Major League Baseball's offseason is in full swing, and that means everyone is thinking about the future. In most cities, that means next season; in some, though, it means the bigger picture, the next three to five years. You're either selling wins or you're selling hope, the old saying goes. We here at CBS Sports like to provide as much hope as we can around this time of the winter by evaluating each team's farm system.
Of course, that doesn't mean every team has an equally good farm system -- some, as you'll find out throughout this process, are lacking in that respect. It does mean, nevertheless, that CBS Sports will be spending the next few weeks examining the top three prospects in each organization. We define "prospects" as retaining their rookie eligibility for the 2023 season, so if a young player is missing that's likely why.
These lists and evaluations are formed following conversations with scouts, analysts, and player development types. There's also firsthand evaluation and bias thrown into the mix. Keep in mind that player evaluation is a hard task, and it's fine if you disagree with the rankings. These are opinions, and they have no real bearing on the future..
With that in mind, let's get to it by dissecting the Pittsburgh Pirates.
1. Termarr Johnson, 2B (2023 seasonal age: 19)
Johnson would have been a defensible selection at No. 1 in the draft last summer. The Orioles and two other clubs went in other directions, paving the way for the Pirates to land him with the fourth pick. Johnson was an exceptionally polished prepster, showing an ability to hit for average and power alike, and he received credit from scouts for having one of, if not the highest baseball IQ in the class. The one concern evaluators have had about Johnson is his defensive home: he played shortstop in high school, but he's widely expected to be a second baseman in the long run. Regardless, Johnson's stick and wits should empower him to bat near the top of a big-league lineup sooner than his young age indicates.
2. Endy Rodriguez, C/OF (2023 seasonal age: 22)
The Pirates obtained Rodriguez from the Mets as part of the three-team trade in January 2021 that sent Joe Musgrove to the Padres and Joey Lucchesi to New York. He's since emerged as one of the most productive and promising hitters in Pittsburgh's system, clocking an .892 OPS in 2021 and then a .996 OPS in 2022 across multiple levels, including a short stint in Triple-A. All the while, he's also shown a proclivity for walking and avoiding strikeouts. Rodriguez can hit, in other words. Where will he land positionally? That's to be determined. He's improved behind the plate, but the Pirates have played him all over and there's a case to be made, mostly based on his offensive upside and the presence of fellow catcher Henry Davis, that they should plop him down in the outfield and let him hit. Whatever they decide to do, Rodriguez is one to watch.
3. Henry Davis, C (2023 seasonal age: 23)
Davis, the No. 1 pick in the 2021 draft, had an eventful first full season as a professional. He started the year in High-A, earned a promotion in June to Double-A, and then suffered a non-displaced fracture in his wrist that caused him to miss nearly two months of action. Overall, he batted .264/.380/.472 with 10 homers in 59 games. Davis also played well during a stint in the Arizona Fall League, posting an .875 OPS in 69 plate appearances. He has well-above-average power potential thanks to a strength-based swing, but he'll need to be mindful of his strikeouts (he punched out in more than 22 percent of his trips to the plate upon his return). Scouts were confident Davis would stick at catcher on draft night, though he's likely to end up being more "tolerable" than "exceptional" there, based on where he is at present.