Over the weekend, Pittsburgh Pirates General Manager Neal Huntington participated in “Going to Bat for Vermont Farmers” – a baseball roundtable which also featured Brian Cashman, Theo Epstein, and Buster Olney. Sox Detox was in attendance for the event, and spoke with Huntington afterwards on several key topics this off-season. I recommend checking it out. Also, check out the recap from the roundtable. Some of the highlights:
-Huntington acknowledged that a Joel Hanrahan trade might be more attractive if the current closers market holds, specifically if Ryan Madson signs a deal a little less than the four year, $50 M deal that Jonathan Papelbon received from the Philadelphia Phillies. I wrote last week that the Pirates should try to trade Hanrahan, as the market for closers is extremely favorable, and Hanrahan’s low cost the next two years would make him an attractive option.
-Huntington talked about veteran leadership and expectations for the 2012 team. He noted that Rod Barajas was signed as much for veteran presence as he was for on-field performance. He also noted that they were looking for more leadership from Neil Walker.
-The key to the 2012 season will be Pedro Alvarez’s performance, or the quality of the contingency plan if Alvarez underperforms.
-He noted that Starling Marte’s ETA is 2013, although that could be delayed by struggles with AAA pitching. Huntington gave an example o a 34-year old pitcher with an 81 MPH slider on the edge as the next step for Marte. In comparison to McCutchen, Huntington noted that Marte’s defense is better right now, but McCutchen’s power was better at the same age.
-He mentioned Cole might come up earlier, in a follow up to Marte’s ETA. That could mean 2012.
-He talked about how the Pirates prepare guys for MLB success, not single-A success. He used Jameson Taillon as an example, noting that they don’t want Taillon striking out guys in low-A on his breaking stuff. Huntington said he’d rather have Taillon work on fastball control than making unpolished hitters look bad. Having seen Taillon several times this past season, I’d have to agree. There’s nothing wrong with Taillon’s curveball. It’s a major league pitch right now. If he used it on a regular basis, I wouldn’t be surprised if his ERA in low-A would have been below 2.00. Taillon’s problem right now is that he elevates his fastball at times, which the Pirates were focusing on during the 2011 season. It’s not a major issue, but it takes priority over low-A statistics.
-The Pirates are not in play for Yoenis Cespedes.
-Huntington mentioned there are four guys in the system that hit 100 MPH on the gun. Cole and Allie are the obvious first two. Taillon has hit 99 MPH before, and could be in this group. Outside of that, Diego Moreno, Duke Welker, and Yhonathan Herrand have all been in the upper 90s. Justin Wilson hits 99 MPH out of the bullpen. There are other possibilities here as well. I’m interested to find out which players hit triple digits.