Pirates president Frank Coonelly participated in his monthly live online chat with Pirates fans on Wednesday. During the chat, Coonelly answered questions about the upcoming First-Year Player Draft, the status of the organization's top prospects, the future for struggling starter Charlie Morton and more.
Coonelly: Hello, everyone, and thank you for joining me to chat this month. Let's get started.
bucsin09: Hi Frank. Thanks for your time, as always. Can you tell us anything about the preparations for the Draft next month?
Coonelly: Greg Smith and his staff of scouts and supervisors have been working to put us in the position to have another outstanding Draft class since last year's Draft ended. That preparation continues as we are getting last looks at both high school and college players as they enter their playoff seasons. General manager Neal Huntington has made several trips again this year, looking at some of the top players in the Draft. Internally, we are meeting on a regular basis to review all of the reports and to begin to put together our board and, more importantly, Draft strategy for 2010. As we did last year, Greg and his staff will head down to Bradenton, Fla., for final deliberations and to construct the board and conduct the Draft. We are excited about the opportunity to add additional quality players to our system and are working hard to insure that each of our 50 selections provides us with an opportunity to add a future Major Leaguer to the organization.
Piratesss0034: When can we expect to see Bryan Morris in Pittsburgh? He pitched extremely well today.
Coonelly: Bryan Morris has worked extraordinarily hard, beginning with last year's instructional league and through his offseason work and his Spring Training preparation and is off to a strong start in High-A Bradenton. Bryan is showing the type of potential that we saw in him when he was acquired from the Dodgers in the Jason Bay trade. If Bryan's development continues at the pace that he is on, he should be one of the first promotions to Double-A Altoona. From there, Bryan's path to Pittsburgh will depend on the pace of his continued development. Suffice it to say that we are very encouraged by Bryan's preparation, work ethic and potential to be an impact starter in Pittsburgh.
dsnelqendo: Do you remain convinced that Joe Kerrigan is the right man for the job with how much the staff and 'pen have struggled so far?
Coonelly: Joe Kerrigan has done a tremendous job of preparing our pitchers for success. While the overall numbers of the bullpen are inflated by a few of the games that were out of hand before the bullpen entered the game, the bullpen has done a good job preserving leads in games in which we have received quality starts, as reflected in the fact that we are 8-1 in games decided by two or less runs. In fact, our bullpen is third in the league in wins and is the only bullpen in the Major Leagues without a loss this season. To be sure, we have struggled in putting together consistent quality starts but it would be entirely unfair to place the blame for that on Joe Kerrigan. No pitching coach in baseball works harder or is more prepared than Joe. Our starters simply need to execute on a more consistent basis.
SnakeWesker: Neil Walker has pretty fantastic numbers down in Triple-A Indy. Any chances of us seeing him up here soon?
Coonelly: Neil has swung the bat very well during the first month of the Triple-A season and has been getting quality opportunities at several positions on the field, including second base, left field and first base. The fact that several of our position players in Pittsburgh are struggling at the plate makes it more likely that opportunities will exist in Pittsburgh. It is important that Neil does all of the things necessary to seize such an opportunity, much as Steve Pearce has done. We remain confident that Neil has the tools to be a valuable Major League player in Pittsburgh.
bucs777: If Bryce Harper is available when the Pirates pick in this year's Draft, what are the chances that we take him? If not, who else do the Pirates like?
Coonelly: As always, it is important that we not tip our hand in terms of the player or players who we value most highly in the Draft. I can tell you, however, that if Bryce Harper is available when we select second in the Draft, and if Greg Smith and his staff believe that he is the best player available, we will select him notwithstanding his representation or the hype that may surround the player.
NYPirate: Will money be the deciding factor on who the Pirates select in the upcoming amateur Draft?
Coonelly: Thanks for that question. I should have added to my last answer regarding the possibility of selecting Bryce Harper that perceived financial demands of the player and/or his representation will not drive our selection decision in this year's Draft, which is the same approach we utilized in each of the last two years.
pjb124: How long will you keep Charlie Morton in the rotation if he continues to struggle?
Coonelly: You are one of several fans who have asked, in essence, whether we intend to give up on Charlie Morton. The simple answer is: No. Charlie has unquestionably struggled in each of his outings thus far this year but his stuff is simply too good to give up on. Charlie's last outing showed positive strides were being made but he continued to be hurt by a few mistakes. Charlie will need to execute more consistently to maintain his spot in the rotation, but his talent is far too high for us to quit on him now.
rlichti: When will we be seeing Pedro Alvarez?
Coonelly: Pedro is continuing his development as a professional player in this, his second professional season. Like most young players, he has had his ups and downs this year as he has been making the adjustments necessary to excel at Triple-A. Pedro is getting some big hits and shows the raw power that excites us and our fans, but also has shown why it is so critical that young players complete their development before coming to the big leagues. Pedro works hard every day to become the best player he can be and is making the developmental strides that are necessary. If Pedro continues making these strides, it is likely that he will make it to Pittsburgh at some point during this season. It is exciting to have players like Pedro, Jose Tabata, Brad Lincoln and others who are so close to making significant impact in Pittsburgh. Of course, our job is to ensure that each and every year the organization and our fans can be equally excited over at least that many prospects who can have a meaningful impact on the big league club.
Coonelly: Thank you all again for joining me this month. I look forward to answering your questions again next month and I hope to see you at PNC Park.