Will we see Daniel McCutchen in Pittsburgh this year? His numbers at Triple-A Indianapolis would seem to make him a candidate for a September callup. Also, if Neil Walker and Jose Tabata keep hitting, will they get called up?
-- Matt L., Mesa, Ariz.
The Pirates announced on Sunday that McCutchen will be called up on Monday to make his Major League debut in the first game of the team's doubleheader. He will then remain with the club through the rest of the season as the Pirates' sixth starter. And yes, his numbers -- 5-1 with a 1.90 ERA in his last eight starts -- certainly made him a worthy candidate.
Tabata will not be summoned to Pittsburgh in September, as the Bucs have him heading to the Arizona Fall League to continue his development there. The decision on Walker, according to general manager Neal Huntington, is still in the air. Walker has certainly put himself in a deserving position for a taste of the Majors with the month of August that he's had. However, the Pirates are concerned about where they would find playing time for the third baseman if he joins the team. For those who have missed it, Walker has hit .363 with 14 doubles, four homers and 29 RBIs this month.
Jenifer, I have read that Rudy Owens is a man among boys in Class A and that he is on the rise as far as prospects go. However, I have no idea who he is. Could you give me some background on him?
-- David L.
There's no question that Owens has turned organizational heads with the breakout season he's had. In fact, he's likely put himself in position to be named the Pirates' Minor League Pitcher of the Year. In 19 starts with Class A West Virginia and five starts at Class A Lynchburg, Owens has combined to go 11-2 with a 1.93 ERA. But it's his strikeout-walk ratio that's arguably most impressive -- Owens has 110 strikeouts and has walked just 16.
To answer your question, Owens was a 28th-round pick back in the 2006 First-Year Player Draft. The 21-year-old spent all of '07 playing in the Gulf Coast League and then went 3-6 with a 4.97 ERA in 15 games (13 starts) with Class A State College in 2008.
What is the justification for keeping Pedro Alvarez in Double-A? Clearly, he is ready to make the move to Triple-A.
-- Gregory B., Frederick, Md.
Have a question about the Pirates?
E-mail your query to MLB.com Pirates beat reporter Tom Singer for possible inclusion in a future Inbox column. Letters may be edited for brevity, length and/or content.
Alvarez has obviously shown he can handle Double-A pitching consistently, as he has hit .336 with 13 homers and 40 RBIs in 58 games with Altoona. However, the Pirates have said that they don't like having their Minor League players jump two levels in one year. You'll remember that Alvarez started the season with Lynchburg before earning the promotion to Double-A in June. By the time Alvarez would have been considered for a promotion to Triple-A, it was already August, and there was seen no significant benefit to making him adjust to another level for just a few weeks.
You can expect Alvarez to start the 2010 season in Triple-A.
Will Draft picks Zackry Dodson, Colton Cain or Zachary Von Rosenberg play this year? Or will they have to wait until next year to get started?
-- Robert M., Chicago
The three are still working out with staff at the Pirates' facility in Bradenton, Fla., as they have been since signing earlier this month. Though director of player development Kyle Stark hadn't ruled out the possibility of any of those three appearing in a Gulf Coast League game before that season ended, it appears that the trio's next step will be to participate in the organization's instructional league. The GCL Pirates play their final game of the season on Monday.
Before the July 31 Trade Deadline, both Jack Wilson and Freddy Sanchez made it clear that they wanted to remain in Pittsburgh for the long-term. True, both players rejected initial offers to stay with the club, but both said they fully expected the club to come back to them with counteroffers.
Meanwhile, the front office said it expected both Sanchez and Wilson to submit counteroffers. How is it possible that such a costly miscommunication happened at this level? And why would the Pirates let both go when they have no capable players to replace them at second base and shortstop?
-- Doug W., Salt Lake City, Utah
Both management and the two infielders admitted, to some degree, that there was some miscommunication through the process, and yes, such miscommunication could have played a partial role in no agreement being reached. Wilson and Sanchez did eventually both make counter-offers, but those came in after the Pirates had already worked out trades to deal both.
Essentially, the Bucs' decision to let the middle infielders go came down to dollars. Pittsburgh saw Wilson and Sanchez as valuable pieces on this club up to a certain salary figure. Beyond that figure, which was determined internally by management, the Pirates felt that they could find capable replacements and use that money more resourcefully elsewhere. Yes, the Bucs' perceived lack of interest in working to come to an agreement with both Wilson and Sanchez after making those initial offers could suggest that management wasn't really all that serious about signing both in the first place. But regardless of the public's conclusions, Huntington has emphasized that at the right dollar value, the Pirates were genuinely interested in keeping their middle infield core intact.
Are Ronny Cedeno and Delwyn Young the future of the Pirates' middle infield?
-- Ray U., Washington, D.C.
That question will be partially answered by what the Pirates see from both players during these last two months of the season. Cedeno's surprising offensive production and solid defense would seem to have him atop the depth chart at short heading into 2010. And considering the Bucs really have no other internal option, he would seem to be the guy, at least for the short-term.
Young is a bit of a bigger question mark, simply because of his defense. To his credit, Young is out early almost every day working with infield coach Perry Hill. And for those who have seen Young progress, improvement is definitely noted. The questions is just whether he can be good enough defensively to justify getting his bat, which would profile as above-average for a middle infielder, into the lineup. That's a decision the Pirates have yet to make.
When Alvarez is ready to be the everyday third baseman, are there any plans to move Andy LaRoche to second base and compete with Young or whomever we have at that time?
-- Dennis W., Pittsburgh
It's a possibility LaRoche could be asked to move, though that's something the Pirates, at least publicly, have not yet decided to do. LaRoche did play a hint of second in the Minors and seems amenable to the change, though that's not to say it's his preferred choice.
One thing is certain, and that's that nobody will block Alvarez's entrance to the Majors. The job will be his when he's ready. LaRoche's bat also profiles much more like a second baseman considering he has lacked the power numbers the Pirates would like to get from the corner infield spot.
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.