Both Keith Law and John Sickels have released a list ranking every organization's minor league talent in baseball. Baseball America has not yet released their list - it would most likely come out in June - but in an "Ask Baseball America" column, prospect guru Jim Callis gave his personal top 10 farm systems. Baseball Prospectus also does an annual organizational rankings list, but their 2013 edition hasn't been published yet. Jonathon Mayo does not publish an organizational rankings list, but did order each organization based on a system derived from his top 100 prospect list.
Keith Law's article is behind a paywall, so I can't go into significant detail concerning his rankings. I can say he ranked the Pirates farm system 7th overall. He talked about the positives that were Gerrit Cole and Jameson Taillon and the disappointment that was Josh Bell's knee injury. Divisional rivals St. Louis and Chicago both ranked ahead of the Pirates, while the Reds fell in the 10-20 range and the Brewers were near the very bottom of the list. For context, last year Law ranked the Pirates 8th overall.
John Sickels's article is not behind a paywall. Sickels likes the Pirates more than Law, ranking them 5th overall. Sickels mentioned that the farm system was rapidly improving, an opinion fleshed out by the fact that the Pirates ranked 12th on Sickels's 2012 list. The strengths listed for the Pirates were high-upside pitching, led by the trio of Gerrit Cole, Jameson Taillon, and Luis Heredia. Sickels also noted the importance of the breakout seasons by Alen Hanson and Gregory Polanco. Weaknesses listed were the failure of big investments into high school pitching not paying off and the lack of hitting-depth.
Mayo's list simply gave 100 points to the #1 prospect and 1 point to his #100 prospect, with the gaps being filled in logically. The Pirates ranked 6th using Mayo's formula. The St. Louis Cardinals were the only other National League Central team in the top 10, coming it at 2nd on the list. The Pirates received a majority of their points from their top two pitching prospects, Gerrit Cole and Jameson Taillon.
This section will be updated once Baseball America publishes it's organizational rankings. For now, Jim Callis listed his top 10 personal farm systems in this "Ask BA" column. Callis ranked the Pirates #8. Falling in with the consistent theme only broken by Keith Law, the only other divisional rival in Callis's top 10 is the St. Louis Cardinals, who come in ranked 1st overall. Callis stated that he didn't see the Pirates farm system as deep, but that it "has impressive trios of arms and bats that most can't match." For context, the Pirates system was ranked 11th overall by Baseball America in 2012.
Baseball Prospectus has not yet released their 2013 organizational rankings. When they do - if they do; the usual author Kevin Goldstein now works for the Astros - this section will be updated. For context, the Pirates ranked 8th on the 2012 list.
The Pirates have a consensus top 10 farm system in baseball, the first time that's happened in years. There also seems to be the idea that the Pirates lack depth, specifically on the hitting side. That seems a bit odd to me. They do lack upper-level hitting depth, but the hitting depth at the lower level is quite good and the best it's been in years. Pitching is depth throughout the whole system.
I'm curious to know more about Callis's statement. The trio of arms is obviously Gerrit Cole, Jameson Taillon, and Luis Heredia. The hitting trio includes Hanson and Polanco, but the final hitter could be either Josh Bell or Barrett Barnes.
Obviously being in the top 10 is a good thing. That's the positive side of things. The negative is that on every list, the St. Louis Cardinals are ahead of the Pirates and they universally are considered to have the best farm system in the game.
Overall Top 100 Prospects
Very few top 100 lists have been published so far this year. Only Keith Law and Jonathon Mayo have published their top 100 lists so far, but several more will be published in the next few months. John Sickels will have a top 120 list. Baseball America will have a top 100 prospect list. Baseball Prospectus will have a top 100 list. Along with those major sources, Bullpen Banter will publish a top 100 list.
Keith Law put five Pirates on his 2013 top 100 list. Gerrit Cole and Jameson Taillon both earned spots in the top 20. Alen Hanson made an appearance in the top 50. Gregory Polanco and Luis Heredia both placed on the back half of the list. Law also mentions in a chat that a solid season from Josh Bell would put him back inside the top 100 next season.
Mayo placed four Pirates on his 2013 top 100 list. Like Law, Mayo had Cole and Taillon high up on his list. He ranked Cole 9th and Taillon 15th. Alen Hanson came in at 54th on the list and Gregory Polanco ranked close behind Hanson, at 65th. In a separate article, Mayo revealed that Luis Heredia barely missed his top 100 list, coming in at 103rd.
Several lists are currently missing from this list, so there's honestly not that much to analyze. Both Law and Mayo have Cole and Taillon in the top 20, which seems to be consensus and makes sense logically.
On both lists, Hanson and Polanco also made appearances, neither in the top 25, but each list had one of those two guys crack the top 60. That's an appropriate balance of optimism and realism on two guys who haven't seen a pitch in High-A ball yet. Hanson led on both lists, possibly due to the fact that he was less of a "out of nowhere" guy - Hanson had a really strong first half of a a season in the GCL in 2011 until an injury hampered his performance the rest of the way - than Polanco.
Heredia hasn't pitched at all in full season ball, so a ranking in the back end of the top 100 or just outside if appropriate, no matter how high his ceiling. On that note though, Law seemed to doubt Heredia's ceiling a bit, possibly due to a lack of physical projection, which I saw as interesting and possibly a bit off base.
Top Prospects by Team
When it comes to top prospect lists for each individual organizations, Keith Law has a set of top 10 lists. John Sickels has a set of top 20 lists. So does Jonathon Mayo. Baseball America has a set of top 10 lists. Baseball Prospectus has a set of top 10 lists. Bullpen Banter has a set of top 15 lists. Pirates Prospects does a top 20 list just for the Pirates.
Law's article is behind a paywall, as always. His top 10 starts with the big five - Cole, Taillon, Hanson, Polanco, and Heredia - in that order - and then his top 10 ends with Bell, Barnes, Kingham, Mathisen, and Clay Holmes. In a separate chat, Law mentions that Tyler Glasnow was the final cut and proceeds to give him a glowing report, indicating there are reports of the young pitcher touching 98.
Sickels actually put 22 prospects on his top 20 list for the Pirates. He leads off with the big five; Cole, Taillon, Hanson, Polanco, and Heredia. After that, Sickels ranks Barret Barnes sixth, ahead of Josh Bell. Past Bell at seven, Kingham, Herrera, and Mathisen round out the top 10. After that, 10 through 22 read Holmes, Glasnow, McPherson, Morris, Black, Wilson, Irwin, Osuna, Sampson, Oliver, Jhang, and Dickerson.
Mayo also has a top 20 list. On his list, Mayo continues the trend started by Law and Sickels, ranking the big five in the same order as his peers. After that, Mayo rounds out his top 10 with Josh Bell, Kyle McPherson, Barrett Barnes, Justin Wilson, and Wyatt Mathisen. Prospects 11 through 20 read Dickerson, Oliver, Kingham, Morris, Holmes, Sanchez, Black, Garcia, Glasnow, and Herrera.
Baseball America was the first industry source to buck a major trend on their top 10 list. Cole lead off their list like most, and Taillon followed, but instead of Hanson-Polanco-Heredia, Baseball America elected to swap Hanson and Heredia to round out their top 5. After that they went with Josh Bell, then two guys who most likely will pitch in the majors at some point this season, Kyle McPherson and Justin Wilson. Barrett Barnes and Clay Holmes rounded out the Baseball America's top 10. In this article, Baseball America mentioned two more Pirates prospects that just missed the top 10, Wyatt Mathisen and Alex Dickerson.
Baseball Prospectus decided to follow Baseball America's lead and mix up the top 5 on their top 10 list. Cole and Taillon lead off again, but after that Baseball Prospectus preferred Polanco over Heredia and Heredia over Hanson. Josh Bell, Wyatt Mathisen, Tyler Glasnow, Nick Kingham, and Barret Barnes round out the top 10.
Bullpen Banter returns to normalcy with their top 15 prospect list. The list starts off with Cole, Taillon, Hanson, Polanco and Heredia. After that, Bullpen Banter takes after John Sickels, ranking Barrett Barnes sixth and Josh Bell seventh. Tyler Glasnow, Wyatt Mathisen, and Nick Kingham round out the top 10. After that, the list finishes with Herrera, McPherson, Holmes, Adrian Sampson, and Gift Ngoepe.
Pirates Prospects also fell away from the majority trend with their top 20 list. Cole and Taillon lead off their rankings per the norm. From there, Polanco ranks 3rd, Hanson 4th, and Heredia 5th. After that, Bell and Barnes rank 6th and 7th respectively, with Glasnow, McPherson, and Kingham completing the top 10. The bottom half of the list reads Holmes, Herrera, Sanchez, Wilson, Morris, Mathisen, Sampson, Black, Oliver, and Jhang.
With 7 major lists already published ranking the Pirates top prospects, there is plenty to analyze. On every list, the top 5 are the same, although in slightly different orders. Considering how good each of Hanson, Polanco, and Heredia are, ranking them in any order based off personal taste is acceptable. There's nothing really odd about Law's list. Having Glasnow come in at 11 showed his potential and it was the first time I've seen any reports of him touching 98. Mathisen at 9 seemed aggressive to me, but Law was not alone.
Sickels also ranked Mathisen in his top 10 at number 10. In addition to that, Sickels showed his fondness for Barnes as a prospect, ranking him ahead of Josh Bell and going against the general consensus. Herrera also received an aggressive ranking, coming in at number 9. To me, Sickels is low on both Jose Osuna and Alex Dickerson, who are ranked 18th and 22nd respectively.
Mayo is often criticized for having questionable rankings, but he does provide valuable information. This year, his list is pretty sound. Glasnow and Herrera seem a bit low, and Mayo is higher on Dickerson than most, but those are the only picks that caused any eyebrow raising. It's worth noting that Mayo also ranked Mathisen in his top 10 at number 10, making the percentage three-for-three thus far.
Baseball America's list is pretty standard, although it gives a bit more preference to floor than other lists. That's how both Kyle McPherson and Justin Wilson make the top 10. It's worth nothing, that, using extra information, Mathisen didn't make the top 12, meaning Baseball America ranked him lower, and by a decent amount, than any source thus far.
Baseball Prospectus goes in the opposite direction of Baseball America, flavoring ceiling guys who haven't proven much yet. In fact, looking at their top 10 list, only the first two players on it, Cole and Taillon, have thrown or seen a pitch above Low-A. Wyatt Mathisen is ranked extremely high, coming in at number seven. Kyle McPherson and Justin Wilson are both missing.
Bullpen Banter's list is pretty standard for the first thirteen players, but the have two wildcards rounding out their top fifteen. Before that though, Bullpen Banter is similar to Baseball Prospectus; prospects three through eleven haven't played a single game above Low-A in their respective careers. Twelve is Kyle McPherson followed by Clay Holmes coming in at number thirteen. After that, Bullpen Banter rounds out their top 15 with Adrian Sampson and Gift Ngoepe. Both are solid prospects, but neither have a particularly high ceiling or a high floor. It seems strange to rank them ahead of guys like Justin Wilson and Tony Sanchez, who are virtual locks to provide some major league value.
Pirates Prospects is the last list analyzed. Their top 20 list doesn't have many surprises. Glasnow makes another top 10 appearance, something that ended up being pretty normal. The one standout decision was about Wyatt Mathisen. At number sixteen, Mathisen was ranked much lower by Pirates Prospects than any other industry source
That concludes a look at how the Pirates farm system stacks up league-wide, how it's top prospects stack up against other top prospects, and how the Pirates own prospects stack up against each other. This article will be updated as more information comes out, so check back at a later date.