Until three years ago the Pittsburgh Pirates had underwhelmed for quite some time. OK, let’s actually call it what it was. The Pirates were terrible, the laughing stock of the league rather, for nearly two decades featuring just one second-place finish — in the National League Central — or better from 1993 to 2012. This feat is now something they have achieved in each of the past three seasons.
After getting intimate with the cellar after Barry Bonds took his talents to The Bay, the Pirates have returned to the upper echelon of MLB franchises supplanting themselves as a ‘watch-out-for’ team every year as spring training rolls around. Much of this is thanks to face-of-the-franchise outfielder Andrew McCutchen — a first-round selection (No. 11 overall) out of high school in 2005 by the Pirates. And his place in Pittsburgh has come to define the organization’s approach.
After successfully grooming a toolsy prep outfielder from first round pick to perennial All-Star, the Pirates were back. From sensible drafting, improved player development, superb international scouting and the patience to see a plan through, Pittsburgh proved it was dedicated to building an annual contender from within. But it remains in the same spot — without a Wold Series title since 1979. The Buccos have reached the postseason in each of the past three seasons racking up 94, 88 and 98 regular season wins respectively, but they can’t get over the hump. Reasons why can be discussed, but here and now is not the time and place.
But what can and will be discussed here is the Pirates’ dedication to player development. Whether McCutchen, Starling Marte, former No. 1 overall pick turned ace Gerrit Cole, or Gregory Polanco, even Pedro Alvarez or Jung Ho Kang, their talent has come from within the organization and its the primary reason they have sustained its place in the postseason recently. And with their current farm system, headlined by power-righty Tyler Glasnow and yet another toolsy outfielder Austin Meadows, the Pirates seem poised to reload rather than rebuild. But the Pirates know they can’t succeed on a few big names, depth is important and their farm system stands by that sentiment.
*And a fun little tidbit … only two prospects on this list did the Pirates acquire via trade. The other 18 were drafted or signed via International Free Agency.
As with all the lists we will be putting out, the rankings are based upon in-person evaluations, video evaluations, extensive readings of scouting reports, and conversations with scouts.