Dejan Kovacevic's sports chat transcript: 3.17.11
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BRADENTON, Fla. -- Just got back up from the clubhouse here at McKechnie Field to find some questions already in the bin.
I won't be mean enough to tell you I'm sitting outdoors, chatting with you in shorts and a T-shirt, so let's get started ...
joel lesher: Do you think Mike Crotta has a chance to garner a bullpen spot going north? I like the way he has pounded the strike zone, something Jose Veras has had trouble doing throughout his career. Thanks
Dejan Kovacevic: He has an outside chance, which is why he's still here, Neal Huntington told me yesterday. Crotta has a very heavy sinker -- Matt Diaz said today it's got a dramatic dip -- and that could put him in kind of a Steve Jackson role out of the pen. Crotta can throw 95, too, and has a big frame. Just really hasn't been consistent in the minors.
James_Taiwan: Does Pitt manage to avoid getting upset by Old Dominion or Butler on Saturday?
Dejan Kovacevic: Yes. My bracket has the Panthers going to the final against UNC (and losing there). If anything, the early Big East exit is going to have this team prime, healthy and full ready for what lies ahead.
JAL: Most likely scenario for Josh Rodriguez--keep him on the 25, work out a trade to keep him and send him to Indy, or let him go
Dejan Kovacevic: There really wouldn't be that much point in working out a trade for Rodriguez. Chase d'Arnaud will be the shortstop in Indianapolis. He'll probably just be offered back.
Spencer M.: Dejan, you might finally be getting your Jeffery with Kovalev wish as it seems they practiced together today due to Letestu being out.
Dejan Kovacevic: If it works Sunday, there will be told-you-sos all over the blog, my friend. Kovalev needs a more creative center with better vision. Letestu does not match up with Jeffrey in either category.
James_Taiwan: Dejan, do you see any surprises on the roster when the Pirates head north?
Dejan Kovacevic: I think Pedro Ciriaco will make the team, which I didn't think before (and I don't think the Pirates anticipated, either). They like his defense a lot, especially the arm, and they're convinced he has the strength to eventually do more than hit to the opposite field. I'm not, but we'll see.
If Ciriaco makes it, by the way, that will break a really long string of having backup shortstops who could not play shortstop. See: Luis Rivas, Chris Gomez, Ramon Vazquez and Bobby Crosby.
Sir Lochsby: The recent news that Ian Snell chose to retire in lieu of accepting a minor league assignment prompts two related questions. (1) Given his history, should we perhaps have expected this response by Snell? (2) Given his history, should we perhaps expect a similar response by Olsen?
Dejan Kovacevic: Always expect the unexpected. As I wrote on the blog the other day, I have never covered an athlete with a personality's like Snell. I was convinced that he did not actually mean about 80 percent of what he said on a given day, up to and including "Good morning."
I would expect he will change his mind soon.
Spencer M.: What do you see as the ceiling for the Lincoln, Owens, Morris, Locke group of pitchers? Is there even a potential 2 there or are they all 3-4-5s as the Duke, Maholm, Gorzo, Snell rotation turned out to be?
Dejan Kovacevic: A scout told me over the winter -- and this is a scout who knows the system well -- that he saw the Altoona group as much the same as the players you cite. There also are people inside the Pirates who feel the rest of the industry is undervaluing what they have, notably with Rudy Owens.
The only wave of truly elite-potential pitching I see will be in West Virginia this year, in Jameson Taillon and Stetson Allie. Long ways off there.
James_Taiwan: Dejan, how do you feel about the Penguins if Crosby can get back in the lineup? Can Neal, Kovalev, and Staal contribute enough to make it back to the Stankley Cup finals? Will Paul Martin and the Penguins defense make the difference?
Dejan Kovacevic: The final is a very ambitious goal for a team that has lost two of the best players in the game. Kovalev is a wonderful talent, but he is nowhere near the equal of Crosby or Malkin at this stage of his career.
Can they do it?
Sure, anything's possible in front of a hot goaltender in the playoffs, and Marc-Andre Fleury is capable of being that. But it's asking a lot.
James_Taiwan: Dejan, will you have time to watch any of the NCAA tournament today? Will you be watching Pitt play? I am waiting for WVU to start!
Dejan Kovacevic: No, not at all. Live-blogging from the exhibition today, then driving up to Tampa for my flight home late tonight. But the DVR back home has been set by my 10-year-old.
Sir Lochsby: Two-part question for you:
Dejan Kovacevic: OK, what's the first part? Did you get cut off?
Spencer M.: Dejan, does it matter that the little high-end positional talent the Pirates have is mostly in the outfield (notable exception is Sanchez) with very few projected major league inflieders? Or, is the system still the point where any talent is good talent, regardless of position?
Dejan Kovacevic: I don't see much high-end talent at all in the system among position players. Catcher Tony Sanchez and center fielder Starling Marte are there, then you drop to d'Arnaud, who was moved off shortstop in mid-summer last year because of defense. That's not very encouraging.
There is some pitching, though, as mentioned above.
James_Taiwan: Dejan, will you have any feature pieces on the Pirates this Sunday?
Dejan Kovacevic: No, the material I'm gathering here is mostly aimed at the week leading up to the opener. I think more people start paying attention at that time, anyway.
I did write the Luis Heredia feature from down here. It ran yesterday.
Chris R.: What's your take on Neil Walker this year? can he duplicate or improve upon last year's effort? Seems that there was much talk about his high batting average with two strikes being untenable.
Dejan Kovacevic: Yeah, I wrote that in a piece last summer, and it generally is not sustainable to be a great two-strike hitter forever. Eventually, you've got to work counts, get deeper and hit your pitch, or they'll just stop throwing your pitch.
My take on Walker is that he should be left at No. 3 in the order, rather than moved to No. 2, so the Pirates don't waste the surprising power he delivered last year. They're not in a position to be giving back gifts.
Much more on this on the blog tomorrow morning.
bspider80: What is Andrew Lambo's ceiling? If he plays very well in AAA, will he be given a chance to start next year?
Dejan Kovacevic: Scouts outside the Pirates label him as a fourth outfielder, and that will stick until he really erupts offensively. He is not a great defender, so the bat will have to play.
He'll also have to continue to show that he's matured beyond the suspension last year for recreational drug use. So far, so good in that area.
pghboyinca: D.K., Have you seen the Sports Illustrated article on the Royals and their farm system? Considering their new front office has been in place roughly the same time as ours and their drafting position and market size identical, how are they now in possession of 10 of baseballs top 91 prospects with a staggering 5 out of the top 19? This would seem to me to be an absolute indication that they are much better at doing what we are supposedly trying to do.
Dejan Kovacevic: It never stops surprising me how many people fail to see the real problem of these Pirates. It's really not about payroll or ownership nearly as much as it is about plain, old baseball decisions that have bombed.
I often have been charged with overvaluing the quality of the veterans that this management team inherited in 2007, but no one will convince me that the Pirates got anywhere near a representative return on all those players shipped out.
That's the best way to build up a farm system with elite prospects in a hurry. The draft and international venues take time, but they're even more important in the long run. The draft has gone well for the Pirates, I think, but my above point underscores yet again the folly of letting Miguel Sano get away.
Just picture the Pirates if they had gotten even decent returns for all those trades, plus signing Sano. Then, SI might have been writing about them and the Royals.
Spencer M.: Dejan, does it seem like this team has more leadership/experience than last year's PBC, and if so, will it help the team get through the inevitable bad stretches this season?
Dejan Kovacevic: It really doesn't matter much, Spencer. People talk about this stuff, but neither Doug Mientkiewicz nor Octavio Dotel nor anyone else makes up for a lack of talent. The Pirates need a lot more talent than they do paint-peeling speeches.
Sir Lochsby: The two-part question was regarding Snell and Olsen. I tried to put each question on its own line, only to have the carriage return send the text. That said, I'd still be interested in hearing if you think Olsen is a flight risk if he's demoted, either to the bullpen or to Indy (?!?) for stretching out/rehab.
Dejan Kovacevic: A flight risk? You mean like walking away from a half-million dollars?
If he does that, you're happy to show him the door.
No, he'll go to the bullpen, and that will be that. He's pitching here now, so the hamstring doesn't appear to be an issue.
Guest: Andrew McCutchen is obviously the real deal, he is more then anyone the fish or cut bait player when it comes to making this team competitive. Do you think the PBC made a low offer or non at all? I assume he deserves Bruce money was that too much for the PBC or not enough for Andrew McCutchen?
Dejan Kovacevic: Just had a very long talk with him right before this chat, actually, on a wide array of topics. Wonderful kid. Really is.
No, the Pirates have never made McCutchen an offer. When they do, they will need to make a good one. This is a player who knows his worth and, moreover, who understands that money he doesn't get now will come later, one way or the other.
Davedigspgplus: Did the Pirates ever hold a ceremony for Lanny Frattare? I remember that was written when he was let go but then never heard about the on field ceremony happening.
Dejan Kovacevic: They did not. It was not a teary farewell on either side.
bspider80: I know they're grooming Pearce to be a super-utility type to stay in the majors, but given that Overbay's on a 1-year contract, do they think there's enough in Pearce that he could still be made into a starting 1B? It's kind of what happened with Neil Walker last year.
Dejan Kovacevic: The Pirates are committed to Overbay and, as we saw from Jeff Clement and Aki Iwamura, it can take quite a while to change their minds along the lines you suggest there.
That said, I have a hard time digesting leaving Pearce off this bench, especially if Ryan Doumit is traded.
Chris R.: anyone else craving a bunless chicken sandwich?
Dejan Kovacevic: I'll pass. Just stopped at Mixon's this morning for the best orange juice and best deli sub on the planet.
James_Taiwan: How much Big East bashing will we hear if Pitt or UCONN doesn't make it to the Final Four?
Dejan Kovacevic: Not only that. You'll also hear for the millionth time how the Big East tournament unnecessarily wears down its teams in advance of NCAAs. Except in Pitt's case, of course, since they weren't in New York long enough to unpack.
Sir Lochsby: I saw Colin Campbell last night on NHL Network, talking about how things went at the GM Meetings. Why has he not been replaced by someone who appears to care about the players? His comments on boarding/charging penalties being handed out too easily particularly galled me.
Dejan Kovacevic: Campbell has been in over his head for so long that the NHL probably doesn't remember why he was given the position.
Change is needed, a whole new view, new approach.
Spencer M.: Dejan, is Tony Sanchez ready enough for next season that the Pirates don't pick up Snyder's option?
Dejan Kovacevic: That's the path. And the next option this management team exercises, to my recollection, will be the first.
bspider80: Can BYU beat Pitt in the tourney? I know their game revolves around Jimmer, but we saw what happened with Kemba not too long ago.
Dejan Kovacevic: You know, I said before the UConn game that Pitt couldn't be beaten by one player, then Kemba Walker did exactly that. If Jimmer puts up 52 again, I'm liking BYU. But I don't see BYU as having the Huskies' depth.
Sir Lochsby: Whatever happened to Sadid Frias?
Dejan Kovacevic: Great question. He was released last summer, I was told recently. Had some injuries and wasn't really all that cut out for the baseball lifestyle.
For those who don't recall, that's the kid whose signing I followed in person in the Dominican a couple years ago.
APB: Overbay will be fine -- but we know his upside. Don't you think Pearce's production would at least match what we expect from Overbay this year -- with the possibility of more? Or is this just wishful thinking on my part?
Dejan Kovacevic: If the Pirates thought that, I'm guessing they would have saved the $5 million on Overbay.
My own thought is that Pearce can illustrate just fine what he can do in a bench role. And believe me, he'd be fine with that. He wants so desperately to be on this roster out of this spring that ... well, I wouldn't want to be the one cutting him.
pghboyinca: Your response to my question about the S.I. article is absolute fact. Given the atrocious baseball related decisions that this club has made continually how are Huntington/Coonelly still in place? More importantly what do they have to do to be fired? My reaction upon reading the S.I. piece was not that could have been us, it was THAT SHOULD HAVE BEEN US. I think some one needs to do a piece on how the Royals did what they did and what we did while they were doing that. We drafted indentically over that time frame.
Dejan Kovacevic: It's not the same time frame. Dayton Moore was hired out of Atlanta a year earlier than the Pirates' guys came aboard. But the general point stands: The Pirates have done poorly in the area of player acquisition. And the underlying point stands, too: It doesn't have nearly as much to do with payroll as it does with poor trades.
Spencer M.: Dejan, with Ryan Vogelsong pitching so well, shouldn't the PBC trade for him to be our 5th starter?
Dejan Kovacevic: I would send them Jason Schmidt and Armando Rios.
James_Taiwan: bspider, I would not be worried by BYU, Gonzaga will knock them out!
Dejan Kovacevic: Nah, but UNC will in the championship game.
Slick1: Any chance you live blog from a UCLA game with Cole starting?
Dejan Kovacevic: As you've seen from the blog already in less than three months, we go everywhere, do everything. Not sure about that one, but it would be fun, yeah.
Gerrit Cole, for those who don't know, is UCLA's flamethrowing starter who is off to a good enough start that some see him as challenging Rice third baseman Anthony Rendon for the No. 1 overall pick in the June draft.
bspider80: Do you know anything about the Cuban arm the Pirates signed recently for $600,000? Cesar Lopez, I think.
Dejan Kovacevic: I asked last week and was told it would be discussed only after he was signed. Haven't asked since then. Sorry.
Dejan Kovacevic: One more Q today. Getting ready for first pitch ...
James_Taiwan: Dejan, with all the poor baseball decisions that the Pirates have made, how can we give any weight to the Pirates decision not to give Pearce a shot at the first base job? The Pirates also tried to bury Neil Walker last year.
Dejan Kovacevic: The Pirates have to earn that trust, and they have to do better than they've done to date. A 105-loss major-league team and middle-of-the-pack system don't achieve that.
Sir Lochsby: What chance do you give that the NFL and NFLPA will resolve their differences before the draft? As I understand it, no CBA means no trades, which would certainly impact draft day strategies and intrigue. As a follow-up, are you still feeling that the season will start on time?
Dejan Kovacevic: That might function as something of a deadline. Not having trades will really hurt teams' ability to focus on positional needs, which happens more in the NFL than any other league.
But I'll stick with the view that the owners have much more to gain by scaring the players a little more than that, which means time lost on the field, money lost in the wallet.
Thanks for all the participation today. We'll do it again next Thursday from back in the good place.
First Published March 17, 2011 1:34 pm