Just a quick followup on Baseball America ranking the Pirates’ minor league system 23rd. I don’t think anybody’s excessively put out by this, especially given that FanGraphs and MiLB.com seem to have better opinions of it. John Dreker expressed some reservations about the ranking, so I thought I’d add mine.
I’m not necessarily in a good position to judge MLB-wide rankings. I don’t follow other systems like I do the Pirates. I do, however, know what a bad Pirates’ system looks like because I started following their system closely during the days of The GM Who Must Not Be Named . . . well, okay, Dave Littlefield. Littlefield’s system was ranked, if I remember correctly, 26th when Neal Huntington took over. (I tossed all my old BA Handbooks so I can’t check.) It was also clearly headed in a bad direction for a while before that.
The current system looks nothing like the bad old days. Back then, I could hang out for days at Pirate City and not see 90 on a radar gun. I’d watch the rookie-level guys take batting practice and rarely hit the ball out of the infield on the fly. So few of the players were able to make it even to AA that the Pirates were signing 30-odd minor league free agents every year, triple or more what they sign now. I saw Lynchburg teams that didn’t have a single even marginal prospect in the lineup, and Altoona teams that had entire rotations made up of minor league veterans. That’s what a bottom-feeding Pirates’ system looked like.
The current system has its problems, which we’ve discussed, but at no point does it resemble a prospect wasteland. Every team should have plenty of players worth watching; we’ve discussed in some depth the likely Greensboro and Bradenton rotations, for instance. It’d be nice if there were more players who’ve stepped forward as top-level prospects, but there are plenty who still could. That likely explains a lot of the difference between FG and BA; the latter seems reluctant to give much credit for lower level players (like Tahnaj Thomas) with big-time potential but without the pedigree of major bonuses. There also may be an element of dismissiveness toward guys like Oneil Cruz and Cody Bolton, given the team’s problems in turning prospects into major leaguers. Call it Post-Huntington Derangement Syndrome.
So, for the time being, I’m less interested in system rankings and more interested in following the many guys in the system at the lower levels who offer some promise. Could be wishful thinking, or maybe not.
Couple links, in case you missed them, both from FG:
David Laurila did a very good interview with Quinn Priester. I kinda thought the advantage of drafting him might be that he seems almost self-coaching, but that should be less of a problem now.
Eric Longhagen mentioned a couple Pirates in his Picks to Click, that is, guys who could end up in the top 100. Ji-Hwan Bae is listed among the “Players My Sources Like” (“very, very fast”), and Cody Bolton among the “Strike-Throwing 4th Starter Types.”