Keith Law Ranks the Pirates’ Farm System Eighth Overall

Keith Law post his rankings of the farm systems today on ESPN(subscription required), one day in advance of his top 100 list. He has the Pittsburgh Pirates ranked as the eighth best farm system in baseball, one spot below where they were ranked last year. He notes that they will have four players on the top 100 list tomorrow. Law credits the Pirates for maintaining a strong farm system, while also having a highly competitive Major League team and a low payroll.

It’s interesting to note that he has six National League teams ranked ahead of the Pirates, with only the Twins(#3) breaking up that group in the first eight spots. From the NL Central, he has the Cubs 4th and Brewers 5th. The Reds are ranked 12th and the Cardinals 19th.

Law doesn’t say much about each team, but he thinks that the Pirates could have 6-7 players in the top 100 next year. That would seem like the best case scenario, as Tyler Glasnow, Jameson Taillon, Josh Bell, Alen Hanson and Elias Diaz could all lose their prospect status this season.

There could be a surprise or two on his top 100 list tomorrow, as Law has always been very high on Kevin Newman. He also ranked Harold Ramirez ahead of Josh Bell last July, so it’s far from certain that his top 100 will include the usual suspects. I expect both Tyler Glasnow and Austin Meadows to be ranked high, but the final two Pirates probably won’t be both Bell and Taillon.

  • Kevin Newman #23– Through this garbage out the window.

  • Thanks John. Law is as reasonable as any of the folks that post their rankings annually – and there are always differences of opinion. The Pirates have made great strides over the years and I am happy they are hanging on in his Top 10.

    I know that they always mention the Top Prospects still in the minors, but how much cred is given to a farm system promoting players to the majors and performances of those players once they are promoted? The Cubs are a strong example from last year promoting 2 or 3 who became solid performers in their starting lineup. The Cardinals also did well in that regard last year.

  • RIP Tom Singer. Good writer. Shame right before Spring.

  • So it looks like the app is live….looks good but is there no comment section? We can’t have PP without being able to argue with each other!

  • For what it’s worth, I find the reports published here to be far better than the work of the national writers. For instance, thanks to PP, we know Taillon now has better mechanics and should breakout this season. His stuff always was better than his results with his inability to consistently place his fastball at the batters’ knees providing one factor that explains his diminished effectiveness. Not one of the major prospect writers knows about his achievement. Yet, when bunched together, we see that some writers dock Taillon for missing two years. They seem to assume that Taillon failed to develop during his hiatus. But he did develop. They merely are uninformed.

    One useful by product of the rank order lists it that they reveal the hype which makes them entertaining more than informative.

    • They each have their place, right?

      You’re not going to find more in-depth Pirate info here, which is incredibly impressive.

      But the national guys do provide much needed perspective. They see thousands of prospects every year, and have decades of combined experience.

      We’re lucky to be one of the few fanbases to get both!

  • Bucs are 11th in BA’s rankings.


      Nevermind, I’ve already decided they’re overrated.

      • They have them 20th which I find extremely strange.

        • Well that’s…interesting.

          Might just be me, but I’ve seen BA get fall back in the pack after being the gold standard for so many years. Ben Badler was giving sound bites about how Kangs leg kick was too big while Dan Farnsworth at FanGraphs was breaking down his swing frame by frame and writing 3000 words about what he does well. John freaking Perrotto writing Pirates top ten lists while Kiley McDaniels gets hired by the Braves. BP is constantly getting writers plucked by big league clubs, too.

  • Not a really good sign that we seem to be trending downward from year to year.

    • Usually inevitable when you start at #1… 😉

      Seriously though, the Dodgers, Cubs, and Red Sox all remain in the Top 10 despite graduating or trading a ton a top prospects because of investments in Latin America. The Yankees will probably be there in a year. Big market teams aren’t dumb anymore.

      They’re spending money on amateur talent, and the talent they’re buying is looking better than a lot of past big-ticket signings.

      • Of all the coulda, shoulda, woulda moves the Bucs have or haven’t made, IMO none of it will be more frustrating than if they fail to “blow up” their IFA budget this year as several other teams (notably the Cubs) have already done. Several teams are restricted to $300k signings this year and with the CBA expiring it is probably the last opportunity to do so.

        • Tough one for me, honestly.

          I do agree with you in theory; the “penalty” means nothing to the Pirates as the overwhelming majority of their current international program focuses on kids below the $300k threshold. Their following seasons would hardly be impacted. They also lack much impact talent in the lower levels and haven’t gotten much of anything since Harold Ramirez.

          But I do think their high-dollar plays have to be pointed, and the Yankees and Dodgers have so dominated the past few years that I could see a situation where the Pirates were left throwing money around for the sake of it.

          I wish they’d be more aggressive, just not quite at the point of faulting them completely.

          • Not to pick, but Garcia shouldn’t be left out with Ramirez

          • I hadn’t actually thought about the angle about how it wouldn’t hurt them in future years because they are accustomed to signing cheap guys anyhow. I actually didn’t have a problem with their desire to avoid the penalty. But now with the mockery of the IFA slotting system almost certainly doomed in the next CBA I just want to see them go all out for it. Sign cheap guys, sign expensive guys, sign ’em all!

      • Very fun fact: the Yankees have signed zero free agents this season. Not even a Vogelsong. Sure, it’s all part of their attempt to get under the luxury cap…but I’m also wondering if the bigger teams might be going through an overall philosophy shift.

        I’m sure I’m forgetting some transactions, but the Dodgers and Sox have been quiet…just resigning their own guys….and maybe a minor pickup here and there.

        The Cubs made their splash…but, with their core, it’s hard to imagine them doing much more in the ways of trying to buy wins.

        Gotta say, I’m a tad worried…if the big boys eschew spending on the FA market and decide they want to build their orgs by buying tons of young talent and competently developing it…yikes…there goes a small market advantage.

        • Worse. What you’re seeing them do is *both*.

          Rich guys hate paying taxes, and when they get the luxury tax limit raised next year you’ll have clubs pushing $200m payrolls while also hiring front office people smart enough to build a farm system at the same time. When clubs have started hiring analysts away from Google, you know they’re throwing some cash around.

          Baseball is an equalizer, though. It won’t get any easier for the Pirates, but keep doing good things and they’ll always have a chance.

          (And no, that pep talk didn’t make me feel any better! )

          • Which brings up an interesting issue…not saying I have any answers, but here it is:

            I would say it’s somewhat odd that, there are penalties for player payroll, but not for non-player expenditures.

            If the big boys can afford to spend X on scouting/evaluation/analysis/training facilities/etc and the small market teams can only afford to pay .?X…is that the next thing to be addressed?

            I guess what I’m wondering is…somewhere down the road…is it likely there will be organizational spending limits as opposed to just those associated for player salaries?

            • That doesn’t *feel* right to me, but I honestly can’t come up with a good reason why.

              My first reaction is that you should always be able to spend what you want on what you want outside the bounds of the 25-man payroll, but that could very well be the small market mentality stuck in me.

        • David Price

        • Until there’s data in the post PED era suggesting player salary budget equates to wins, I wouldn’t fret too much.

          It’s going to be a whole lot easier for PBC to trade a player like Cutch for young talent than a team like the Cubs to do the same with a guy like Rizzo because of salary budget and demands of fan base.

          Big market clubs will always have the disadvantage of paying premium dollars for declining skills. In today’s game, youth may be the real trump card, not money.

          • Isn’t this a bit circular, Scott?

            In the past, the argument was that money didn’t equate to wins *because* high revenue teams weren’t spending it wisely, opting for overpriced veteran free agents instead of amateur talent, development staff, and analytics.

            If those same teams now turn to using said money on the things that we were told were “smart”, then either we were wrong about what was smart or one can only conclude that money *will* further differentiate the haves from have nots.

            • I get what you’re saying NMR, but my point is until I see large market teams start jettisoning aging vets a year too soon to bring back young talent, I’m not buying the premis.

              • Except our point is that they don’t even *need* to do that.

                They can afford to keep their stars through their prime, unlike the Pirates, while also buying amateur/prospect talent. And when that young talent is ready to replace the aging guys, it doesn’t hurt them to have $20m+ on the bench.

                Just look at the Dodgers. They have more young talent than the Pirates, a better farm system, and they *still* can go out and buy quality veteran depth.

                No system guarantees contention; there’s simply too much variation in the game. But it’s unquestionable that this new big market strategy gives them better odds than clubs like the Pirates.

                • I’m not disagreeing with anything you said. Money equates to options and if the right choices are made, money will enhance team performance. My point is the richest teams will be compelled to keep and play aging vets “after” their prime years, even if they have a stud waiting in the wings to take his place.

                  It’s only human nature to want to squeeze every last drop of usefulness out of a player being paid premium dollars. Even if a GM were to have the intestinal fortitude to trade or bench one of these type players and let youth be served, there is the matter of how it’s received in the clubhouse.

                  In my mind, in today’s MLB, money to spend has it’s advantages and disadvantages. I’m not saying a shrewd GM can’t walk the tightrope and make it work, but I am saying it won’t be as easy as you suggest.

      • It’s sad how the large market teams complained about the Pirates spending too much on the amateur draft, only to have them take big advantage of a loop hole in the system to buy up all the top international prospects. Seems contradictory to me, especially when MLB touts competitive balance.

    • BuccosFanStuckinMD
      February 11, 2016 2:30 pm

      Trending downward is okay, if its largely due to top prospects graduating to the major league team. Unfortunately, that is not the case for the Pirates – since we didn’t “graduate” anyone last year….I chalk it up to injuries to 3-4 pitchers and a few prospects starting to grow stale..

  • Rankings are fun to debate….
    Just get them to big league level and performance will tell the tale how good system was.

  • Bobby laframboise was dfaed today. I bet they pick him back up as their 2nd lefty

  • I really find it hard to believe that 7 other teams have better farm systems at this point. Even if they have the same number of prospects, we have a large number of low risk guys sitting in AAA ready to contribute.

    • The ranking DOES seem a bit low. Hard to imagine that 7 other systems have more talent than ours. And not just quantity in the Bucs’ system, but quality also. Elite talent on the mound and in the field.

    • especially when the Bucco’s might have 5 prospects coming to the majors. Their not here yet, so the should count for prospects.

  • Last month Bleacher report ranked Bucs 4th best farm system

  • We can’t lose:

    Either Law doesn’t know prospects and we shouldn’t be discouraged by having “only” 4 in the top 100, or he knows prospects and we got a steal in Newman (who he had rated #1 or #2, right?).

  • BuccosFanStuckinMD
    February 10, 2016 2:42 pm

    The Brewers 5th? Wow, that was a little surprising. I know they picked up some prospects at deadline deals last year, but didn’t realize that would help them be placed this high. Considering all the guys who “graduated” last year, I’m surprised the Cubs were still so high…

    • 5th does seem aggressive, but not by more than a handful of spots.

      Cubs will now turn to their high-end international signings for their next wave and still have a couple top 10 picks yet to graduate.

      Really, really good job by MIL, PHI, and especially ATL turning their systems around quick.

    • I don’t have the Insider Access…but I’m guessing this includes the return for the Segura trade.

      Dave Stewart…making other the teams in the NL better, trade by trade…


  • The hateful 8. Isn’t that a movie? I would prefer them to be ranked higher and it is disappointing that so many NL teams are ahead of the Pirates but I guess it will have to do.