Ranking each of the Pittsburgh Pirates’ minor league affiliate teams

How do the Pirates' four minor league affiliates compare to each other, and which one is the best?
Baltimore Orioles v Pittsburgh Pirates
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Number Two
Bradenton Marauders

The Pirates' second-best minor league affiliate team is the Bradenton Marauders. However, that's mainly because most of the talent on their roster has yet to get an extended look against professional opponents. Most are recent draft picks or international signings, but this roster definitely has the potential to be very good in 2024.

The top pitching prospect in the Marauders' rotation is Michael Kennedy. The high school draft pick from 2022 pitched 44.2 innings between the Bucs' FCL team and Bradenton, working to a 2.12 ERA, 3.51 FIP, and 1.11 WHIP. Kennedy struck out 33% of the batters he faced while allowing just a single home run. He had some inconsistencies with walks, however, and had a 13.1% walk rate. Kennedy still projects an above-average command with a pitch mix that includes a sinker, slider, and change-up.

The Marauders have some other pitchers that are definitely worth watching, even if they aren't as highly touted as Kennedy. Relief prospects Khristian Curtis, Carlson Reed, and Mike Walsh could make their presence known in the Pirates' system this year. Hung-Leng Chang, Antwone Kelly, and Carlos Jimenez will also likely get regular starts in 2024.

Bradenton also has a handful of interesting position player prospects. Shalin Polanco is arguably the best. He looked like he finally found his footing last year before an injury took him out for the second half of the season. Polanco was hitting .302/.366/.540 with a .411 wOBA, and 140 wRC+ in 142 plate appearances from late May up until around the All-Star break. While his 25.4% strikeout rate wasn't great, he did have a respectable 9.9% walk rate and .238 isolated slugging percentage. Polanco then fell into a slump before landing on the IL in mid-July and did not return to action before the minor league season was over.

Garret Forrester is a 2023 draft pick who did well in his brief pro debut and throughout his college career. Forrester hit .342/.487/.523 with more walks (61) than strikeouts (52) in 311 plate appearances for Oregon State. Other youngsters like Omar Alfonzo, Jesus Castillo, and Eddy Rodriguez (once he is activated from the injured list) will be names to keep an eye on as they're all heading into just their age-20 campaign.

Braylon Bishop might be the most interesting position player prospect in the Pirates' system. The outfielder was considered one of the better outfield prospects in the 2021 draft. The Pirates signed him to a hefty overslot deal, but he's struggled, both with lifting the ball and with strikeouts. This will be his first full minor league season of his career, so hopefully he can reclaim some of his draft stock from a few years ago.