Averaging Out the Farm System Rankings

On Wednesday morning, Baseball Prospectus released their rankings of the farm systems around baseball. They had the Pittsburgh Pirates ranked sixth overall. You can see their reasoning and rankings here. This is the fourth list of farm system rankings we have mentioned here this off-season.

Baseball America was the toughest on the Pirates, ranking them 11th overall. Both MLB Pipeline and Keith Law ranked the Pirates eighth overall. Averaging out the four lists, that would give the Pirates an average ranking of 8th place(technically 8.25).

That’s a strong overall rating and the fact that they made the top 11 for everyone, shows that everyone agrees they have one of the better farm systems. How does it rank against other NL teams, and more specifically, the NL Central foes?

Here’s a list of each NL system with their three rankings and average ranking. MLB Pipeline only ranked the top ten farm systems, so I didn’t include them here, but added them below in the summary. Since their ranking of the Pirates was the same as the average ranking, it doesn’t affect this list. I was going to list each source next to ranking, but I realized it doesn’t really matter for this exercise, since all of them are weighted the same.

NL Central

Brewers- 5, 9, 10= 8th place average finish

Cubs- 4, 12, 20 = 12

Reds- 12, 12, 14= 12.67

Cardinals- 14, 19, 19= 17.3

Rest of the NL

Dodgers- 1, 1, 2= 1.3

Braves- 1, 2, 3= 2

Rockies- 3, 6, 7= 5.3

Phillies- 4, 6, 8= 6

Nationals- 5, 13, 15= 11

Mets- 15, 16, 21= 17.3

Padres- 18, 20, 25= 21

Giants- 19, 21, 25=21.67

Diamondbacks- 22, 24, 24= 23.3

Marlins- 29, 29, 29= 29

So averaging out the lists, the Pirates would rank tied for best among NL Central teams with the Brewers. Since the Brewers were one spot below the Pirates on MLB Pipeline’s top ten, that makes them both 8.25 average finishes. They would trail the Dodgers, Braves, Rockies and Phillies among all NL teams. None of those four teams would be hurt by including MLB Pipeline’s rankings, as the Dodgers were first, immediately followed by the Braves, with the Rockies fourth and Phillies seventh.

The conclusion is that among prospect experts, the Pirates have the 8th/9th best farm system in baseball, depending on where you want to put the Brewers. They are at the top of their division, and tied for fifth among NL teams.

  • The Pirates’ farm system seems to be really deep with useful players, but not so deep with impact players. The Dodgers and Braves are deep with impact players, future aces and All-Stars. The Pirates are just deep with guys who look like eventual regulars or strong bench options. They’re kind of ridiculously deep with those guys, but they only really have Glasnow and Meadows who look like they might be impact players. Bell and Taillon will likely be very good players, but I doubt either of them is a perennial All-Star.

    • Couldn’t agree more. Extremely well said.

      Pirates are gonna save a ton of money by not having to pay for marginal veteran depth in the next half-decade or so, but they have very real questions about how many above average big leaguers are actually in this bunch.

    • After the 2013 season there were many people in MLB who thought Taillon would be better than Cole.

    • I think this sums it up. The only thing I’d add is Baseball America’s ranking reflects that there isn’t a tremendous amount of upside in the Pirates system.

      • I think that ultimate upside is very hard to predict. Nobody could look at Cutch’s minor league stats and say they saw a MVP trophy in his future. To make an analogy from basketball, StepH Curry played his college ball for Davidson because none of the top conference programs projected him as having top flight talent. So we can’t pretend to know who has potential greatness by looking at their A ball performance.

  • Some facts that push down the Pirates rankings:

    1. Taillon should become a #1 or #2 starter but he has been graded down because of his injuries. Ironically, Taillon’s mechanical changes make him a stronger prospect than he was before his surgeries.

    2. Hanson has star potential but seems unlikely to realize it because of mental issues. He’s talented, but…

    3. Kuhl has yet to get the recognition his stuff deserves.

    4. McGuire has yet to hit although his hit tool suggests he should improve.

    5. Ramirez, Bell, Meadows have yet to put out gaudy power numbers. They may do so in the future.

    Pirates’ prospects do not seem to make it on the hype train. Cole, Polanco and Glasnow did and have. But they are cases that prove the rule. Marte and McCutchen were not properly appreciated when they were prospects. (I recall being called a homer because I claimed Marte was a better prospect than Gary Brown.) Prospects that emerged during the Dark Age came to the Majors without much national fanfare, including those players who had long careers.

    We’ll know soon enough how strong the system is.

    • BallHeadWonder
      March 30, 2016 6:38 pm

      Steve, I love you Brotha, but to say Hanson has mental issues is a little out of bounds!! I can take Maturity issues, but mental issues??? No!!! Unless it has been documented. I love Hanson. I will agree that his development has been slowed because of his immaturity, but this dude can play!! He will be our next second baseman. But I have to take up for the dude because we don’t know his walk. I know he just had a baby!! That is a lot for a man that is trying to handle a life changing event in his life. And yes, some are way better than others in handling a situation like that, but I think Hanson is going to be a star for us and he had a GREAT SPRING!!! He is coming along and I wish him all the best!!

      • Mental issues = my bad choice of a term. I wanted to refer to Hanson’s failure to run out grounders, his inconsistency, etc. I did not intend to claim he was psychotic or whatever.

        • I know u didn’t Steve!! Everything is cool….I’m on ur page, agreed with your whole assessment!!

    • LOL #facts

  • Am I wrong but were the Brewers not rated fairly poor the past few years? And as stated already, man the Dodgers just are not being fair to the rest of baseball. I hardly ever wish negative things to anything but I hope with all that money that they don’t win a WS for the next 20 years!

  • What was the Dodgers pathway to the #1 system rating? International FA signings? Good drafts?

  • I have three thoughts about this:
    1) I love how the Cubs are all over the place with their ranking. (Cubs- 4, 12, 20 = 12) I wonder how much this is due to the Cubs hype coming into this year.
    2) It really isn’t fair that the Dodgers have such a great farm system. They have one of the largest payrolls. I wish money didn’t buy so much praise in baseball.
    3) The Marlins….LOL

    • The real funny/sad one is that as bad as the Marlins are, they are A LOT better than the Angels. If they wanted a superstar player, I’m not sure they could put together a prospect package to get one, no matter how many warm bodies they threw in.

  • It doesn’t matter how low the Cards’ farm system is. Everyone they bring up will out perform expectations.

    See: Carpenter, Pham, Piscotty, et al.

  • I feel like the depth of the system is a little underrated. The Pirates have guys ranked in the 20’s that look like they could be legitimate major leaguers. There is a lot of upside in the lower levels too that could make it even stronger a few breakouts.

  • Not bad. Why does it feel like the Pirates farm system is stronger than recent years past when we had higher overall rankings? Maybe its because we have so much high end talent on the cusp of the majors? Even so, the lower minors talent and pitching depth are still strong. I think the system has continued to improve.

    • I think its a mix of bias on our part, the lack of a top 5 prospect, and under coverage compared to big market teams like the Dodgers.
      I think we have a lot of Good Prospects about to enter the Majors, but besides Glasnow they’re not going to get a lot of attention outside of Pittsburgh.

      • John Sickels rated Glasnow #2 behind Seager in his top 175.

        • One guy? Do you remember what Keith Law had Kevin Newman rated?

          • He said no top 5 guys. Sickels is pretty respected and most experts/sites have Glasnow in or around the top 10 so Glasnow is arguably a top 5 prospect.

    • I expected the Pirates to be ranked higher going into the farm system ranking season, but once I looked at teams ahead of them, I thought eighth overall seemed about right. I think it’s because there is a huge difference between the top teams and bottom teams, so the talent isn’t spread out well. The bad teams now are REALLY bad

      • Great observation, and also fairly amazing considering how much more the league knows about prospect value.

        • I’m also surprised (admittedly, I’m pretty ignorant to the league-wide prospect landscape) that there are big market clubs at the top of the list, considering big markets seem to often trade prospects for MLB talent. I guess maybe they just tend to buy MLB talent on the FA market, and can therefore hang on to prospects as well.

          • You also have big market teams getting really involved in the Latin American market.

            Bit easier/quicker for them to deal with trading away 1-2 quality prospects by throwing a ton of money at one of the bigger named young LA guys. Speaking in generalities obviously.

    • I personally think it feels like the system is stronger this year, because we are seeing a lot of the 10-20 ranked prospects getting closer the the majors, and it is becoming more “real”. A lot of our depth in the past was in the lower minors, but now we have legit prospects in AA and AAA beyond the top prospects, and it just feels like a much better system now

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