Nine years ago today, I started this website. At the time I was a writer for another company, providing MLB, NHL, and NFL articles to places like ESPN Insider, Yahoo Sports, USA Today, and other outlets. This was supposed to be a side project, something that I did for fun that would allow me a place to write about the prospects I saw in Lynchburg that year, while also providing resources that we still have today, like payroll trackers and detailed draft coverage.

Nine years is a long time.

A really long time when you think about it.

When this site started, the top prospect in the system was a guy named Andrew McCutchen.

Pedro Alvarez had yet to play in his first professional game.

Gerrit Cole was a freshman in college.

Jameson Taillon was a junior in high school. Josh Bell was a sophomore. Austin Meadows wasn’t even in high school yet.

Mitch Keller was in elementary school.

I’ve told the story many times of how the site grew to what it is now. The highlights: In that first year I thought it could one day provide some extra income to pay my cell phone bill or something. It continued to grow quickly. I was laid off. After struggling to find work during the recession, I put all of my eggs in this basket and released the Prospect Guide to help make this full-time. Eventually we added writers, with John Dreker and Wilbur Miller being some of the earliest contributors. We were the first internet outlet to receive credentials with the Pirates, also working with the Pirates to help create a set of guidelines for new media that allowed other sites like Bucs Dugout to eventually get access.

That last part is something I’m very proud of, since this was about five years before places like DK Pittsburgh Sports and Pittsburgh Sports Now made the jump from traditional outlets to new media, and before every blog started up with the intent of becoming a news source and trying to build up to a legit news outlet. We were kind of ahead of our time in the early days.

There were ups and downs along the way, but we’re now entering our tenth year of coverage, and honestly I never thought it would get this far. That includes times in the last year, where people have been turned off to the Pirates. Fortunately, that seems to be turning around.

We’re now entering a time where things are oddly similar to how they all started on this site. The Pirates are rebuilding, with hopes of getting back to being contenders. Only this time around they are two seasons removed from contending, rather than 16 seasons, and they’re a lot closer to contending in 2018 than they were in 2009. But the feeling is similar from the fan base perspective, and honestly, it’s almost worse now than it was in 2009.

We grew so quickly in the early days because we were the only outlet providing daily close coverage of the minor league system, at a time when all of the fan focus on the Pirates was on their minor league system. I was the only person providing reports from Lynchburg that year, when a team led by Pedro Alvarez, Josh Harrison, Jordy Mercer, Alex Presley, Justin Wilson Jeff Locke, and other future MLB players ended up winning a championship. It only made sense that with the Pirates rebuilding and focusing on the minors, that the coverage focus should be on the minors.

Eventually, the focus went to the majors, and by that point, we were established covering the big league team as well. It was another thing that made sense. We’re not going to spend six years covering every little detail of the development for Jameson Taillon and Josh Bell, only to stop covering them once they arrive in Pittsburgh. And the general response was positive, where most of the attention went to prospects in Triple-A or what was happening in the majors, rather than articles about prospects in the lower levels. It was a complete 180 from where the site was when it first started out.

So when it looked like the Pirates would start trading players away this offseason, I was worried about the impact to the site. It’s weird to think that a shift in focus to the farm system would hurt a site called Pirates Prospects. But I had already seen a lack of interest in lower level articles the last few years, and then saw a mass wave of cancellations in August and September due to how the MLB team performed. The site was built and grew during a time when the Pirates were losing at the MLB level, and my fear was that Pirates fans were no longer interested in seeing what was next in a rebuild.

Fortunately, it looks like I was wrong.

Since the Gerrit Cole trade happened, we’ve seen a spike in subscriptions. That continued even after the Andrew McCutchen trade. I’ve heard from a lot of the new subscribers, and the common theme is along the lines of the new subscriber being upset with the trades, upset that McCutchen is gone, but still a fan of the Pirates and feeling that with their current focus, this is the perfect time to subscribe to follow the farm system.

I would say that any time is a perfect time to subscribe to Pirates Prospects if you’re a Pirates fan. But this would definitely be the best time, as the current direction of the team is right in our wheelhouse.

You’ve got a team full of young players at the MLB level, mostly made up of guys that we have covered since the day they entered the system. That’s coverage and background that no other outlet can match,

There are prospects in the upper levels who could make the jump to the majors in the next year or two, again with our unparalleled coverage and background on those players — not to mention that we’re the only Pittsburgh outlet that has reporters in Indianapolis and Altoona.

Then there are the lower level guys who the Pirates need to break out in order to rebuild the farm system. Again, our coverage, we’re the only ones covering them, etc.

And it’s not like we’ve only been focused on the prospects. We still have Alan Saunders providing fantastic coverage of the Pirates at the MLB level, so you get that aspect as well.

The Pirates insist that they’re not in for a long rebuild, and that they can still compete. If that happens, we’ve got Alan covering things in the majors, and covering how the team progresses even if they aren’t competitive this year. My feeling is that this team won’t be a contender until 2019 or 2020, with a lot of the upper level prospects right now playing a big impact. And we’ll be covering those prospects every step of the way, along with everyone else in the system.

I’m so thankful to all of you who have been with us along the way these past nine years. From the brief period where the site was actually called, and then through the period where we had to switch to a subscription site to remain in business, we couldn’t have done this without your support.

Current subscribers, I hope to have your continued support going forward. If you’re not a subscriber, please join us by signing up here. And current subscribers, feel free to tell the new guys why they should sign up in the comments.

Regardless of your status as either an existing subscriber, new subscriber, or future subscriber, our goal remains the same as it has been all along: Providing you the best coverage we can of the entire system, with information and resources that you can’t find anywhere else. And with the current direction of the Pirates, that information from the minors becomes even more valuable.