PITTSBURGH -- Now that the Pirates have a manager, we can focus on what has to be done in the three months before Spring Training to get this club ready to compete. And, as many of you have noted in your Inbox submissions, the needs are numerous. We've got weeks to dissect everything, but let's get into a few of those questions now.
My question involves the Pirates' catching situation. Is Ryan Doumit more likely to be traded or kept? If he is traded, who do the Pirates look to? Tony Sanchez is a couple of years away, and Chris Snyder does tend to struggle with the bat. Will the team just try to develop Snyder into a better hitter and stick with him, or look to free agent or trade options?
-- Derek S., Bradford, Pa.
I know I've mentioned this in this forum before, but the Pirates will be willing to listen to offers for Doumit this offseason. The club has the luxury to do so after acquiring Snyder in July, and Doumit is entering the final guaranteed year of his contract. As we've seen time and time again, the Pirates aren't shy in trying to get something for players nearing free agency.
Now, let's take a look at the two scenarios. If Doumit is gone by the start of the 2011 season, Snyder will get the majority of playing time behind the plate. The Pirates didn't acquire Snyder for his bat (though they expected a little more production than he showed late in the season), so any lack of offense from '10 isn't going to cut into his playing time next season. Jason Jaramillo could serve as Snyder's backup, or the Pirates could go get a backup catcher pretty easily this offseason.
If Doumit stays, Snyder will still receive most of the playing time. Again, the Pirates acquired Snyder because of his reputation for being an above-average defender and for his ability to work well with pitching staffs. Doumit would get the catching duties on Snyder's periodic days off and would likely play a lot in right field.
Can a team acquire more than one Rule 5 player? Will the Pirates go after a pitcher or a potential power bat?
-- Rich B., Lewistown, Pa.
Yes, teams can select multiple players in both the Major League and Minor League portions of the Rule 5 Draft. The Pirates will select first in this year's Rule 5 Draft, and if they take a player, they will get the opportunity to make a second selection after every other club gets the chance to make a pick. Each selection costs $50,000.
It's too early to know whom the Pirates might target because other teams have not yet set their 40-man rosters. It won't be until Nov. 20 that we know which players will be left unprotected. Though we don't know who is going to be available, it is worth noting that pitchers typically have an easier time sticking on the 25-man roster all year than position players do.
What do the young pitchers who were drafted the past two years have to show in Spring Training to expedite their arrivals to the Major Leagues? Is it control? Composure? Or do they just need to build their bodies and arms to handle the long Major League season?
-- Alan D., Wheeling, West Va.
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I assume you are referring primarily to Jameson Taillon and Stetson Allie, the two high school pitchers the Pirates took with their first two picks in the 2010 First-Year Player Draft. The ascension of the two is going to be dictated by each of those things that you mentioned. They'll have to get used to the competition level, continue specific pitch development, stretch out their arms to be able to handle the workload and meet additional organizational checkpoints along the way.
Taillon enters the organization more advanced than Allie, so it's more likely that he'll make his debut in Pittsburgh first. How far away might that be? Well, let's take a look at the path some other high school pitchers have taken in the first round of the Draft.
Rick Porcello made his debut for Detroit less than two years after being a first-round pick. Josh Beckett and Clayton Kershaw took about two years, while Matt Cain took three. Now, rising from high school to the Majors this fast is rare -- these are the exceptions -- but the Pirates don't rule out such possibilities for either Taillon or Allie. Two years might be a bit quick, but I certainly see 2013 as a realistic possibility.
According to Pirates president Frank Coonelly, Pedro Alvarez will stay at third base. Does that rule out the team drafting third baseman Anthony Rendon from Rice and instead going after a pitcher with the No. 1 pick next year?
-- Michael S., Clearfield, Pa.
Without a quote from Coonelly in front of me, I assume you are referencing something he wrote in a recent chat on this website. That said, I can say that the Pirates are still somewhat unsure of whether Alvarez will stick at third base for the entirety of his Major League career. The plans are for him to be the Opening Day third baseman in 2011. But from there, it will be largely dictated by Alvarez's conditioning habits as to whether he'll stay there or not.
If the Pirates determine that Rendon is the best available player in the 2011 Draft, the club will take him. Alvarez's presence won't stop the Pirates' chance at getting another impact bat. If Rendon does turn out to be the Pirates' pick, expect Alvarez to transition to first base when Rendon is Major League-ready.
Do you think that Starling Marte will be on the Pirates' 40-man roster on Opening Day 2011?
-- Christopher R., Mississauga, Ontario
I don't foresee any reason for the Pirates to use a spot on their 40-man roster for Marte before Opening Day. Yes, the outfielder is one of the top position-player prospects in Pittsburgh's system. However, he is not eligible to be taken in the Rule 5 Draft this December, and he isn't going to be ready for the Majors in 2011. Those would be the only two reasons to put Marte on the roster.
Marte was signed in 2007 when he was 18 years old, which means he will be eligible for the Rule 5 Draft after the '11 season. So at this time next year, yes, you can expect Marte's name to be put on that roster.
Where does Chris Resop fit into the Bucs' future?
-- Tom C., Chicago
The Pirates were pleased with Resop's contributions out of the bullpen after they acquired him off waivers in August, and the right-hander is a definite favorite to win a spot on the Pirates' Opening Day roster. The makeup of the Bucs' bullpen will come into better focus as the offseason progresses. But behind Joel Hanrahan and Evan Meek, Resop currently sits as the team's next-best relief option.