The Pittsburgh Pirates have a busy few upcoming months, so what could their farm system look like by the end of it?
Thanks in large part to having one of the best farm systems in all of baseball, the Pittsburgh Pirates entered the 2021 season with a very bright future. Much of this is owed to the team’s general manager Ben Cherington.
Cherington took what was an average farm system to one of the best among all 30 MLB teams. FanGraphs ranked them as the 4th best farm system in baseball, and that was before trading Josh Bell, Joe Musgrove, and Jameson Taillon.
Among the notable moves Cherington has made, whether that be trades, drafts, or international signings, very few have ended with him not receiving back good value. The only notable prospects that he has acquired that aren’t ranked on FanGraphs are pitchers Drake Fellows and Omar Cruz, both part of the Musgrove deal, and Jack Hartman and Logan Hofmann, two pitchers who the Pittsburgh Pirates selected in the 2021 MLB Draft.
But the farm system could look much different as we still have the trade deadline and amateur draft ahead of us. So let’s take a look at what the farm system could be looking like by the end of this regular season.
The draft will guarantee the Pittsburgh Pirates at least one consensus top 100 prospect off the bat. The draft went from a very pitcher-heavy draft to a very shortstop heavy draft pretty quickly. Currently, Marcelo Mayer and Jordan Lawlar are seen as the two best players available. Although unlikely, they could also go Louisville catcher Henry Davis as an under-slot pick to spend heavily on the second round.
Regardless of who the Pittsburgh Pirates selected with the number one overall selection they should still be able to get a ton of talent in the early rounds. Currently, their two first-round picks (Nick Gonzales and Carmen Mlodzinski), as well as their second (Jared Jones), and third (Nick Garcia) round selections rank among the team’s top 30 prospects.
Last season the Detroit Tigers had the #1 overall pick and all six of their selections rank in their top 25 prospects on FanGraphs. Nine of the Baltimore Orioles’ 2019 draft picks are ranked on FanGraphs as well.
In total, the Pittsburgh Pirates could get 5-7 more top 30 organizational prospects just in the draft alone. But that’s far from the only chance the Pirates may get to add a handful of notable prospects. In all likelihood, they’ll get a good haul for Adam Frazier and Richard Rodríguez.
Both Frazier and Rich Rod are having career-best seasons. The former can play second base and all three outfield positions. His versatility makes him a fit on almost any contending team and given the significant amount of injuries throughout baseball, Frazier may be a commodity in high demand.
There’s always a high demand for good relief pitching. Relief pitching is something most teams decide whether or not they need well into summer as good relief pitching on a good team is 10x more valuable than good relief pitching on a bad team. Though it happens with all kinds of players, teams seem to overpay for relievers more often than players from other positions.
Between Frazier and Rodríguez they may be able to sneak out another top 100 prospect. So far, all of Cherington’s trades have been pretty good. He’s been able to get back at least full value from his player. There are always a few teams willing to go all in around July, and hopefully, the Pittsburgh Pirates will take advantage of that.
While there are a ton of prospects coming into the system, some prospects should graduate from their status, or be out of the organization. The team will release some players ahead of the draft to make room in the organization. Obviously, any high-ranking prospects will be safe, but some of the lower-end 40 future value prospects and some 35 future value prospects won’t make it through. Two names that may get released are right-handers Steven Jennings, and Yerry De Los Santos. The former, aside from a strong spin rate, hasn’t produced much throughout the minors. The ladder may need Tommy John surgery.
Some rookies will eventually lose prospect status. Third baseman Ke’Bryan Hayes would have reached that point earlier this season had it not been for an injury that kept him out for 2 months. However, he recently lost prospect status. Luis Ovideo will either graduate prospect status or be returned to the Cleveland Indians. Wil Crowe will surely lose prospect status this year. If Miguel Yajure is healthy, there’s a good possibility he loses prospect status as well. David Bednar is another young player who already lost his status.
So what will the Pirate farm system look like by the end of this season? While a handful of players will be graduating prospect status, there will be a huge influx of new prospects coming into the organization. They’ll get at least one top 100 through the draft but could also get another one in trade. But they should also get a ton of prospects in the 40-45+ grade range. This is where most of their new prospects that they pick in the draft past the first few selections, and prospects they get in trades that aren’t the headliner will fall into.
This could easily slingshot the Pirate system as not just one of the best, but the best among all 30 teams by a good margin. They could even surpass the Tampa Bay Rays. Since taking over as GM this could be Cherington’s biggest prospect influx, even over this past offseason. By the time the season is said and done, we could be looking at nearly a dozen new and notable prospects in the system.