Coonelly discusses top prospects in chat

Coonelly discusses top prospects in chat

Pirates president Frank Coonelly participated in his monthly live online chat with Pirates fans on Wednesday. During the chat, Coonelly answered questions about the status of some of the organization's top prospects coming into the 2011 season, the enthusiastic support of Pirates fans, Clint Hurdle's baseball strategies and more. The complete chat transcript follows.

Coonelly_2: Good afternoon, everyone, and thank you for joining me today -- fresh off the heels of an extremely successful winter caravan and PirateFest. The feedback from fans was filled with excitement and we are looking forward to the start of the 2011 season. Let's get started.

kh5775: Good afternoon. I am a Bradenton Marauder season-ticket holder. We had a great first year in 2010. With the success here in Bradenton, Fla., and in Altoona, it looks for the first time in a long while there is a winning atmosphere in the Minor League system of the organization.

Coonelly_2: kh5775, thanks for your support of the Marauders and the Pirates. Development is always the top priority in Minor League Baseball, but it is important for us to develop a winning mentality as early as possible. As a result, we are excited that our players won a championship in Lynchburg in 2009, and many of the same players won a championship in Altoona in 2010. The Marauder team was hit hard by injuries but still made an impressive run into the postseason. The talent level in our Minor League system is significantly above where we were just a few years ago, but as the additions of Jameson Taillon, Stetson Allie, Luis Heredia and others last year demonstrate, we need to continue to add top talent every year.

dplavi: It was reported by Rob Biertempfel, of the Tribune Review, that a fan of the Boston Red Sox, received a 'Thank You' e-mail, for his purchase of tickets for that series. Is that something new that the organization is doing?

Coonelly_2: We appreciate fans who purchase Pirates tickets and have for some time thanked them for each online purchase.

kehadley2: Good luck on the 2011 season, Mr. Coonelly! What types of offensive strategy changes do you foresee under Clint Hurdle's management?

Coonelly_2: kehadley2, thanks for the encouragement. Clint answered similar questions over the weekend at PirateFest. Based on what I heard from Clint and our discussions during and after the interview process, I think Pirates fans can expect to see a more disciplined approach at the plate and a more aggressive approach on the bases. Clint has very definitive theories as to an offensive plan and approach and stresses to the players the importance of executing that plan during each at-bat.

melliee25: Hi Mr. Coonelly, I went to PirateFest for the first time this year and loved it! Really excited for the 2011 season. My question is this: Is there any chance the Pirates Caravan could make a stop in Buffalo, N.Y., maybe next year?

Coonelly_2: melliee25, glad to hear that you made the trip to Pittsburgh and enjoyed your time at PirateFest. As I talked to fans over the weekend, I was impressed by how many fans had traveled great distances to join us at PirateFest. The reach of our fan base is quite broad, and we love getting outside of Pittsburgh and seeing our fans where they live. It could be difficult to schedule a caravan stop in Buffalo, but we will put it on our list to consider for next year. Now that a Penn St. grad owns the Sabres, perhaps there will be greater opportunities for Buffalo/Pittsburgh partnerships.

dplavi: Congratulations on a successful PirateFest! With a record amount of attendees, especially on a weekend that had a Steelers Super Bowl Rally, do you think that might flow over into the city's acceptance of the core athletes and show an increase in attendance for games at PNC Park?

Coonelly_2: We certainly had a remarkable turnout for PirateFest, which followed record crowds at many of the caravan stops. I agree that the enthusiasm seen over the weekend is due in part to the fact that fans are excited about the young core of talented players developing in Pittsburgh such as Andrew McCutchen, Jose Tabata, Pedro Alvarez, Neil Walker and others. Our ticket sales during this offseason are above last year's pace, and I would expect that trend to continue into the season.

Pirates4life: Frank, what is the plan for Jameson Taillon? Will the injury to Stephen Strasburg last year have any impact on his movement through the Minors?

Coonelly_2: Pirates4life, no final decision has been made with respect to where Jameson will begin his professional career, but, given what we've seen to date, I would expect that Jameson will begin in Charleston, West Virginia, with the Power. The mayor of Charleston attended our caravan stop on Monday and encouraged a commitment that both Taillon and Allie begin their careers in Charleston, but I was only comfortable indicating that was the most likely scenario.

TColumbus: Mr. Coonelly, if Rudy Owens is one of the top 2-3 starters coming out of Spring Training, what are the chances he will make the Opening Day rotation?

Coonelly_2: If Rudy is one of the top three starters coming out of Spring Training, Rudy will break camp with the Pittsburgh Pirates. I sat with Rudy last September when he was in town to pick up his second consecutive Minor League pitcher of the year award and Rudy was determined to work hard over the offseason and report to Bradenton ready to win a spot in the Major League rotation. A jump from Double-A to the Majors is unusual but would not be unheard of, and I certainly would not put it past Rudy Owens.

kinger87: Mr. Coonelly, is Pedro Alvarez's weight a cause for concern?

Coonelly_2: The weight figures reported last week in piratesreport.com were not accurate. Having said that, we have continued to stress to Pedro the critical importance of his conditioning. Pedro has gotten stronger through an extensive offseason conditioning program, but there is still work to be done with respect to body weight and composition.

Pirates1Fan: Hi Mr. Coonelly! I was wondering what approach the Pirates will take with the awesome young string of pitchers that have helped win a Class A and Double-A title? Are we going to see them in some degree at the end of the year, regardless of how they perform?

Coonelly_2: Great question, Pirates1Fan. Decisions as to where Rudy Owens, Bryan Morris, Justin Wilson, Jeff Locke and Tony Watson will begin the 2011 season will be answered during Spring Training. Each of these young pitchers who helped Altoona win the Double-A championship last year will begin in Major League camp, and all are determined to demonstrate they should open the season in Pittsburgh. As I mentioned above, it would be unusual but not unheard of for any of them to make the jump directly from Double-A to the Majors. A far more likely scenario would be for them to begin the 2011 season in Indianapolis and have the opportunity to earn a promotion to Pittsburgh at some point in 2011. None of these young men will earn a promotion to Pittsburgh regardless of performance, rather, their performance will dictate when they are ready to pitch in the Majors.

Coonelly_2: One more question for today ...

toddsm66: Chris Resop was a nice pickup last season, and he pitched really well out of the bullpen. Given his success as a starter at Triple-A last year, has there been any thought to giving him a shot at competing for the fifth spot in the rotation?

Coonelly_2: Great question, toddsm66, one we have been asked by several Pirates fans. Chris performed very well for us last season after general manager Neal Huntington acquired his contract on waivers pitching out of the bullpen. While there is some temptation to allow Chris to compete for the fifth spot in the rotation, we are counting on Chris to pitch in leverage situations and thus do not want to weaken our back end of the bullpen by asking him to attempt to secure a starter's spot. In short, we think that other players will grab the fifth spot in the rotation, and Chris gives us the best chance to win by pitching out of the bullpen in leverage situations.

Coonelly_2: Thanks again, everyone, for joining me today. I look forward to talking to you again next month from sunny Bradenton, Fla., where Pirates Spring Training will be in full swing.