Pittsburgh Pirates Roundtable #16

Question #1:
On February 11th, Dejan Kovacevic released his list of the “Top 10 issues facing Pirates this spring.” What’s the top issue that needs to be resolved in Bradenton according to you?

Steve from The Parrot:
I think the main competition to be settled is between Jose Castillo and Jose Bautista for the available infield position. With Castillo having a lousy 2006 and Bautista showing loads of promise, it will be very interesting to see who gets the most playing time and how open the competition really is. Does Jim Tracy already have his mind made up one way or the other? If the team breaks camp with one decision made, how fast will things change if the winner of the competition gets off to a horrible start? Will an injury to an infielder make the whole experiment pointless?
The second issue is Chris Duffy. Which center fielder will we see? The base-stealing .340 hitter or the sub-.200 strikeout king? If Duffy starts slowly, something has to be done–and quick. A look at Nate McLouth or a move to the top of the order for Freddy Sanchez must be considered.
Since four-fifths of the rotation is already set, the competition for spot number five will be of minimal interest. Do you want to see the white zebra with black stripes or the black zebra with white stripes? Looks the same to me. Armas or Chacon? I’d hope for a rainout or day off.
Cory, the moderator:
I’m interested in seeing what happens with the excess of marginal major-league talent that the Pirates are faced with. There’s a finite number of spots available for Jody Gerut, Luis Matos, Chris Aguila, Jose Hernandez, Nick Green, Einar Diaz, Humberto Cota, Michael Ryan, Dan Kolb, Shawn Chacon, Masumi Kuwata and Tony Armas. Only a couple of those guys will stick with the Bucs; can Indianapolis’ roster absorb the rest? If not, maybe Dave Littlefield can peddle someone who had a hot Spring in exchange for a single A player with some upside.
I’m also paying attention to how the young studs are brought along. How much time will McCutchen and Walker see with the big boys before they return to minor-league camp? If McCutchen impresses, can the Bucs start him in AAA? Will Walker be worthless at the hot corner? I’ll keep an eye on Yoslan Herrera as well. If there’s lightning in his right arm, could he beat out Chacon and Armas for the fifth starter’s job? Unlikely but not impossible.
Basically, I’m wondering how high our hopes for the future will be as the Pirates enter the regular season.
Harry from What’s Wrong With Portland, Maine?:
How will the middle infield play? Possibly the problem that completely ruined the 2006 season, the infield needs to get sorted out in 2007’s Spring Training. Whether it’s Wilson-Sanchez or Wilson-Castillo, there are going to be serious questions that need to be answered. If the setup is Wilson-Castillo, how solid will Wilson’s defense be? We know what to expect from him now offensively. In the same scenario, will Castillo become more patient and reach his potential? Will Castillo’s defense improve to the level at which it was in 2004? If Freddy plays second, will his offense be as it was in 2006? We all know that Freddy was a major part of the 67 wins last year. These are the questions that will be major issues in Bradenton. It’s time to find out the answers.
Dave from Bucs Trade Winds:
The rotation must improve across the board from last seasons performance. This team is built around a concept of a solid rotation, so the starters have to find a way to go six innings in every outing. In 2006 the Pirates were 46-44 when the starters went at least six innings. I don’t think this can be resolved in Bradenton, but it needs to be resolved this season for the Pirates to be successful.
Nicolas from “82”:
The top issue that needs resolved in Bradenton is having as many players as possible not taking steps backwards (i.e. injuries, showing up in poor shape or poorly motivated, or generally poor performance on the field).
Question #2:
What will the Pirates’ roster look like on September 15th? Will there be any additions? Subtractions?

Dave from Bucs Trade Winds:
Well, I am going to take a copout on this one, at least to start with. I expect to see Bixler, McCutchen and Walker in Pittsburgh as late-season callups. Depending on injuries, one or more may make an earlier appearance. McCutchen and Walker will be promoted to AAA by mid-season.
From the pitching side, at least two of JVB, Bullington and Burnett will make appearances this year before callups. I also expect to see some appearances from Kuwata and Herrera.
Who will be gone? I expect Eldred to be moved in a trade sometime this year, maybe in the off-season but more likely before the trade deadline. Kolb is another player I see being dangled around the trade deadline. Trading Eldred would be a good sign, as it would mean the Pirates are close enough to make moves and he will be one of the players offered to fill a need.
If the Pirates are out of it, Eldred stays as insurance for LaRoche and the players I see being dangled as trade bait are Jack Wilson, Jose Castillo and Chris Duffy.
Cory, the moderator:
The Pirates need to start making a serious move towards contention in 2008 and 2009. By 2010, the hyped young nucleus could be broken up. For that reason, Littlefield will need to make important decisions this season about Jack Wilson, Chris Duffy, Paul Maholm and Jose Castillo. If they’re not going to be players on a winning ball club, they’ll have to be shopped around in order to add the last few pieces. The Pirates can probably count on Brian Bixler and Andrew McCutchen being ready to contribute in 2008, so they could be in for some September playing time. Their progress could necessitate trade deadline deals. The emergence of Jose Bautista will also play a large part in determing who gets moved. If he plays his way into the lineup, say goodbye to Castillo.
Decent performances from Tony Armas and Dan Kolb will mean that the minors will be infused with more marginal talent. That’s not terrible; Brian Rogers and Jesse Chavez will get looks this year after coming aboard last July. I think that Damaso Marte could bring a solid return from a contender looking for bullpen help. God knows we have enough relief pitching to fuel four or five teams.
Additions will hopefully include a few promising bats for Altoona and Indianapolis. Subtractions? Anyone I mentioned, plus Eldred, Doumit, Hernandez, Chacon and the bevy of AAAA players in the system.
Steve from The Parrot:
With the young team and probable lack of contention for the playoffs, I don’t see any additions or subtractions by trade this year. As for September callups, I would hope Andrew McCutchen has rocketed his way from AA through AAA by then and gets a cup of coffee at the end of the season. I would expect to see Jesse Chavez and Nyjer Morgan with the Bucs as well, since it seems the team is so high on them. Will Bullington, Van Benschoten and/or Burnett make it up this year? If a starter gets hurt or sucks terribly, one of them will see the majors before too long. Will Jose Hernandez get traded again?
Nicolas from “82”:
By September 15th, Torres, Wilson, Nady and possibly Maholm will be gone. In their places, the Pirates will have a list of prospects added to the minors, along with Jesse Chavez, Jonah Bayliss, Jose Hernandez and either Alex Rios or Reed Johnson in their places on the active roster.

Author: PLCArchives

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