Poll Question: Where should Russell Martin bat in the order? Second (0%) Sixth (60%) Seventh (40%)
Bill Brink: Good morning guys, welcome to this week's chat from a wet McKechnie Field. We will start at noon, but you can submit questions starting now.
Bill Brink: Here we go ...
BobbyToledo: This is the first season in I don't know how long that the starting lineup seems pretty set: C Martin, 1B Jones/Sanchez, 2B Walker, 3B Alvarez, SS Barmes, RF Marte, CF McCutchen, LF Snider. Isn't that in itself a good thing, with the only battles being for the fifth starting spot, bullpen, and bench?
Bill Brink: It's a good thing if those in the lineup are producing. The opening day lineup will most likely not stay true throughout the season due to performance and injury as well. The fact that major league options exist at each position is a good thing, though.
Guest: When should we expect the first round of cuts?
Bill Brink: Hurdle and the staff will want to see some more competition from the players before making cuts. They are only three games in right now. I wouldn't expect the first round until the first week of March or so.
Mike in Downtown: If a Neil Walker extension was going to be done, wouldn't it already be done?
Bill Brink: I don't believe the Pirates see a rush. They have him under team control for four more seasons, he had a herniated disc that ended his season and he will be 32 when he reaches free agency. He'd have to agree to a team-friendly contract, which he won't do.
Also, he prefers not to negotiate during the season, so if they're interested, they have between now and March 31.
JamesinNYC: Saw a picture of Tabata the this week...where did the pudgy kid from last year go? Any opinion on how he has looked this spring?
Bill Brink: Looks good, doesn't he?
He worked out at Bommarito Performance Systems in Miami along with fellow ACES client Tony Sanchez, plus Nelson Cruz, Michael Morse and others. He's in better shape. Too soon to tell on the field. He homered yesterday and will be in the starting lineup tomorrow.
littleworker: The question everyone is asking. Again. Will the Pirates finish with at least 81 wins in 2013?
Bill Brink: After three spring games, impossible to say. Depends on health of the rotation, performance at the bottom of the lineup, etc. I'd say their chances of doing so are as good as they were last season if not better.
Scott: Bill, the Pirates are NOTORIOUSLY know for taking the conservative route when it comes to prospects. However, with Huntington's job on the line, how reasonable is it that Cole can be on the roster by May? Also, if Taillon continues to progress and the Buccos are in a pennant race come September, is it out of the question that he could be promoted and play a relief role a la David Price?
Bill Brink: Cole could be on the roster by May, but he'll get there because he deserves it, not because Huntington is worried about his job. The Pirates have specific goals they want Cole to accomplish in Indianapolis but no timetable for him there, so if he checks everything off they'll call him up. Super 2 status could come into play, though, so June is more realistic.
As for Taillon, I doubt he reaches the majors. He could end the season in Indianapolis though.
Bill Brink: Reaches the majors this season, that is.
Guest: What is the likelihood that Jonathan Sanchez is with the team after the 25th? there seems to be no room on the team
Bill Brink: He's got to outpitch Jeff Locke and Kyle McPherson, who both had good first starts in spring. I'd say unlikely at this point.
PhillyJake: Anyone around camp talking about PED current events?
Bill Brink: A little. None of it on the record. Mostly conversation about the same reports we're all reading.
Guest: Pedro is another one that appears to be in great shape and is coming off a nice season last year, so confidence has to be there. Based on what you've seen what can we expect from him this year?
Bill Brink: I think this is the year you see more consistency from Alvarez. He showed the power last season, but also had periods of offensive ineffectiveness. He will still strike out often, but I think he could become more consistent.
Mike in Downtown: Are there other candidates for contract extensions, maybe AJ? Would AJ consider it? Really no one else jumps off the page right now.
Bill Brink: Burnett is a tough one to peg. If he has another season like last year, he'll move out of the Pirates' price range ... but he'll be 36, which will complicate things. I don't think he's an extension candidate but the Pirates would probably like to re-sign him after the season.
JamesinNYC: Who has the highest ceiling of all the RF or 1B types, highest floor?
Bill Brink: Clint Robinson and Jerry Sands have both mashed in the Pacific Coast League, a hitter-friendly league. Sands is athletic in the field in addition to having power at the plate, and at 25 still has plenty of upside.
Jones probably has the highest floor. He's good for 20 home runs and a .265 average, though probably much better than that.
Tyler NC: I'm guessing Cole comes up in June, hypothetically as of now who do you see as the odd man out in the rotation?
Bill Brink: Cole comes up in June. Around the time Liriano will be ready. But Morton will be back not long after...
I could see them trading someone (Burnett? Morton? Wandy?) and sending Locke or McPherson down at that point. But if Locke and McPherson are dealing, they may make another move.
Polka: Looking into your crystal ball, after McKendy and Gaby, who are your final three bench players?
Bill Brink: I think Tabata (out of options), Harrison (position versatility) and Inge make the roster. Inge has to be healthy and show he has a portion of what he showed in Oakland last year left in the tank, though.
Bill Brink: What else we got today?
Guest: Polanco, Hanson, Bell, Barnes: Who will be the best major leaguer?
Bill Brink: Usual caveat of I'm not a scout, nor have I seen much of any of them play, but Bell's power and ability to switch-hit bode well for him.
PhillyJake: Can we get a list of players who have options, and a list of players who are on the bubble but out of options?
Bill Brink: I won't give the whole list in the chat (though I should put it on the blog soon, as cuts start ...) but here are some relevant ones.
Out of options: Tabata, Bryan Morris, Chris Leroux, Vin Mazzaro.
Has options: Alex Presley, Jerry Sands, Clint Robinson.
Guest: I noticed that alvarez's stats are drastically different between night and day. Any thoughts on the Pirates having is eyes checked?
Bill Brink: They check every players' eyes during spring training, so if there was any correlation between the two, I think they would have found it.
I believe Josh Hamilton had a similar issue, but it was accentuated because he has blue eyes.
JamesinNYC: Did Cole and Taillon really get into facing each other?
Bill Brink: No, they downplayed it. At least to us.
Justin: Do you think Tony Sanchez has a future on this team? Will be tough with Martin and the Fort around. How bad does McKenry have to be for Sanchez to take his spot?
Bill Brink: McKenry's earned himself a long leash with his performance behind the plate and learning the staff last year, and he relaxed at the plate and became a better hitter last year as well. There's a spot for Sanchez in case of injury, or after Martin departs. Starting the season at Indianapolis should help.
Derrick: Any cause for concern for Martin? seems extremely early for shoulder soreness already
Bill Brink: There's cause for concern in the "It's spring training and minor things become cause for concern" sense. We don't know yet if it's shoulder, arm, elbow or something else, just that it's something that apparently prevented it from throwing overhand.
In the long term, I wouldn't be worried. He's a veteran who can probably get going with only a couple games in March.
Gillen4: anything you DON'T like about the park renovation of McKechnie?
Bill Brink: The Kona tiki bar is ALL the way out in center field rather than press box-adjacent.
Aaron: 2 quick questions: Will this finally be the year where Justin Wilson finally figures out where the plate is? Be extremely nice to have that kind of LHP either in the rotation or pen. And, I really really like Welker's stuff, any chance he breaks camp with the team?
Bill Brink: 1. I think the Pirates think so, because indications are they want him in the bullpen as a second lefty.
2. He does have good stuff, but I think the option situation (none for Morris, Leroux) may mean he starts in Indianapolis and comes up in case of ineffectiveness or injury. There's also the chance a non-roster guy makes the bullpen.
It won't hurt for him to start in Indianapolis and come up when the opportunity presents itself. He didn't have too much time there last season.
Gillen4: What's Charlie Morton been up to?
Bill Brink: He's throwing off of a mound and throwing breaking pitches on flat ground. All systems are go rehab-wise and he is still on track to return in mid-June or so.
Bill Brink: OK guys, lightning round. Fire away.
Gillen4: Nutting still visible or did he jet out after the opening festivities?
Bill Brink: I haven't seen him around, so I believe he left last Thursday after speaking to the team.
Gillen4: Favorite spring training park after McKechnie?
Bill Brink: Ed Smith Stadium, the Orioles' park, is quite nice.
Gillen4: What's the story with Sansypants driving down with you but we never hear from him on the blog? Has he been at the beach for the last three weeks?
Bill Brink: He drove down and flew back a few days later, the slacker. He'll be here Friday to take over for the weekend.
Notice how he takes over right when the Bucs travel to Fort Myers for a night Red Sox game. Coincidence?
Tyler NC: Bigger break out year, Marte or Snider?
Bill Brink: Gonna go Marte in the sense that his tools will really start to play, and Snider has had big league success before. I think both will have better seasons, but Marte has a better chance, due to his speed, power and arm strength, to have the true "breakout" season. If he keeps his head about him on the bases and in the field, and takes more pitches, his skills will play.
PhillyJake: More saves this year: Grilled Cheese or Hammer?
Bill Brink: Ooh, good question. Cheese 36, Hammer 32.
Gillen4: More wins this year...Cleveland, Boston, or Pittsburgh?
Bill Brink: Cleveland. If their pitching staff is at least average, they can do some things.
Also, Brian O'Neill is going to start posting Stats Geek columns, which take a numerical look at the Pirates and baseball and are always a great read, on the PBC Blog starting tomorrow, so keep your eyes open.
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