Pirates Chat with John Perrotto

 Q:  Mike Popovich from Pittsburgh, PA asks:
What do you see happening with Tike Redman? From reading articles this offseason, the Pirates don't seem to be committing to him as a starter at this point, and there has been a lot of talk about Bay playing center. Furthermore, if they get a right-handed bat like they want, Redman's roster spot seemingly would be in jeopardy. Is it possible that the Pirates will go with an outfield of Lawton, Bay, and Craig Wilson even with the defensive limitations? Or is Redman still a good bet to be the starting center fielder on opening day?
 A: 

John Perrotto: Hi everyone. It's nice to talk baseball on such a frigid day here in Pittsburgh. Of course, it's even colder for Stiller fans 'n at. Mike, Lloyd McClendon seemed committed to Redman in center field at the end of last season and I still would put my money on him being the opening-day starter. I can't imagine them going with both Wilson and Lawton on the corners. The only way Redman wouldn't be in the starting lineup is if they were able to trade for an above-average outfielder

 Q:  Michael from Davis, CA asks:
Will Justin Reid ever get a shot in the majors in the Pirates organization?
 A: 

John Perrotto: Michael, I happen to be a Justin Reid fan and I'm sure you are, too, being from Davis. He has gotten people out every step of the way and I think he deserves a chance to show what he can do at the major-league level at some point. Reid wasn't put on the 40-man this winter but he was invited to their minicamp two weeks ago and be a non-roster invite to spring training, which means he is at least on the periphery.

 Q:  Mike Popovich from Pittsburgh, PA asks:
Is it safe to assume that Dave Williams is the front runner for the fifth spot in the rotation right now? I was encouraged to see him not only get back to the majors last year but have some success as well. He only made a handful of starts, but from what I saw, he was back to where he was before his labrum injury. What did you think of him?
 A: 

John Perrotto: Mike, I think Williams is definitely the frontrunner. I've always been a fan of his and think he is a better option than Ryan Vogelsong, who seems better suited to relief work.

 Q:  Ryan M. from Raleigh asks:
What happened to Rich Thompson? After making the Royals opening day roster last year, he was sent back to Pittsburgh. Why is he not considered a top ten prospect?
 A: 

John Perrotto: Thompson is still in the Pirates' system. Though he was not put on the 40-man, he was at their minicamp two weeks ago and will in camp as a non-roster player. Thompson is extremely fast and a good defensive outfielder. However, the fact that he almost has no pop means he probably wouldn't be able to handle everyday duty at the major-league level.

 Q:  katie synan from fredericksburg asks:
where will Jon Benick end up playing this year? Will he finally get a shot at aa.
 A: 

John Perrotto: Benick will probably go to high Class A Lynchburg. Though Benick showed good pop last year, he is older and looked at more as an "orgizational"-type player rather than a prospect.

 Q:  Mark M from Pittsburgh, PA asks:
What is your take on Jorge Cortes? After he wasnt added on to the 40 man roster I thought for sure the pirates would lose him in the rule five draft. But since we didnt is there any chance that he will become a starting outfielder in the majors?
 A: 

John Perrotto: Mark, Cortes is a little guy without great speed or power. He's kind of a 'tweener, who probably will be a bench guy if he gets to the major leagues.

 Q:  Tommy from New York asks:
The Pirates system does seem to have some nice depth as far as pitchers go, but they don't really seem to have a stud the way most other systems do. Where do you believe Zach Duke or Neil Walker might rank in the top 100? Would either of them crack the top 50?
 A: 

John Perrotto: Tommy, Duke is the closest thing to a stud but he's not a lights-out, can't-miss, sure-thing No. 1 starter. Pardon all the hyphens. I think he has a legitimate chance to be in the top 50 and Walker will probably land in the top 75.

 Q:  Russ from NY asks:
Where would you rank Brian Bixler among the other SS in the system?
 A: 

John Perrotto: Russ: Bixler is a good athlete with speed and defense. However, I'm always a little skeptical of guys who have no power. I want to see more of him before I make a definitive prediction but my suspicions are that he'll be a utility player in the major leagues. Of course, I've been wrong many times before.

 Q:  Paul from from Mountain Top, PA asks:
John, Although the Pirates continually pick near the top of the draft, why do you think the system is void of big impact players?
 A: 

John Perrotto: Paul, They've taken the conservative approach in some cases, i.e. taking Bryan Bullington over B.J. Upton with the top pick in 2003. It seems to me that's an organizational philosophy that comes from above the baseball operations department. Ownership seems to prefer giving big signing bonuses to older college players than younger high schoolers.

 Q:  Kevin from Antioch asks:
Do you really think N.Walker has a ceiling of a .300 average and 30 HR's. I have noticed over the last few years that B.A. has been overvaluing the catchers in the minor leagues. Is this trend because there are so few catchers who can hit for averagepower and a play defense like Pudge?
 A: 

John Perrotto: Kevin, I had the chance to see Walker play a few times in high school since he is a Pittsburgh-area kid. He is extremely impressive. What strikes me the most is that he is a great athlete (as anyone who watched him play football in high school would agree). In my mind, he's the best athlete in the system. He is also a very bright kid who will figure things out.

 Q:  Michael Stern from Rochester NY asks:
John - great to have the chats back again! I want to know what's up with Rajai Davis. I have to tell you I was shocked he didn't make the top 10. He is one of the top lead off prospects in the minors - hits for average - steals bases - is good defensively - a true catalyst. Why no love? The only thing I can see is that he was a little old for class A - is that it?
 A: 

John Perrotto: Michael: Rajai Davis just missed the top 10. His age did work against him somewhat, but he certainly did a great year in the Carolina League. I'm very curious to see how well he adjusts to Class AA.

 Q:  Jim S. from Milwaukee asks:
I notice Bobby Bradley is viewed as having the best curve of Pittsburgh's prospects, but failed to crack the top 10. Is he healthy? What would be your assessment of him now?
 A: 

John Perrotto: Bradley took regular rotation turns in the Arizona Fall League without any health problems, which is encouraging. He's had a lot of arm problems but he also keeps battling back and getting people out when he can pitch. I think Bradley can be a good No. 3-4 starter but he has to stay healthy.

 Q:  Brian Daniels from Kennesaw, Georgia asks:
Hi John, Is John Vanbenschoten's dropping in the top 10 a reflection of the talent in the Pirates system getting better or just the dropping of the opportunity by JVB to become a major league pitcher..Thanks and keep up the good work.
 A: 

John Perrotto: It's a combination of both, Brian. Van Benschoten certainly didn't dominate at Class AAA last season and looked a little overmatched at the major-league level. The Pirates' system is getting deeper but Van Benschoten also needs to bounce back with a good year in 2005.

 Q:  Danny C from Albany, NY asks:
Thanks John for fielding my question. I've been following Dan Schwartzbauer since his days at Duquesne. Do you think he projects as a major league prospect? He put up very nice numbers in the GCL even if he was a bit old for the league. Also, is Jose Bautista still considered a prospect by BB America standards? If not, would he have made the top 10? Thanks!
 A: 

John Perrotto: Danny, Dan Schwartzbauer had a fine year in the GCL but, like you said, he was quite old for the league. Not quite as old as most GCL fans, but older. He's going to have to do something at higher levels before he can be considered a potential prospect. Bautista also just missed the top 10. He just needs to out and play, and develop his skills, after not playing much baseball the last two years.

 Q:  Mike from Boston asks:
With the seven starting pitching prospects that made this year's list plus Bobby Bradley the Pirates look to be just about the deepest club around in terms of upper minors pitching talent. Realistically how many of these kids can the organization expect to make it over the hump and become good pitchers in the next two or three years? Even a 50% graduation rate would leave Pittsburgh pretty flush.
 A: 

John Perrotto: Mike, As you said, they all don't make it. Even if two or three of them turn out to be good major-league pitchers, the Pirates would be ahead of the game. If 50 percent make it, well, maybe thing will finally start turning around in Pittsburgh.

 Q:  Tony C from Davidson, NC asks:
Was Freddy Sanchez not included in the Top 10 because of his injuries and do you still see him as a regular in 2006 and beyond?? He has to be a better option than Wigginton if not CastilloWilson.
 A: 

Moderator: Tony: Sanchez got squeezed by the depth in the Pirates' system and the fact that he really didn't play all that well at Nashville once he recovered from his ankle surgery. I like Sanchez but he may be in the wrong organization to get a starting job anytime soon. The Pirates don't feel he has the power for third base and I agree. They also feel Jack Wilson and Jose Castillo could be a long-term double-play combo.

 Q:  Donald Keypunch from McKeesport asks:
Why did you drop JVB to third on the list after two years at No. 1? Will J.R. House ever be a regular in the big leagues or is he another Hedi Vargas?
 A: 

John Perrotto: Hi Don: As I mentioned earlier, Van Benschoten's bad season caused him to slip. I thik J.R. House needs to change organizations. He just doesn't seem to be in the Pirates' long-range plans. I think House will be a solid big-league with pop, not a big donkey like Hedi Vargas.

 Q:  Mike W. from New Jersey asks:
With a soon to be 40 year old behind the plate this season in Santiago, and the "catcher of the future" just out of high school, who (Ryan Doumit, Ronny Paulino or J.R. House) will bridge the gap until Neil Walker is ready? Does House still project as a catcher, or is a change of position in his future?
 A: 

John Perrotto: My money is on Doumit, if he stays healthy. He's a pretty good-looking prospects and says he is over the sore elbow that limited him to DH duty during the second half of last season at Class AA Altoona. I see Paulino as more of a no 2 in the big leagues and my guess for House is that he ends like Craig Wilson, a C1BOF type.

 Q:  Steven Merrifield from Morgantown,WV asks:
What pitcher in the Pirates system has the highest ceiling? What position player has the highest ceiling?
 A: 

John Perrotto: Steven: Great questions that are always hard to answer. For position player, I'll say Neil Walker, without a doubt. The Pirates don't have as many high-ceiling pitching prospects as many are older with college backgrounds. I'll throw a name out, left-hander Brian Holliday who has a great curveball and threw a no-hitter at Hickory last season.

 Q:  Brian from Manhattan, NY asks:
Where did Josh Sharpless (13.2 K9 at Hickory), Chris De Maria (great K9 and KBB), Jason Alcala and Marcus Davila rank? The first two look a lot more impressive than the other two but all four are of interest to me. Thanks!
 A: 

John Perrotto: Brian, Sharpless is considered the best of those four. He's big, throws hard and is developing a pretty good for pitching. He looks like a potentially good late-round draft pick from Allegheny, a Division III program in Meadville, Pa.

 Q:  Rennie Sennett from Cranberry Township, PA asks:
Two quick questions. First, will the Pirates regret trading Jeff Keppinger? Second, should we keep an eye on Jon Albaledejo (sp.)? Could he be the breakout player in the Pirates system this year, much like Zach Duke was last year? Sorry...that was actually three questions...
 A: 

John Perrotto: Rennie: You may have trouble counting to three but you wear able to count to 7-for-7 on that day in 1975 at Wrigley Field. Seriously, I don't think the Pirates will regret trading Keppinger. His only real tool is his ability to hit for average, which limits him to even being a utility infielder in the majors. Albaledejo could indeed be a sleeper. He struggled this past season but has had some good winter ball outings in Puerto Rico. And for question No. 3, he could possible be a breakout player. However, he needs to be a lot more consistent and watch his conditioning.

 Q:  Paul Krzywicki from Mountain Top, PA asks:
John, Dave Littlefield keeps talking about adding another right handed bat for the outfield or first base. Has their been any talk to what team or teams he has been talking to or players he may be targeting. Also, given the depth of pitching in the organization, why does it seem he has been unable to add a young impact bat.
 A: 

John Perrotto: Paul: It doesn't appear the Pirates are close to finding that right-handed bat at this time and I really question whether there is anyone out there right now who is better than what they have. The Pirates are very reluctant to trade their young pitching and that's understandable considering how valuable that commodity is. However, I firmly believe that at some point they are going to have to take a gamble and deal for a young, impact bat.

 Q:  Browning Nagle from Louisville, KY asks:
What are you thoughts on Tom Gorzelanny? With his stuff, if he can get his delivery down more consistent, does he a No. 2 ceiling? What is his ETA in Pittsburgh?
 A: 

John Perrotto: Browning, I absoultely think Gorzelanny can be a No. 2 starter in the major leagues. He has an outstanding slider and a good feel for pitching. I could see him in the major leagues in 2006. I'm sure you know the importance of having good No. 2 guys on any athletic team.

 Q:  Donald Keypunch from McKeesport asks:
Where do you see Blair Johnson ending up this season?
 A: 

John Perrotto: Johnson will probably go back to Hickory to start this season after failing miserably there at the beginning of last season. With his stuff, it's a mystery why he doesn't punch out more batters.

 Q:  Jamal from Nagasaki asks:
With the year Bryan Bullington had, why would he get such a high rating on the list? His hitsIP ratio is bad and he hasn't shown the ability to overpower hitters. I was just thinking that Bradley, House or R. Davis should've been on the list following their nice seasons in place of Bullington.
 A: 

John Perrotto: Jamal, the lists are determined as much or more by potential than actual performance. There is still hope Bullington can put everything together and be the type of pitcher he was in college. However, he needs to have that big breakthrough season soon and the time would be 2005 as he will pitch at AAA Indianapolis.

 Q:  Trader J from Indy asks:
What happened to Matt Peterson? He was rolling along with a nice season and fell apart after the trade. Did his stuff disappear?
 A: 

John Perrotto: Trader: Peterson had a problem with a pulled side muscle at Binghamton last season and had trouble getting his mechanics back together once he got to Altoona after the July 30 trade that brought him to the Pirates from the Mets. He is a big kid with a good feel for pitching and the Pirates are optimistic he will put everything back together this season. You'll get a chance to see for yourself at Indy.

 Q:  Ryan from Vancouver asks:
Wondering if you know the status of Casey Shumaker, the Pirates 23rd round pick out of Jacksonville a few years ago. He seemed to be progressing nicely and all of a sudden he seemed to vanish from the system. Can't find him on any injury or inactive reports anywhere. Any info you can provide would be appreciated as I thought he was a steal when the Pirates drafted him late that year.
 A: 

John Perrotto: Ryan, Schumaker is no longer in the organization. He was placed on the suspended list last year. I, too, once thought he was a real sleeper but it didn't work out.

 Q:  Kerry from Chicago asks:
Looking at Zach Duke's numbers and reading about him, it seems he might compare to former Cards propsect Bud Smith. Is that fair or does he have better make-up and stuff?
 A: 

John Perrotto: Kerry: Like Smith, Duke's best pitchers are his curveball and changeup. However, Duke can dial his fastball up to the 91-92 mph range when necessary, meaning he isn't totally a finesse pitcher like Bud Smith. As far as makeup, I don't know Bud Smith but I am very impressed with Duke's intelligence and poise.

 Q:  Tony Maynard from Youngstown asks:
What do you know about this AJ Johnson kid from Florida. You guys picked him as Best Athlete and Best Outfield Arm in todays writeup. I've not heard much about him. I see he started in Williamsport last year a little slow but picked it up the second half. What are his offensive skills like and where will he play this year? Was he a steal as a sixth round pick?
 A: 

John Perrotto: Tony: He's a raw athlete with a lot of tools. He has the chance to be a powerspeed guy and only time will tell if he was a steal in the sixth round or an ovedraft.

 Q:  Vlad from O'Hara Township asks:
Why do the Pirates draft so many outfielders who can't hit for power? (Duffy, Lytle, Morgan, etc.)
 A: 

John Perrotto: Vlad, They do have an inordinate amount of leadoff-type guys. It's been proven in magazine studies that taller people make more money than shorter people. Perhaps since the Pirates often talk about their poor finances that they find little guys more attractive. Tongue firmly planted in cheek here.

 Q:  Danny C from Albany, NY asks:
Zach Duke made a nice jump from #15 last year to the top slot this year. What players in the Pirate system do you believe have the best shot of making similar strides in 2005? Thanks!
 A: 

John Perrotto: I'm going to say Wardell Starling. He's been solid since coming into the pro ball but he has the stuff and makeup to be a really good pitcher.

 Q:  Alan Smodic from Oakland, PA asks:
What are the thoughts on Rajai Davis? Does he have a good shot to provide the big club with a leadoff bat and a decent center fielder for a some years?
 A: 

John Perrotto: Alan: As I referred to earlier, I want to see how he makes the jump to Class AA as that often tells the tale. However, there is a lot to like about Davis and he is an exciting prospect.

 Q:  thebig747 from milwaukee asks:
Will Mike Gonzalez become the closer this year? He was very impressive in 2004.
 A: 

John Perrotto: Jose Mesa will close to start the season. I think Salomon Torres would be next in line if Mesa is traded as the Pirates don't want to rush Gonzalez into that role. Long-term, though, Gonzalez certainly has the physical ability and aggressiveness to be a closer.

 Q:  Vlad from O'Hara Township asks:
Why has the team been so reluctant to promote Josh Higgins?
 A: 

John Perrotto: Vlad: Higgins falls into that old trap of closers in the low minors not being considered prospects. I'll say this, he's had a good track record over the year and I'd love to at least see him get the chance to show if he could succeed or fail at the higher levels.

 Q:  Ben Chapin from Chicago, IL asks:
What is your take on the other Bucco outfield prospects; Chris Duffy, Rajai Davis, Jorges Cortes? Will these or any other prospects be ready with Nate McLouth to challenge for the Pirate outfield in 2006?
 A: 

John Perrotto: Ben: I think McLouth is the best of the four you mentioned. He really took a big step forward at Altoona last season. He has speed and his power is starting to develop. He is also a real gamer who loves to play. I also like Davis and Duffy a lot but I'm not as sold on Cortes.

 Q:  Alan Smodic from Oakland, PA asks:
Is Zach Duke the real deal? I know we shouldn't expect numbers like last years again, but how well do you see him performing this year and when do you think he'll make his major league debut?
 A: 

John Perrotto: Alan: I think Duke has the chance to be pretty good, as his No. 1 ranking indicates. However, I highly doubt he will be in the Pirates' starting rotation at the start of the season. I think, realistically, he either starts the season back at Altoona or at Indianpolis with an eventual promotion to the bigs in the second half of the year.

 Q:  Eric from Kansas City asks:
What is the timetable for Brad Eldred? Do the Pirates think his minor league success will translate to the major league level?
 A: 

John Perrotto: Eric: Spring training will determine whether Eldred starts off the year back at Altoona or goes to Indianapolis. If Eldred makes anything near the type of progress he made last season, I'd imagine you'll see him at PNC Park by September.

 Q:  thebig747 from milwaukee asks:
Is Ruben Mateo still with the Pirate organization? If so, where does he fit in?
 A: 

John Perrotto: He was traded to Kansas City midway through last season then released by the Royals at the end of the year.

 Q:  Bob from Oceanside, CA asks:
Outside of the fog rolling in, the weather is a little better out here. As for the Pirates, can you clarify their IF situation? Oustide of Wilson, there are a lot of names bantered about at the various positions. Thanks!
 A: 

John Perrotto: Bob: Unless the Pirates trade for a first baseman (which I think is unlikely), it'll be Craig Wilson at first, Jose Castillo at second, Ty Wigginton at third and Jack Wilson at shortstop

 Q:  Alan Smodic from Oakland, PA asks:
Any chance the kid we got in the trade for J.J. Davis could pan out to be anything? He has been said to possess tools, but we all know how that usually turns out.
 A: 

John Perrotto: Alan: The guy you are talking about is Antonio Sucre, who the Pirates acquired from the Washington Nationals. Sucre is a five-tool outfielder whose production has yet to match his potential. Pirates fans have seen plenty of players like that fail in past years, but Sucre will certainly bear watching this year, likely at Lynchburg.

 Q:  Chris from Los Angeles, CA asks:
Hey John, I'm a Pittsburgh trasnplant who keeps up with my Buccos through the times online. So...thanks for that. My question -- Which Bucco do you see falling off the most this year? And...which guy do you think will surprise the most with outstanding play?
 A: 

John Perrotto: Chris: Hi former homey. I think Kip Wells will be the Pirate to take the biggest step up if he's healthy. He has a lot of talent and something to prove. As far as Pirate falling off the most, my pick is Josh Fogg. Yes, he wins games but he also pitches on the right day a lot of times as his career ERA and other stats will tell you.

 Q:  Ryan from Vancouver asks:
Jason Quarles, considered one of the hardest throwers in last years draft pitched in relief this past year. Do you see the Pirates using him as a starter this year? I would think making him a starter would help him work on his secondary pitches, as well as his control. What do you see his upside being?
 A: 

John Perrotto: Ryan: Quarles' long-term future is in the bullpen with the possibility of someday being at least a set-up man and maybe a closer. Having him spend at least sometime as a starter would probably be a good idea for the reasons you mentioned.

 Q:  Tom McCullough from York PA asks:
Javier Guzman at age 20 put up good numbers for a SS at low-A in 2004. Is he the no. 11 Pirates prospect for 2005? Thanks.
 A: 

John Perrotto: Tom: Guzman wasn't No. 11 but I won't say where he ranked because I don't want to spoil the surprise when the Prospect Handbook comes out next month. However, he is definitely a prospect and I was mildly surprised somebody didn't take a chance on him in the Rule 5 Draft.

 Q:  Mike from Pittsburgh asks:
What do you think about Jose Castillo's production in Venezuela? What do you project for him in the coming years?
 A: 

John Perrotto: Mike: I see Castillo getting better but I think he would have benefitted more being at Class AAA than often getting overmatched in the major leagues. He did have good production numbers in Venezuela, but I long ago learned to take winter ball stats with a grain of salt.

 Q:  Ron Leighton from Annandale, VA asks:
The top 10 list includes pitchers that appear to have ceilings as number 2, number 3, middle of rotation. If these ceilings turn out to be true can this be enough pitching to overcome the club's offensive and defensive short comings? It seems like Craig Wilson and Jack Wilson will have priced themselves out of Bucs payroll by end of 2006 season. It also looks like JR House is man without a real position. Is his bat good enough for him to be a regular player?
 A: 

John Perrotto: Ron: I agree. THe Pirates have a lot of good prospects but nobody who can single-handedly turn the franchise around. They are going to need to get solid production from many of them and hope that one of them unexpectedly turns into a better playert than you would think, a la Jason Bay.

 Q:  Joel from Washington, DC asks:
John, is it really not possible for Nate McLouth to handle center in the majors? I mean, the Bucs don't exactly have Willie Mays out there right now. Hitting .320 in Altoona with 40 doubles at age 22 is serious production and I don't see why McLouth seems to be consigned to fourth outfielder status instead of being considered the Bucs' centerfielder of the future.
 A: 

John Perrotto: Joel: Scouts and the Pirates people are mixed about McLouth in center field. Some think he can and some think he can't. He impressed me as a pretty good athlete who would work hard at being a good center fielder. I wouldn't count him out.

 Q:  Vlad from O'Hara Township asks:
Where would Nunez have ranked if not traded, and why was the team willing to move him for a stiff like Santiago? Has he made any progress with a third pitch?
 A: 

John Perrotto: Vlad: Nunez would have probably been in the 20-25 range. Nunez hasn't made progress with a third pitch and many in the organization felt he lacked the durability to be a starter.

 Q:  Joel from Washington, DC asks:
John, do you honestly believe that Bryan Bullington has a prayer of getting his 95 mph stuff back? It seems to me the Pirates just can't bear to face up to the fact that they spent the #1 pick in the country on a middle reliever. When do we all get to give up on Bullington?
 A: 

John Perrotto: Joel: It seems that the chances of Bullington getting that 95-mph heater get slimmer each year. Obviously, the Pirates are going to give him every opportunity, as would any team who used a No. 1 pick and ponied up $4 million. I can't fault them for trying to get some kind of return on their investment.

 Q:  Jeff R from New York asks:
Josh Shortslef seems to have bounced back after a poor 2003. I know he was a prospect after 2002 in the NY Penn league. What do they think of him?
 A: 

John Perrotto: Jeff: Shortslef isn't a Top 30 guy right now but he certainly has a good idea of how to pitch, "pitchability" as the scount like to say. Pitchers like that need to prove themselves at every level but I wouldn't count him out.

 Q:  Joel from Washington, DC asks:
John, my biggest disappointment with the Littlefield-Graham-Creech regime is the total failure to date to develop any prospects out of Latin America, especially after Littlefield said that reviving the Dominican program was one of his top priorities. What's the problem and when are we going to start seeing some progress in this area?
 A: 

John Perrotto: Joel: That is a great question. The Pirates haven't gotten much out of the Dominican and it's something worth investigating.

 Q:  Alan Smodic from Oakland, PA asks:
What are you first impressions of Joe Bauserman on the mound in his first year? Could he develop into a solid starter?
 A: 

John Perrotto: Alan: I didn't actually see Bauserman pitch in person but the reports were very good. He definitely has a chance to be an above-average big-league starter.

 Q:  Mike from Boston asks:
Some interesting AAA-AA players who didn't make the list -- Freddy Sanchez, Tony Alvarez, Rajai Davis, J.R. House, Rich Thompson, Josh Bonifay, Ryan Doumit and Ronny Paulino. While Pittsburgh may be short on star-caliber players it seems like the organization might have enviable depth, particularly in players who are close to helping the parent club. So does that make the Pirates a strong system or a weak, but prolific system?
 A: 

John Perrotto: Mike: I'd say the Pirates have more good players than many organizations but fewer great players than many.

 Q:  Alan Smodic from Oakland, PA asks:
John, both Matt Capps and Blair Johnson went through up and down seasons last year. What do you see on the horizon for them in the upcoming years, especially since Johnson was ranked in BA's top 10 last year?
 A: 

John Perrotto: Alan: Both took big steps backward last year. This is going to be a big year for both. Both have talent and it's never wise to bet against talent.

 Q:  Vlad from O'Hara Township asks:
Can Mike Cockrell cut it as a possible UT guy? And while we're talking about UT guys, why didn't Howie Clark get a NRI with his minor-league deal?
 A: 

John Perrotto: Vlad: Cockrell could possible be a big-league utility guy but he's a long shot. I like Howie Clark and I, too, was surprised he didn't get a non-roster invite.

 Q:  Don from Lancaster, Pa. asks:
You've seen Tike Redman advance through the system and now Chris Duffy is knocking on the door. In your opinion, how does Duffy compare to Redman in all areas of play?
 A: 

John Perrotto: They are similar players with good speed and little plate discipline. I think Duffy is probably a little bit steadier in center but Redman is a little more athletic.

 Q:  Alan Smodic from Oakland, PA asks:
What is your assessment of the Kris Benson trade? Do you feel that Matt Peterson or Jose Bautista will be able to contribue to a possible winning season in Pittsburgh any time soon?
 A: 

John Perrotto: Alan: Contrary to what Pirates fans hoped, teams weren't beating down the door with great offers for Benson. The Pirates didn't get a king's ransom for him but did as good as they could do under the circumstances. I think Peterson and Bautista are both solid prospects who could be contributors at the major-league level, though neither will make difference between a winning and losing season by themselves.

 Q:  Chris from Greensburg, PA asks:
Hey John... Will Bautista be back at third in AAA? Thanks...
 A: 

John Perrotto: Chris: Bautista will probably be the third baseman at AA Altoona.

 Q:  Kyle from Middletown asks:
Who is the most disciplined hitter in the minors? Thanks.
 A: 

John Perrotto: Kyle: Rajai Davis has certainly improved his plate discipline, a good sign for a leadoff man with speed.

 Q:  Vlad from O'Hara Township asks:
Ray Sadler doesn't draw many walks, but how's his patience? Is he swinging at bad balls, or just putting the first strike in play?
 A: 

John Perrotto: Vlad: Sadler is a bit of a free swinger but his power makes him at least a fringe prospect.

 Q:  Mark M from Pittsburgh, PA asks:
After injuries and other setbacks, can Mike Connolly or Jeremy Harts have a chance to make it to the majors?
 A: 

John Perrotto: Mark: Connolly and Harts both are talented enough to eventually pitch in the majors. They'll make it on different strengths, Harts on his lively fastball and Connolly on his command.

 Q:  Kyle from Middletown asks:
When do the Pirates draft in June? If the draft was held today who would they be taking? Thanks.
 A: 

John Perrotto: Kyle: The Pirates draft No. 11 in June. It's far too early to tell at this point who they are zeroing in. Well, I have to close now. I've really enjoyed this. Thanks for all the great questions and sorry that time ran out and I couldn't answer them all. Stay warm.

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