First Pitch: Thoughts on the Pirates’ Farm System and When They Can Contend Again

My newest article is up at Baseball America, looking at the progress and work that Mason Martin has done this year between Altoona and instructs in Bradenton. I’ll have more on Martin here on the site next week, looking into further detail some of the topics we discussed during my interview with him.

I also just wrapped up my top ten prospects for the Pirates for BA’s Prospect Handbook. I’m not sure when the web version of the list will come out, but I’ll keep you updated while I work to finish the remaining prospect reports in the Pirates’ top 30.

Between these two assignments, the season recap articles that started on the site this week, and finalizing our own Prospect Guide with all of the year-end information, I’ve been taking a pretty deep dive into the farm system lately. Some quick takeaways:

**Once you remove Ke’Bryan Hayes, I like the talent of the pitching in the system more than the position players. The Pirates have some potential with Quinn Priester, Tahnaj Thomas, Brennan Malone, and Cody Bolton. The Pirates have a chance for a few starters here who could be better than back of the rotation guys. I also like the chances of some of the next tier guys to emerge as future starters, like Carmen Mlodzinski, Braxton Ashcraft, or Max Kranick.

**The position player group isn’t as exciting with upside, but I do see a path to the Pirates having an interesting lineup in the near future. That path involves Liover Peguero at shortstop, Nick Gonzales at second, Oneil Cruz in right field, and Travis Swaggerty in center. Between the contact skills of Peguero and Gonzales, the power potential from Cruz, the combo of power and speed from Swaggerty, and the defense from all four, I could see this being a great group to add to Hayes and Bryan Reynolds. I also think Mason Martin is interesting as a future first base option to join this group.

**The problem with the above? Options. Not every prospect will work out. If you’ve got a group of pitching prospects like the group led by Priester, you might get a top of the rotation starter from the group, and maybe one other starter. It’s hard to see right now which guys will emerge as the top options, but you know that not all of those guys will make it. On the position player side, the Pirates are close to relying on one prospect per position. The exception is the shortstop position, which I’ll break down next week, and which might help staff additional positions (such as Cruz moving to the outfield and Gonzales moving to second, with Peguero staying at short). The problem here is that prospects aren’t guaranteed, and there’s a lot more room for error in fielding a prospect rich future lineup, as not all of these guys will make it.

**Despite that, I still love the potential of adding Kumar Rocker to the pitching group, as opposed to stocking up on the position player side just because it’s the weaker group. The idea of Keller/Priester/Rocker and perhaps one more middle-to-top of the rotation guy in the mix is far more exciting than filling one of the many question marks around the field.

The 2020 Prospect Guide returns to print for our tenth  we are releasing three variant covers, featuring Mitch Keller and Ke’Bryan Hayes. Visit our shop page to order these extremely limited items!

First Pitch