Brandon has as much raw power as anyone on our Major League team. Sometimes it takes hitters some experience at the Major League level before they learn how to hit well enough to let their power play. We believe Brandon is maturing as a hitter, and once he does, the power production will soon follow. Major League rosters are littered with players that another organization gave up on too quickly only to see that player attain his potential somewhere else. We strive to be the type of organization that has the patience to allow players the appropriate amount of time to truly establish whether they have the physical and mental skills required to perform at the Major League level.
Is there a particular position you are targeting in the First-Year Player Draft, or are you looking to take the best available player in each round?
Unlike the NBA or NFL drafts, where teams typically draft a player to fill a specific need on their current club, the MLB Draft is about accumulating talent. Our scouting director, Greg Smith, and his staff will put together our draft board based on a balance of tools, skills, potential, risk, health, financial value and other factors, and then we will select the player in each round we feel brings the most impact to the organization. Each Draft seems to have strengths and weaknesses. The talent pool this year appears to be deep overall, but there does not appear to be the depth of elite talent as there was a year ago. Overall, we believe this Draft to be deep with pitching (both high school and college prospects), but lacking in college position players that project to be quality Major League players.
What is Zach Duke doing differently this year as opposed to the past few years that has allowed him to be successful again?
Zack worked hard on his conditioning this off season and is reaping the benefits of his hard work. Secondly, Zach and Joe Kerrigan have made some small mechanical adjustments that have allowed Zach to locate his fastball on the inner half vs. right handed hitters better than he was able to last season. Additionally, Zach and Joe have worked to determine a better game plan for him to attack each opposing hitter, and he has done a solid job executing to date. Lastly, our infield instructor, Perry Hill, and our outfield instructor, Gary Varsho, have done a quality job of working to improve the defensive production of each of our position players as well as more aggressively positioning our defenders to put them in better position to make plays behind our pitchers when balls are put in play.
What are the plans for Andrew McCutchen this year since Nyjer Morgan is playing so well?
Andrew continues to make quality progress in his development in Indianapolis. He has made great strides defensively and will be exciting to watch patrol the outfield at PNC Park. He continues to understand what type of hitter he will be at the Major League level and how he will be successful once he gets to the big leagues. He also continues to improve the smaller elements of his game with respect to bunting for hits and stealing meaningful bases. Andrew is an intelligent, hard-working, talented young man that has a bright future in Pittsburgh. Once we determine Andrew (or any other player in our system) is ready to play at the Major League level, we will then determine the best fit and use of the players available. Having too many good players for a given position is a problem we hope to consistently have in the near future and for years to come.
What is the attitude in the clubhouse considering the strong April, the eight-game slide in early May, and now on the upswing again?
John Russell and his staff work diligently to not let our clubhouse get too high when things go well or too low when things do not go well. The baseball season is a long one. The ability to play with intensity and passion while also remaining on an even keel is a challenge, but it is an important part of a winning mentality. Losing is not acceptable, but once the game ends -- win or lose -- our focus is to learn from the events of that game. We then have to shift our focus to prepare for and give ourselves a chance to win the next game.