Pirates president Frank Coonelly participated in his monthly live online chat with Pirates fans on Wednesday. During the chat, Coonelly answered questions about the upcoming First-Year Player Draft, the status of the organization's top prospects, the team preparing to face Washington's Stephen Strasburg and more. The complete chat transcript follows.
Frank Coonelly: Hello, everyone, and thank you for joining me to chat this month. Let's get started.
walker18: What do you think of Neil Walker's performance so far?
Coonelly: Neil worked extremely hard this season in Indianapolis to learn several new positions, putting himself in a position make an impact in Pittsburgh. Since joining the club last week, he has provided a shot in the arm, particularly with the offense struggling. It has been great to see Neil get off to such a strong start.
hal15014: According to experts the upcoming Draft is below-average talent except for Bryce Harper and four others. If Harper falls to the Pirates, will you be taking him? If not, will you be taking [Manny] Machado, [Jameson] Taillon, [Drew] Pomeranz or [Karsten] Whitson, or will you do like last year and spread your money out?
Coonelly: Hal5014, I think that your assessment of the Draft is not entirely fair to the players available this year. The strength of the Draft this year seems to be high-school pitching. It clearly is not as strong in terms of college position players as, say, the 2008 Draft when we selected Pedro Alvarez second in the country. Bryce Harper is an intriguing talent. While we always refrain from publicly identifying who we intend to select, I can tell you that we will select the best player available when we make our selection at No. 2 again this year, regardless of perceived bonus demands or representation. All of the players who you have mentioned have been in our mix for quite some time and we have gotten multiple looks by multiple scouts on each player.
bucsin09: What kind of activity can we expect the Pirates to be engaged in come the July trade deadline?
Coonelly: It is likely that we will have far less activity around the trade deadline this year as we had in the last two years. We are always, however, looking to improve the club and will assess the trade market with that objective in mind.
57dukefan: When can we expect anyone such as Alvarez, Brad Lincoln or Jose Tabata to be called up to the Majors?
Coonelly: As we entered the 2010 season, we challenged Brad, Jose and Pedro in a number of specific areas. Each player has embraced those challenges and has worked hard to complete their development and put themselves in a position to be successful Major League players. We have been extremely happy with each player's work ethic and progress. We said going into the season that if each player continued their development as we had hoped, we expected them to be members of the Major League roster in 2010. We have been very pleased with the pace of their development and are more certain that they will meet their objective of being members of the Pirates this year.
SnakeWesker: How do you feel about the Nationals' pitching prospect Stephen Strasburg making his debut against the Pirates? Would you prefer him debut against another team, or do you welcome the challenge?
Coonelly: Our players embrace challenges and look forward to facing Mr. Strasburg on Tuesday. I am sure that John Russell and his staff will be seeking a full scouting report from our Altoona staff given the Curve's success against Mr. Strasburg. Zach Duke is slated to oppose the Nationals on Tuesday and looks forward to that challenge.
dorado11: Mr. Coonelly, just wondering -- how is Chris Jakubauskas doing?
Coonelly: Dorado11: Thanks for asking about Chris' status. Chris has been symptom-free now for some time, and has been able to engage in full workouts and side sessions here in Pittsburgh. As a result, Chris will begin his rehab assignment at High-A Bradenton tomorrow. Chris is looking forward to returning to competition, having worked extremely hard to get back to full health.
branbun: Bryan Morris is tearing it up -- a dramatic change from last year? What changed?
Coonelly: Bryan has certainly pitched extremely well to date in 2010. While our staff worked with Bryan on some mechanical adjustments, Bryan's success this year is due principally to his work ethic and determination. Bryan was unhappy with his performance in 2009 and reported to instructional league last fall determined to return to one of the top pitching prospects in baseball. Bryan embraced the teaching points that the staff set out for him and has made tremendous progress as a young power arm. We look forward to Bryan's continued development in Altoona where he is now facing stiffer competition.
comet: When can we expect Danny Moskos to get an advancement in the system?
Coonelly: Danny Moskos has performed extremely well as Altoona's closer. The Curve has demonstrated that same intense determination to win each night's game in whatever fashion necessary to get the job done as Lynchburg showed last year as it took the Carolina League championship. Danny Moskos' ability to close games with dominant stuff has been a large part of that success. Given Danny's progress, he is a candidate for a promotion to Indianapolis in the near future.
rodu: When Lincoln joins the Pirates (hopefully this month) which starter(s) from Altoona would be likely to join the Indianapolis rotation?
Coonelly: Rodu, Your question raises one of the dilemmas that we hope we face every time a player is promoted a level in our system. The Altoona starting staff has performed extremely well, with Jared Hughes, Justin Wilson, Rudy Owens, Derek Hankins and now Tim Alderson showing quality stuff. As a result, Kyle Stark and his staff will have several candidates for a promotion when Brad Lincoln is promoted. Alderson was yesterday named Eastern League Pitcher-of-the-Week, an honor that Jared Hughes won earlier in the season.
jirisleger: When determining what players to take in the Draft, which of the following do you find most important: best player available, team needs, or signability?
Coonelly: Best player available, and then the best player available, and then the best player available.
branbun: There have been some surprises in the Minors this year -- like Alex Presley and others. Whose performance in the Minors are you most excited about?
Coonelly: Branbun, We have been fortunate to have many players throughout the system accept the challenges set out by our player development staff and show more than they had in past seasons. Alex Presley, who is currently leading the Eastern League in hitting by 30 points is certainly one of those players. The Bradenton roster has eight players who were just named to the Florida State League All-Star team, and that does not even include Calvin Anderson, who has been on a tear over the last three weeks and who was just named the Florida State League Player of the Week. While Low-A West Virginia got off to a relatively slow start, it has been playing well over the last several weeks as players like Evan Chambers, Jarek Cunningham and David Rubinstein have begun to get hot.
Coonelly: Last question.
mcmighty: Tony Sanchez was seen as a strong defensive catcher, but he seems to be doing a nice job with the bat down in Bradenton. What kind of things has he been working on with his hitting that will continue his development and move him on to AA?
Coonelly: Mcmighty, that is a great question as we complete our preparations for the 2010 Draft. You are correct that the general perception in most publications was that Tony Sanchez was an outstanding defensive catcher, an off-the-charts makeup guy, but one who would struggle to hit. Greg Smith and our scouts agreed wholeheartedly with the first two assessments of Tony but disagreed with the third. When we drafted Tony we believed that his offense could be well above average as well. From his very first professional at-bat, Tony has been on a mission to dispel any questions about his offensive capabilities. Tony has very good bat-to-ball capacity and can drive the ball to all fields. He continues to work with our staff to become an offensive force behind the plate. Pirate fans are going to enjoy watching this young man play in Pittsburgh.
Coonelly: Thanks for all of the continued support. Talk to you again next month.