Pittsburgh Pirates Roundtable #10

Hello all, and welcome to the first PPR hosted at MVN. We’re still trying to work out a few bugs, but I figured I’d post our most recent effort now for your viewing pleasure.
This site will be a little different from our old home, http://pirates.mlblogs.com. First, you’ll be able to easily access the blogs of our contributors–click the links next to their names, and you’ll open new browser windows pointed to their sites. Second, you’ll be able to comment without having an account–something MLB.com wouldn’t let you do. Those comments will show up, oddly enough, in the recent comments section of our sidebar: Hopefully, that’ll make discussions flow a bit more easily.
You can visit http://mvn.com/mlb-pirates/roundtable for the most recent roundtables. In time, that page will have a contributing sites link, archives, etc. Baby steps, folks. A lot will be worked out over the next few days. Eventually, I’ll have moved all of our archives over, our template will run without errors, etc. I ask you to be patient.
Now, on to the content. We’ve broken into two groups for PPR now–one that releases responses on Mondays, and one for Thursdays. If you don’t see one of your favorites here, be sure to visit us again later in the week.
Question #1:
True or false: Chris Duffy will finally have a full year of success in 2007.

Wilbur T. Miller from Pirate Player Profiles:
Depends on what â??successâ? means. If it means something like â??adequate,â? then true. His lifetime major league numbers (.280/.336/.364) are probably pretty realistic. He can hit well enough, but heâ??ll never walk much and he doesnâ??t have much power. Thereâ??s no reason to think he wonâ??t play good defense and provide a top base-stealing threat, so adequate will be a big upgrade.
Pat from WHYGAVS:
I want this to be true. I hope it’s true, because having two guys in front of Bay and LaRoche that can get on base instead of one would be huge for the Pirates this year. Still, I’m not going to believe it until I see it. Duffy’s success in Pittsburgh really amounts to two quarter-seasons which are sandwiched around an awful quarter-season. His high OBP in the minors was helped out a lot by a high average, which doesn’t always transfer well to the bigs. Still, when he’s been hot in Pittsburgh, he’s been very impressive with his play in center, and his speed on the bases has helped make up for his lack of slugging. I suppose it’s possible he’ll have a full year of success this year and believe me, I hope he does. I don’t know if I’d bet on it, though.
GM-Carson from We Should Be GM’s:
I hate to be a fence sitter, so I’ll be optimistic and pick true. But it’s all relative to what you view “success” as. I view success as playing 145 to 150 games, batting leadoff with a minimum on-base percentage of .345, and swiping bags here and there in order to score more runs, which the team will be needing if they plan on winning. His ultimate goal should be to stay healthy and let the rest fall into place. We’re not looking for Lenny Dykstra, although the resemblence is uncanny.
Randy from Pittsburgh Lumber Co.:
I say true and I say true by defining a full year of success for Chris Duffy to equal, roughly, the year that Steve Finley had in 1991. That would be somewhere in the neighborhood of .285/.330/.400 with good defense and some steals. I donâ??t expect Duffy to develop that power numbers that Finley did later in his career. Hopefully, Duffy can use his speed to get somewhere in the neighborhood of 40 to 45 extra base hits.
Cory, the moderator:
False. Duffy, I think, will be mediocre at best. His batting average hovered around .300 in the minors, so you can’t expect much more than the .280 he’s posted in the bigs. When you consider that he lacks the discipline to draw walks, it’s obvious that his on-base percentage won’t be leadoff-worthy. He’ll be exposed as a weakness in that spot in the order over the course of a season, should Jim Tracy keep him there.
Do I think Duffy would make an excellent hitter lower in the order–perhaps seventh or eighth? Yes. He wouldn’t feel the pressue of trying to set the table for Sanchez-LaRoche-Bay. His defense in center field will make up for our weak corners. His speed can be an asset on the bases. But we found out last April that Duffy doesn’t have the typical skill set of a leadoff batter, and a 40 or 50 game sample from the second half of a season isn’t enough to make me forget about an entire minor league career.

Matt from Wait ‘Til Next Year:

True. Despite the acquisition of slugging lefty Adam LaRoche to complement All-Stars Jason Bay and Freddy Sanchez in the middle of the order, it will be Chris Duffy who leads the Pirates’ offense back to respectability in 2007. Over the past two seasons, the Pirates’ offense has been most successful when Duffy has been in the lineup and getting on base consistently. The problem was that in 2005 he was in AAA for much of the season and in 2006 he got off to a dreadful start before disappearing for awhile. Duffy has had solid numbers throughout most of his minor league career and, for the most part, has continued that success in Pittsburgh.
There was clearly something wrong with him mentally in early 2006, something that was serious enough that it made him contemplate retiring from baseball at the age of 26. But what has me optimistic about his future was how he returned to the game in July. Upon his return, he stated that he had needed some time away from the game, but was now back and ready to play well. He went to AAA and posted a .349/.415/.509 line in 26 games. He returned to the Pirates on August 1st and, after a slow start, went .315/.380/.413 with 20 SB in 21 attempts in his final 45 games. This is exactly the type of production the Pirates need from Duffy to be successful in 2007. Other than the first two months of 2006, it is exactly what he is done in the time he has spent with the Pirates. Bold prediction for 2007: Chris Duffy will have an All-Star type season.
Dave from Bucs Trade Winds:
False. Duffy’s best minor-league season total for stolen bases was 34 in 2003 at AA. I do not see him suddenly eclipsing that mark at the major-league level. For all the speed he posseses, it has never translated into stolen bases.
Duffy was a career .301 hitter in the minors over six seasons. In 123 major-league games he has batted .280. Duffy’s ZiPS projection of a .274 average and .326 on-base percentage won’t be far off (and might be a little gracious). I think he will be more consistent than last year, falling somewhere between his first-half and second-half performances. If batting .260 to .270 with a low .300’s OBP with good defense is considered successful, I would have to change my answer to Not False.
Duffy has yet to play the equivalent number of MLB games to one season in the majors. Duffy has not had enough major-league service time to justify handing him the starting center field job. I do not think we can expect great things from him this season; I would be more willing to guess average, at best. It would be worthwhile for Dave Littlefield to look for an experienced backup, as insurance, in case Duffy fails.
Steve from The Parrot:
True. I think 2007 will be more consistent for Duffy, with fewer highs and lows. He doesn’t have to earn a job out of spring training, and I would guess Jim Tracy is done toying with Duff’s swing. I doubt we’ll suffer through a sub-.200 BA at certain times of the year, and hopefully the center fielder will improve his pitch selection and not strike out so much.
If Duffy has a breakout campaign, such as a .310/.380/.420 line, there are enough big bats behind him now (with the exception of Jack Wilson) to radically improve the Pirates’ run production.
Question #2:
Now that the Pirates acquired a big, left-handed first baseman, what position represents their most pressing need?

Wilbur T. Miller from Pirate Player Profiles:
Talent, pretty much everywhere except center field and the bullpen, a little less so in the middle infield than at the corners, and in starting pitching. The team is loaded with barely adequate hitters at the major league level. Nobody is horrible, but this still figures to be a poor offense, so an upgrade is needed somewhere. It doesnâ??t really matter where–right field, short stop, second or third base (wherever Freddy isnâ??t). McCutchen hopefully will be a big upgrade in center. The job of improving the offense is nowhere near done, even though you canâ??t point to one crucial position. The Pirates have to get out of the mindset where having a guy at a given position who doesnâ??t suck is good enough. The problem of needing hitters is even worse in the minors. The Pirates have one of the worst collections of hitting prospects in baseball, especially power hitters. They just need power bats, period.
The supply of starting pitchers is also extremely shallow organization-wide. The only guy in the minors, other than pitchers trying to come back from surgery, who projects as more than a spot starter is Brad Lincoln. Since their puny payroll prices them out of the free agent starter market, and since their rotation is very young and almost guaranteed to produce some injuries, the lack of depth could kill them. Then again, they have so many relievers that maybe they could just forget about having starters and figure on using six to eight pitchers in every game, one or two innings at a time.
GM-Carson from We Should Be GM’s:
To be honest, I really like the Pirates at the major-league level now. They are set to be a surprising team this season. LaRoche gives them that big bopper they’ve been hunting, and now everything else seems to fall into alignment, except for leadoff hitter. But, if Duffy can stay healthy, as I answered above, then I think he’ll be adequate. So where is the weakness: not in the rotation, not in the bullpen, and there’s good depth on the field. So it must be in the minors–and it is. The Pirates are lacking offensive punch in their system. Focus needs to be put on players with power potential over the next two years of drafting.

Randy from Pittsburgh Lumber Co.:

When I look at the Pirates’ starting eight, I donâ??t see anybody that I think is atrocious. Nobody makes me cringe in horror. By the same token, there arenâ??t too many guys that will make opposing pitchers quake, either. The Pirates can improve in a number of areas, but if I could get one area upgraded right now, itâ??d be the #1 spot in the rotation. The Pirates havenâ??t had a stud in that spot for quite some time. They havenâ??t had the kind of pitcher that other teams would love to have but hate to face. Jason Schmidt was the Opening Day starter in 2000, but he was only on the cusp of greatness and was traded before having most of his success (it’s kind of like watching Tom Cruise in â??Losinâ?? Itâ? or Julia Roberts in â??Satisfactionâ?). Other than that, there have been too many Ron Villones and Paul Wagners since the days of Doug Drabek and John Smiley.
Dave from Bucs Trade Winds:
It surely is not middle relief, we have that market cornered in the majors and minors. The biggest need throughout the organization is power-hitting bats. There simply are no big boppers anywhere in the minors. Since so many minor leaguers switch positions from level to level, there is less of a need to look for a specific position than there is to look for “Anything McThump” who knows how to wear a glove.
Pat from WHYGAVS:
There’s still a gaping organizational hole in terms of power. LaRoche and Bay will only be here for three years, and beyond them there’s no sure-bet mashers working their way through the minors. In fact, there’s not much of anything working it’s way through the minors right now, save the few guys that pop up at the top of every prospect list. In terms of the big league team, I still think we’re a bat short (a platoon partner for Nady would be great), and depending on how Bautista and/or Castillo come through this year, we may need another infield bat. Oh yeah, and beyond our top four starters we don’t really have anyone that’s major-league ready rotation-wise beyond Youman and Chacon (Burnett needs to re-prove himself), who raise serious questions themselves. Does that answer the question? Boiled down…there are still lots of holes.
Matt from Wait ‘Til Next Year:
The biggest need for the Pirates right now is power at the corner outfield positions. Outside of Jason Bay, they are completely lacking this type of player. Xavier Nady has shown little power since joining the team, most likely because of PNC Park’s deep left field. Adam Boeve is no longer considered a prospect by most, as he finally reached AAA last season at 26. Jamie Romak, who was recently acquired from the Braves, helps provide a bit more depth. But he is anything but a sure thing. Unless Nady, Jody Gerut, or Nate McLouth suddenly begin showing some power, the Pirates will continue to endure a lack of production from this key offensive position.
Cory, the moderator:
I think we can get by at the major-league level for awhile now that LaRoche is in Pittsburgh. We don’t have a strong supporting cast, but Sanchez-LaRoche-Bay can be more than capable as lead actors. I’d love for Brian Bixler to tear up AAA and take away Jack Wilson’s job, I’d love for Bautista to show that he’s a starter, I’d love for Xavier Nady to play like the Padres prospect that was ranked ahead of Jason Bay. Even if that doesn’t happen, the improvements that Bixler, McCutchen and Walker may provide over the next couple of years should be enough to keep us afloat.
Obviously we need power bats–from MLB all the way down to the GCL. But I wouldn’t draft Travis Hafner–I’d look for Jimmy Rollins or David Wright. The Pirates need five-tool prospects like McCutchen. We’re going to be throwing out a pitching staff full of soft-tossers, and we need to surround them with capable defenders. I’d take the best thumper in the first round, and after that look for glove guys with good plate discipline. If we can find Brent Lillibridges on the trade market, I’d make my best effort to reel them in.
Steve from The Parrot:
I think the Bucs need to develop or acquire an everyday third baseman in the very near future. Jose Bautista and Jose Castillo go into spring training battling for a spot in the lineup, and that will determine where they play, as well as Freddy Sanchez. Bautista is still unproven, Castillo needs to improve to keep his job, and that makes the NL batting champ a utility infielder. If Jack Wilson gets the shingles or becomes too woozy from his rapid weight loss, we’ll see Freddy at short, Bautista at third, and Castillo at second anyway.
The Pirates’ minor-league system has no decent third base prospect in development. Yurendell DeCaster is a utility player at the AAA level, Jared Keel and Eddie Prasch are both in the low minors, and Jose Hernandez–well, you’re kidding, right? There was once a kid at third that had all the tools, but the front office cheapskates gave him away for nothing. His name was Aramis Ramirez, and I wish he were still in black and gold (and that nasty red on Fridays).

Author: PLCArchives

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  • http://mvn.com/mlb-pirates Cory Humes

    Harry,
    I thought Dave’s response read “okay stats, but not really special.” Duffy might put up 30-35 SBs, but that won’t turn him into a Carl Crawford or Jose Reyes–elite guys at the top of the order. Instead, he’ll be more along the lines of an Orlando Cabrera or a Derek Jeter–which is helpful, certainly, but not nearly as unique.
    Feel free to elaborate, Dave.

  • http://whatswrongwithportland.blogspot.com/ Harry (From WWWPM)

    Um, Dave- 26 stolen bases and a high of 34 in the minors isn’t enough?

  • http://pabaseball.blogspot.com GM-Carson

    Hey, I finally get to comment on a place that I contribute…sweet.
    Anyway, I love reading all of these different view points, makes for a well rounded knowledge base on the Pirates.
    I want to extend an invitation to any of the blogs that contribute to this Roundtable to exchange links with my blog. Some of us already are linked, but I’d like to get linked with every site. Just drop by my site and leave a comment or shoot me an email with your url at weshouldbegms@hotmail.com

  • http://2006-mlb.xfinfo.org/article/707191/Pittsburgh-Pirates-Roundtable-10/ 2006 mlb Digest

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