in the high minors.


I see your point, but until the Pirates start to move kids from AAA to the majors with more regularity than one per year, we will always be seen as lacking in depth. Two years now that we have given Locke a late season call-up after he has already thrown 140+ innings. In 2011 he threw 125 innings at AA and another 25 at AAA for a total of 153 before getting a call. Last year he was 10-5, 2.48 ERA in AAA after 24 starts and 142 IP before being called up. How about an opportunity at the beginning of the year? Like maybe starting to build a home-grown Rotation?

Lee Young

So when is being top heavy a negative?

Geez, we get slammed no matter how well we do.

Steve Zielinski

Lacking depth means what? The Pirates have top prospects — potential impact players. They have additional players who project to be MLers but who are not possible superstars. And they have young players — players sitting below +A — that might have breakout years, that is, a group among which we can expect one or two to surge above a Sickles B ranking.

I doubt that the Pirates are that shallow that they only have six quality MLers in the minors.

And, of course, the Pirates had the prospects needed to trade for Wandy Rodriguez. Huntington managed to make this trade without using a top prospect. That says a lot about the depth of the development system.


I think the rating is well deserved, and thought of a few others who are not elite “Prospects” either because they are not 5 tool guys, or are not No. 1 or No. 2 SP prospects. Is there any value for developing an innings eater who throws a lot of ground balls and may be a #3 SP? Brandon Cumpton is a good example. Flamethrowers are great, but I think there still is a place in the prospect classification for kids who know how to pitch and have GO/AO’s of 1.5 to 2.25.

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