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?
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Number One
Greensboro Grasshoppers

Coming in at number one, we have the Greensboro Grasshoppers, the Pirates' High-A affiliate. Greensboro has arguably the best position player group among all four minor league Pirates teams. They have multiple top Pirates position player prospects, but what is generally seen as their best. But they also have some pitching that could take steps forward in 2024.

Greensboro's middle infield has to be one of the best double-play combos in the minor leagues. On the right side of second base, you have Termarr Johnson. Johnson had a strong 2023 season with Bradenton and Greensboro, batting .244/.422/.438 with a .410 wOBA and 141 wRC+. Johnson's 26% strikeout rate wasn't good, but he improved it as the season went on. But he also helped off-set it with an astounding 21.6% walk rate and .195 isolated slugging percentage. Johnson was also fantastic in the second half of the year, slashing .270/.451/.487 with a 20% K%, .227 isolated slugging percentage, and 161 wRC+ through his final 205 plate appearances of the season. He also drew a walk nearly a quarter of the time.

On the left side of second base, you're going to see a mix of Jack Brannigan and Mitch Jebb. After a quality start to the year with the Marauders, Brannigan took off with the Grasshoppers, batting .299/.382/.605 with a .427 wOBA, and 159 wRC+. While he struck out in just over a third of his plate appearances (33.5%), he also had a 12.1% walk rate and isolated slugging percentage over .300 at .306. The Pirates drafted Brannigan as a two-way RHP/3B, but he displayed such good skills at the hot corner that he saw more playing time at shortstop than third once he got to the Grasshoppers.

Jebb meanwhile was the Pirates' second round pick last season who batted for a lot of contact and drew a lot of walks while rarely striking out throughout college. This carried over into his brief time at Bradenton where he slashed .297/.382/.398 with an 11.1% walk rate and strikeout rate below 10% at 7.2%. Jebb also displayed outstanding speed and base running prowess, swiping 11 bases in a dozen attempts. Both Jebb and Brannigan should share the two positions on the left side of the infield.

The Pirates' best outfield prospect will also open the year at Greensboro, that being Lonnie White Jr. the former football recruit batted .258/.395/.488 with a .413 wOBA and 140 wRC+ through 200 plate appearances with Bradenton last year. He provided plus power with a .228 isolated slugging percentage and showed off his speed, taking a dozen bases in 13 attempts. White Jr. walked 16% of the time but had a mediocre 28% K%. In White's defense, he did whittle his K% down below 25% from August through the end of the year.

Aside from these players, fans should also see how Charles McAdoo and Josiah Sightler do this year. McAdoo is a bat-first utility prospect who should see time all over the field in 2024. Sightler is a first base prospect who had an unbelievably hot start to his 2023 season but cooled off significantly.

Hunter Barco is the top pitching prospect at GBO. The Southpaw returned from Tommy John surgery halfway through last season and pitched well, albeit in a limited role. He only pitched 18.1 innings but struck out 28 batters, walked just six, and didn't allow a single home run while inducing ground balls over 50% of the time. Barco was sitting 94-95 MPH with his sinker during his Spring Breakout appearance. Hopefully, he can continue to do that as he gets stretched out. He also tosses an above-average slider and change-up.

But Barco isn't the only pitcher worth watching on the Pirates' High-A affiliate's roster.

2023 draft picks Patrick Reilly and Jaden Woods are a pair of pitching prospects that could force themselves into the Pirates' long-term plans. J.P. Massey and Derek Diamond both had a strong start to 2023 but struggled in the second half. Brandan Bidois is a relief pitching prospect who returned to action last year and did well in 22.2 innings out of Bradenton's bullpen.