Anyways, I had sort of a hodgepodge of questions to tackle this time around, so bear with me as we jump topics.
Do you have any numbers on the average runs scored with and without Jack Wilson starting? It seems him coming back has righted the ship in a big way. With Brian Bixler there, those two sure outs in the eighth and ninth spots were just killing us.
-- John E., Coalport, Pa.
So I crunched some numbers, John, and here's what I came up with: For starters, the Pirates are 12-8 this season with Wilson in the lineup. Obviously, that's a stark contrast to the results when Bixler (1-7) or Ramon Vazquez (4-6) has been the team's starting shortstop.
In Wilson's 20 starts through Monday, the Pirates have scored 103 runs. That's an average of 5.15 runs per game. Take Wilson out of the starting lineup and Pittsburgh has averaged slightly below four runs per game. That hits your point exactly.
Not only are Wilson's numbers better than Bixler's or Vazquez's, but you can't discount Wilson's grasp of hitting in the eighth spot. Even if he's not driving a runner in, he knows his role and can do something as simple as getting on base so as to prevent the pitcher from leading off the next inning.
The fact that Bixler struck out in 18 of his 25 at-bats meant that not only was he not driving in runs, but he wasn't contributing nearly at all in moving runners over or in stabilizing the batting order. So, yes, Wilson's presence is certainly a boost.
Who do you think the Pirates will draft in the upcoming Draft? A shortstop? Even though it would never happen, I'd love to see Stephen Strasburg in a Pirates uniform.
-- John W., Charleston, S.C.
I know we've discussed this before, but the Pirates will not draft based on need. That said, just because it seems like the Pirates could use a shortstop to supplant Jack Wilson doesn't mean the Pirates are interested. The First-Year Player Draft is quite different than drafts in other professional sports simply because players rarely will make an immediate impact. So drafting to fill a current void does little good when a player can't immediately help. And for that matter, the Pirates have a trio of shortstops -- Brian Friday, Chase D'Arnaud and Jordy Mercer -- in the Minors that the organization is fairly high on.
As for Strasburg, while the Pirates would love to have someone of his ability, Strasburg is expected to be snatched by the Nationals with the No. 1 overall pick. He will not fall to fourth, which is where the Pirates will pick.
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The Pirates have narrowed down their Draft board as it concerns that first-round pick, but with the Draft still a few weeks away, much can change. If you're looking for a name, keep University of North Carolina right-hander Alex White on your radar. He's one of a handful of college pitchers that the Pirates have scouted extensively. At this point, a collegiate arm seems the likely choice for the Pirates based on the pool of available players.
Why does Jesse Chavez seem to be the odd man out all of the time? His stuff has been great, and he is certainly better than some of his 'pen mates.
-- Zachary W., Pittsburgh
I think it's hard to call him the odd man out anymore. In fact, nothing has been a better surprise out of the bullpen than how Chavez has quickly put himself in position to be more than a sixth- or seventh-inning guy.
After a terrible showing in Spring Training, Chavez found a way to make things click early on, and now you can see his confidence playing a role in his success. The power arm has always been there. Now he's throwing strikes and getting ahead of hitters consistently.
After posting a 1.93 ERA in April, Chavez has been scored upon in only two of nine appearances this month. Unless something changes, he should be here to stay for the season.
If Ryan Doumit continues to run into the injury bug this year, could Neil Walker see some time behind the plate in either the Majors or Minors?
-- David K., Newburg, Ind.
There are currently no plans for Walker to return to catching, and I don't foresee that change coming. The fact that Walker is not already in the Majors has nothing to do with there not being a spot for him on the field. Management has insisted that there are still areas of development in his offensive game, and Walker's numbers this season prove that the Pirates have a valid concern.
Though he's been hotter as of late, Walker is hitting just .234 in 38 games. He has five homers, 11 doubles and 23 RBIs.
Surely this will be asked plenty but, unless the Buccos are already playing for next year, doesn't a proven veteran like Craig Monroe deserve to play every day? He was a very talented player with Detroit, had a great spring and has obviously gotten off to a very hot start.
-- Bobby S., Browns Mills, N.J.
I think you'll continue to see Monroe earns starts when the Pirates face a left-handed starter, as he has done in almost every game against a southpaw starter this year. Why won't the Pirates consider playing him every day? Two reasons. First, the Pirates are not giving up on Brandon Moss and don't want to risk the young outfielder's development by having him sit on the bench. Second, Monroe's career numbers against right-handers (he has a .250 average) aren't anything spectacular.
Is it possible for Delwyn Young to be a starter in Pittsburgh at all this year or next, and how long do the Pirates own his rights?
-- Brian H., Fox Chapel, Pa.
At this point, Young will only start occasionally. He's shown an ability to play right field and second, but with Freddy Sanchez and Moss taking the majority of the playing time at those two positions, there aren't everyday at-bats available for Young. The Pirates are intrigued with his bat, however, which doesn't rule out the possibility of Young being a starting candidate in the future.
Young joined the Pirates with just over one year of Major League service time, which means that the Pirates will retain his rights through 2013. No concerns there.
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less