Baseball America released their 2018 Organizational Talent Rankings on Monday morning. All 30 MLB teams are ranked by the strength of their farm system. The list also includes their previous five rankings, so you can see how each organization has been rated over the years.

The Pittsburgh Pirates are ranked 16th overall by BA. That is one spot below where Keith Law ranked them last week. The difference between the two lists is that Law had four Pirates in his top 100 and Kevin Newman just outside of the top 100, while BA had just Mitch Keller and Austin Meadows in their top 100.

BA had the Pirates seventh overall going into last year, but they have lost highly ranked prospects in Josh Bell and Tyler Glasnow since then to the majors. BA had also been high on Steven Brault in the past (ranked him seventh in their mid-season update), and he lost his prospect status. This is the lowest ranking for the Pirates by BA since 2011 when they were ranked 19th best.

On the 2018 list, the Pirates rank fourth in the NL Central, with the Cincinnati Reds leading the way in ninth place and the Chicago Cubs bringing up the rear in 28th. The Pirates are ninth overall among all NL teams. They were also fourth in the divisions and ninth in the league for Law.

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  1. Remember a few years ago, the Pirates had one of the top 3 farm systems? What do they have to show for that now? Although not all of the blame can be put on the Pirates organization, but think about some of the recent high upside prospects (in some cases, highly ranked as well) that just withered on the vine in Indy:

    – Willy Garcia
    – Alan Hansen
    – Diaz (C)
    – Espinal
    – Heredia
    – Glasnow (although jury is still out on him)
    – Jacoby Jones
    – Allie
    – Dickerson
    – Broxton

    All of the above often appeared on the Pirates top 20 prospects lists for more than a couple of years – a few appeared on top 100 prospects in all of baseball…

    What do the Pirates have to show for all of the above?

  2. I know the need or craving to quantify everything baseball, but just looking at the AA and AAA talent where does the Pirates stand against the rest. As that for me is more relevant than an overall ranking as those are the next players to step up or not.

      • This is or was my point that AA and or AAA really have a lack of quality talent that is more just the hype of he is a high upside prospect. Hype is wonderful if it is fulfilled (McCutchen) but far too many that just left a lot to be desired.

        Answer to your question…Keller….

    • I have no idea how they stack up against other teams farm systems, but I would give the Pirates AA and AAA prospects, as a whole, a below average rating. My guess would be that once all is said and done, out of both rosters, there is not one impact talent in the entire group. I would quantify an impact talent as one that puts up multiple successive 5+ WAR seasons. I would also guess that there aren’t many, if any offensive players that put up multiple successive 3.5+ WAR seasons.

  3. Isn’t one of the issues with being in no man’s land that we get mid-round picks in the draft? We don’t do badly enough to get an elite level prospect, nor do we do well enough to have a legitimate shot at being a serious contender. We’re just stuck. Maybe Shane Baz will, indeed, develop into an elite pitching prospect, but we are not going to have elite level talent at the positions until we either start drafting them in round 1 or get lucky. Maybe Connor Uselton breaks out as elite. Maybe Martin continues to clobber pitching at every level. I kind of hope we end up with about 60 wins, at the cellar of our division this year so we have a shot at a true impact talent in the 2019 draft. Of course, if that happens, I’m sure we’ll draft a 6’4″ right handed pitcher who throws in the mid to upper 90’s.

    • If we’re talking Steelers, then working toward an elite defense is exciting. With the Buccos, I am yearning for 1979 when we hit, hit, hit, hit, hit. Any projected Pirate offensive lineup that you want to make for the next 5 years is going to be, at best, decent. The super teams’ lineups strike fear in the hearts of opposing pitchers. We strike mild annoyance.

    • It certainly helps to pick higher but there was plenty of talent available in the 2016 draft such as Taylor Trammel, Alec Hansen etc which all went after we picked Will Craig.

    • We have, it seems, about 19 million in salary money to spend this year. I notice on the free agent trackers that Joachin Benoit, Bartolo Colon and Jaff Decker are all still available.

    • When people talk about the Pirates failing in Latin America, they don’t mean that the Pirates have *never* produced any talent.

      They mean exactly what you’ve observed here in your post. As the Major League club’s success pushed them further away from top draft talent, the Latin American pipeline dried up. A well-rounded stream of amateur talent could’ve buoyed a couple marginal drafts.

    • You’re thinking correctly- if we’re going to get out of mediocrity-ville we need elite prospects, badly. That’s what was so disappointing about the trades, although you could argue Musgrove and Moran were top 100 prospects at one point, but I just don’t see them being elite. Unless we get really lucky- like 2+ standard deviations from the mean, playoffs seem far away. But for some reason I still have that irrational hope we could snag a wildcard. Guess that comes from having to survive 20+ losing seasons as a fan – there’s always next year!!

      • I would go so far as to say that the Pirates need elite hitting prospects, not just elite prospects. It is much cheaper to develop hitters than to purchase them on the open market.

        • Agreed- thats basically how the Cubs were built, and then picked up free agent pitching,plus some free significant agent hitting. Okay they did a lot of free agent signings but had that core of hitters.

      • More than even a couple years ago, teams w “premium prospects” are very reticent to deal them away. Even the wealthy teams have seen what Dodgers, Astros, & Yankees were able to accomplish due in large part to keeping their premier young players.

    • How well did we even do when picking high? Sanchez and Alvarez were disappointments. Cole had one really good year and only slightly above average (using ERA +) all of the other years. Taillon still has promise, but passing on Machado may have been the bigger mistake,

      Overall NH has drafted poorly. He hasn’t picked one impact player.

    • Yeah, heaven help us if we draft the next Mike Trout, who happened to be drafted in the middle of No Man’s Land of 1st round a few years ago.

      PS- I hate the term, No Man’s Land for baseball. It certainly has applicability in basketball where one player can change a franchises fortunes, but baseball doesn’t work that way. Lots of ways to reach the playoffs in baseball. And unlike basketball, there are playoff upsets seemingly every year.

  4. With all of the talk of Super Teams lately, I think the “unofficial” listings for which teams are considered as such should be looked at based on what we’ve seen with these organizational rankings. The most commonly mentioned teams are Yankees, Astros, Dodgers, Cubs. There’s been a few mentions of the Indians and even the Red Sox as well.

    I’m not saying these teams aren’t “super” but the Cubs appear to have drained their farm system (which worked of course since they won a title) but are they still considered a super team without the minor league depth they had a couple years ago?

    Also, what about the up and coming teams that could eventually fit into this category? Phillies look like the most obvious but will the Braves, Padres and White Sox make the kind of free agent/trade splashes that the Astros and Cubs did when their talent reaches the majors?

    Fascinating times.

    • This term Super Team causes many fans to think only a few teams have a realistic shot at a title. I’m of the opinion these teams have a distinct advantage over the course of 162 games.

      It will be a major upset if Dodgers, Astros, Cubs, Nats, and Yankees fail to win their respective divisions in my mind. However, I won’t be surprised in the least if another playoff team wins the WS.

      I’m of the opinion, a team can overcome one of these stacked teams if they have a super component to their team. For example, a lock down bullpen can nullify a stacked lineup in a short series if they get some timely hitting and just good enough SP.

      For this reason, I’m not throwing in the towel on Pirates 2018 title chances if they can defy the odds and win enough games to qualify for playoffs.

      • I’m ready for some pirates baseball. If Moran’s swing change translates at mlb level 2018 could be interesting.

      • I will not even pick up a towel this season, as the Pirates have zero chance to compete, even for a wildcard.
        The Brewers pitching keeps getting beat up since last week when the Brewers went all in with their acquisition of Cain and Yelich, but in reality, their pitching is better than the Pirates pitching, and their offense is infinitely better. The Cardinals and Cubs are also both significantly better pitching and hitting, In essence, I do not like the Pirates chances to win 65 games this year, let alone make a playoff run………..and I am typically very optimistic about their chances.

        • Here’s the good news for you, much better chance Pirates will exceed your expectations than mine.

          I pity you and those who look at this season as lost before it ever begins. There’s so much to look forward to…from young players taking the next step, to established veterans making comebacks, to newly acquired players showing us what they can do in Pittsburgh, to someone becoming the new face of the franchise, etc.

          • I will list for you the players I feel have a chance to take the next step, whatever that may be.
            1. Josh Bell
            2. Jameson Taillon
            3. (hopefully) Collin Moran.
            I do not feel anyone else on the roster has the physical capability to take “the next step”. However, if there is one player that I hope takes another step forward is Trevor Williams. That dude is awesome.

            • I was surprised how down on Williams and Kuhl some of the projections are. They had solid ends of the season, and each have good stuff. I know it is unlikely that everyone steps forward, but I wouldn’t be surprised if each of those guys pitches like a 3rd starter for the next few years.

      • I am with you, and I certainly am not one to disregard a team’s chances before a season begins. I have done that before and looked like a fool (example, I am a Buffalo Bills fan and had no hope for them winning more than 6 games this year, and here they went on to end their 17 year playoff drought).

        What is great about this game is that over the course of 162 games, anything can happen. Yes, these super teams appear to be better equipped to survive the ups and downs of a season, but anything can happen. No one saw the Twins and Diamondbacks making the playoffs last year.

        This Pirates team will have its struggles this year for sure, but I also think they will surprise a few.

  5. I think that last year’s rating was a little high and this year’s is a little low.

    Last year, they didn’t seem to take into account Meadows hamstrings, Glasnow’s risk of failure, or Newman’s mediocrity. Neither Meadows or Glasnow should have been a top 50 guy in my mind. And Newman shouldn’t have been in any top 100s. Also, the system had a bit of a gap at the 5 and 5.5 levels.

    My opinion of Meadows didn’t change but I feel they have way more of those 5 and 5.5 guys (and the new PP guide validates that!). I think Tucker is being vastly underrated. And, they are ignoring the upside of many guys like Moran, Reynolds, Hayes, Hearn, Holmes, Kingham, etc..

    • They most likely are not ignoring the upside of any of those guys. They simply have a different opinion of their upside and/or likelihood of reaching it.

      • Way to state the obvious Holmes. Of course they have a differing opinion otherwise they would have rated higher.

          • I am certainly not going to argue that we as readers know more about valuing prospects than talent evaluators.

            I would be up for a debate if they put as much time into researching and reading about the Pirates prospects as some of us do. Think about it, they are supposedly covering 30 teams with roughly 200 prospects each – 6,000 players in all. (And that doesn’t even include college and high school scouting that they do!).

            I honestly don’t know if they watch as many clips of and stay with our players as we do. Based on their slightly out of touch evaluations, I would say no – someone doesn’t have a good change up when they actually do, someone can only throw in the low 90s when they actually throw in the upper 90s, etc.

            So, those guys have earned the right to be second guessed…

            • Fair enough- I wasn’t making a jab at you.. I trust BA a good bit as far as how prospects stack up across systems. I trust them more than I trust my own opinion or anyone else’s here but that’s just my 2 cents.

  6. It feels about right given all of the recent promotions recently. You’re not going to stay near the top all the time once some prospect “graduate” to the MLB.

    • It represents a lot more than simply graduating players though Brian. A lot of this ranking is a reflection that at the moment the Pirates rate very poorly relative to other MLB teams in terms of talent acquired in the 2015 and 2016 drafts. You see a lot of teams with guys breaking out as elite prospects from the 2016 draft and we have nothing at the moment. 2015 draft isn’t as bad but it looks pretty meh at the moment as well.

      Graduation also doesn’t explain a guy who was a top 5-10 prospect in MLB has fallen off dramatically in the last year like Meadows.

      Finally, while we did graduate some players let’s not pretend they are doing much at the MLB level. Bell didn’t even put up 1 FWAR and Glasnow was below replacement.

      • I completely disagree.

        Meadows has hamstring issues that should have knocked his stock down previously. Otherwise, he (like many hitters before him) struggled when he saw that he was a good streak away from achieving his lifelong dream. I have concerns about the hamstrings but I have no doubt he will hit this year.

        I expect Bell to be about a 3+ player starting this year.
        Williams, I believe, was a 2 WAR player and should continue that.
        Brault, Moroff, and Osuna all still have some upside.
        And even Glasnow, if he moves away from attempting to throw pinpoint 2-seamers in the bottom of the zone, could still be a #3.

        • You may expect bell to be 3 plus War this year but projections say there’s probably 15-20 percent chance of happening

          • That’s true. I just am not getting it.

            I fully expect that:

            1. He will be a league average fielder in 2018
            2. He should be around 30HR/100RBI
            3. His average should return to his more normal .270/.280

            Maybe I’m missing something in the WAR calculation, but to me, that should a notch below all-star level.

            • 3 war is a pretty high bar with a defensively limited 1b in today’s offensive climate.

              But I’m not saying it can’t or won’t happen- just some tall odds to overcome but I hope he does it.

              • Why do you say defensively limited? He has improved dramatically and was almost average last year.
                Do you think he has peaked already? I’m think he has the ability and drive to be slightly above average in 2018 with a little more room to grow.

                • I don’t expect him to get much better defensively- I’d be happy if he stayed near where he was in 2017 or a little better but who knows. I hope he takes some big strides offensively though.

            • One caveat of course is without Cutch, teams may key on stopping Bell. So he may get very little to hit.

              At the moment, I am thinking the lineup looks like:
              1. Harrison
              2. Frazier
              3. Bell
              4. Marte
              5. Polanco
              6. Cervelli
              7. Moran
              8. Mercer

              Without Harrison:
              1. Frazier
              2. Cervelli
              3. Bell
              4. Marte
              5. Polanco
              6. Moran
              7. Moroff
              8. Mercer

              • Hopefully, the w/o Harrison lineup will include someone we got in exchange for Harrison such as Brandon Nimmo in LF.

              • To me Marte has to be the leadoff hitter. Not a lot of HR, a lot of SB, 2B, 3B. They have enough power elsewhere. He puts himself in scoring position or better 80+ times a year. I like a leadoff hitter with some pop.

            • I think you will see more impact from a drive for power. Look at the major league 1B from last year. The 4th worst GB/FB ratio belongs to Bell. He normalizes that with just a bit of lift, and I think you see a huge breakout (including a normalization of his BABIP as well)

  7. I’d been thinking between 13th-17th since early last summer but that didn’t take into account trading Cole or cutch which should have bumped us up in theory.

    • At the prospect level, NH will never get credit for Moran. The ratings folks already made up their mind about him. And no matter whether he succeeds or not, he will no longer be a prospect by about mid-May

    • Cole yes should bump some, Cutch not so much. Cutch only 1 year left & everybody acts like we traded the reigning MVP, when he’s been removed from All-star status for to long. Everyone is rating that trade with their hearts & not with looking at him from another city’s perspective.

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