The Pittsburgh Pirates had a lot of talented prospects leading into their last playoff run from 2013-15.
The problem was that the prospects who worked out were too spread out.
Andrew McCutchen arrived in 2009. Pedro Alvarez, Neil Walker, Brad Lincoln, and Jose Tabata in 2010. Starling Marte in 2012. Gerrit Cole in 2013. Gregory Polanco in 2014. By the time Jameson Taillon, Tyler Glasnow, Josh Bell, and others arrived in 2016, most of that group was either gone, or at the end of their Pirates careers.
The Pittsburgh Pirates had a lot of talented prospects in their system during that Glasnow/Taillon/Bell era.
The problem was they failed to develop the bulk of those prospects, and made a few questionable moves to deplete the prospect depth to attempt to win now, and in one case, provide financial flexibility.
The Pittsburgh Pirates have a lot of talented prospects in their system right now.
The hope this time around is that they will get much better results from their farm system, which has been overhauled with a new player-guided, individualized development approach. This is meant to give more of a say to the players in their career path, removing one of the biggest issues of the old system where players were forced into cookie cutter approaches.
The positive thing this time around is that if this new development plan works, the Pirates will have a better convergence of prospects, avoiding the problem that limited their window in 2013-15.
The first wave from the current highly ranked Pirates system is expected to arrive in 2022, led by Oneil Cruz and Roansy Contreras. This group could include starting options at the following positions:
First Base: Mason Martin
Second Base: Diego Castillo, Rodolfo Castro, Tucupita Marcano, Ji-Hwan Bae
Shortstop: Oneil Cruz
Outfield: Travis Swaggerty, Canaan Smith-Njigba, Jack Suwinski, Matt Fraizer, Cal Mitchell
Rotation: Roansy Contreras, Miguel Yajure, Cody Bolton
This group aligns with a lot of the positions of need on the MLB club. The 2023 group right after them is heavier on pitching options, with stronger infield prospects, additional outfielders, and potentially containing catching help from Henry Davis and/or Endy Rodriguez.
No team — large or small market — wins from their farm system alone. It takes acquisitions from across the game, including the owner-dreaded free agent spending and the fan-dreaded waiver wire claims.
However, every team — small markets especially — need a good base from their farm system. The Pirates are set up to establish a solid base of prospects jumping to the majors in the next two years. That should allow for a good base to build a contender around.
From there, the Pirates would need to focus on keeping guys like Ke’Bryan Hayes, Bryan Reynolds, and Mitch Keller around for as long as possible, while also spending like an MLB team and bringing in help from the outside.
This farm system can help the Pirates open their next window, and the grouping of the prospects near the majors gives immediate help that will be together as a group for several years to build around.
THIS WEEK ON PIRATES PROSPECTS
Tim started Pirates Prospects in 2009 from his home in Virginia, which was 40 minutes from where Pedro Alvarez made his pro debut in Lynchburg. That year, the Lynchburg Hillcats won the Carolina League championship, and Pirates Prospects was born from Tim's reporting along the way. The site has grown over the years to include many more writers, and Tim has gone on to become a credentialed MLB reporter, producing Pirates Prospects each year, and will publish his 11th Prospect Guide this offseason. He has also served as the Pittsburgh Pirates correspondent for Baseball America since 2019. Behind the scenes, Tim is an avid music lover, and most of the money he gets paid to run this site goes to vinyl records.