John Dreker posted our Greensboro top ten yesterday, which has been one of the strongest prospect groups so far out of all of the levels we’ve covered. Those levels include all of the short-season US leagues, which means our recaps to date can give us a good look at the long-term future for the Pirates’ system.

Fortunately, there’s some promise in the lower levels. The Greensboro group was strong, but each level had some standout prospects who could be breakout guys in the future, or who have already begun their breakout now.

I don’t know what the Pirates’ organization will look like by the time most of these guys reach the upper levels. There could be a completely different farm system in place by then, since we’re talking several years away. The current front office and development team has shown a good ability to build up prospects at the lower levels, but not a good ability to get them over that final jump to reach their upsides in the majors.

So while looking at breakout candidates is fun, it comes with the current damper that this front office hasn’t had a lot of success turning breakout prospects into productive major leaguers. We’re going to ignore that aspect for now, and I’m going to focus on some of the highlights from the lower levels.

The strength of this group is the pitching, which is similar to previous strengths for the Pirates in the lower levels. 2019 first round pick Quinn Priester leads the way as the guy with the biggest upside, but Tahnaj Thomas is certainly challenging him with some impressive stuff this year. Braxton Ashcraft and Michael Burrows, both taken out of the prep ranks in 2018, have shown some promise.

It makes sense that the pitching prospects are ranked higher than the hitters, as lower level pitching prospects can be ranked high off one or two plus pitches. That doesn’t mean there isn’t talent on the position player side. The group is led by Ji-Hwan Bae, who had a strong season in Greensboro, and was our top prospect at the level.

Other toolsy young players include plenty of talented hitters in the GCL (Sammy Siani, Jasiah Dixon, Jase Bowen, Juan Pie, Deion Walker, Yoyner Fajardo, Angel Basabe) who all either made our top 50 rankings at the end of the year, or were just outside of the final tier.

Francisco Acuna joins that group from Bristol, along with Santiago Florez adding talent to the pitching side. Morgantown had a lot of top 50 guys from the college ranks, who are more there for higher floors than higher upsides. But that group adds Noe Toribio from the pitching side.

Greensboro is where you start to see upsides come into focus a bit more, but that doesn’t mean there’s not hope for Lolo Sanchez, Mason Martin, Rodolfo Castro, Jack Herman, and Osvaldo Bido joining on the pitching side. Most of these guys are younger than the college guys drafted this year, so while they might not have MLB top 100 upside, they could still be effective MLB players, and possibly starters in some cases.

As I’ve said many times in the past, the best thing to focus on for potential breakouts isn’t the individual chances, but the group’s collective chances. The more options you have, the better your chances will be of one or two of those options becoming an impact prospect. The Pirates are off to a good start in getting a good quantity of quality young prospects. It will be fun to watch these guys next year to see if any of them can take the leap into the national rankings.


John Dreker has the Arizona Fall League preview going up. We’ll also have any news and the live discussion.


I got to see Heart play this cover live last month, and it was amazing. This version is even better. I also love the reactions from Jimmy Paige.


Here’s another long quiz. Name the top five Pirates players each year from 1959-2018 by bWAR.


By John Dreker

Six former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date, starting with the most recent first. Donald Veal was a Rule 5 draft pick of the Pirates in 2008, pitching 19 times for the 2009 Pirates. He had a 7.16 ERA in 16.1 innings, with 20 walks and 16 strikeouts. He has pitched parts of four seasons since then, including five games for the 2015 Braves.

Jody Gerut played four games for the 2005 Pirates after they acquired him at the trade deadline from the Indians in exchange for Matt Lawton. He hit .222 and drove in two runs.

Roger Mason, relief pitcher for the 1991-92 NL East champs. Had a 3.82 ERA in 117.2 innings over 89 appearances.

Ken Brett, starter for the 1974-75 NL East champs. Brett had a 3.30 ERA and won 13 games for the 1974 team. The next year, he had a 3.36 ERA over 118 innings. In the playoffs, he pitched 2.1 innings in relief each year. He is the brother of Hall of Fame third baseman George Brett. They were teammates on the Royals in 1980-81.

Harvey Haddix, Pirates pitcher from 1959-63. He won 45 games for the Pirates and 136 games during his career, though he is best known for a game he didn’t win. Haddix threw 12 perfect innings against the Braves on May 26, 1959, but he lost the game in the 13th inning. The boxscore can be found here.

Heinie Groh, third baseman for the 1927 Pirates. Signed mid-season, he played the last 14 games of his 16-year career with the Pirates.  Superb fielding third baseman, could also hit, batting .292 in his career. Twice led league in OBP, twice in doubles, once in runs and once in hits.

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