1. Based on the combination of plate discipline and power many of us felt Andy LaRoche had a future as an above average 3rd baseman. Eight hundred major league at bats later he has done nothing to indicate he will ever live upto those expectations. Is he strictly a place holder for Pedro Alvarez or can he be good enough for them to move Alvarez to 1st base?
Charlie - I think you're underrating LaRoche a little. He didn't exactly tear the cover off the ball last year, but he got on base respectably and played good defense. He wouldn't have to improve much to be above average, and since last year was his first full season, I don't see any reason to think he couldn't. The Pirates will probably move him to second base when Alvarez arrives.
2. Garrett Jones came out of nowhere to provide much needed power to the Pirates last year. His OPS of .938 was higher then any of the multiple AAA seasons he has had. At 28 years old did you consider that a flukish season or can Jones come close to replicating what he did in 2009?
Charlie - It's definitely flukish in the sense that he's very unlikely to ever post a .928 OPS again, but his offensive performance was so good, and sustained over such a long period of time, that I won't dismiss it completely. I think he can probably hit well enough to be an average outfielder over the next couple of years, despite his lack of defensive value. That's not much, but until last summer, I didn't even think Jones was a legitimate major leaguer.
3. Ex Dodger Delwyn Young was a favorite of many Dodgers fans where he went by the nickname of "Peewee". The Pirates gave him some time at 2nd but he didn't slug for much power. This spring he has hit six home runs and looks to be a guy who can provide you with insurance at 2nd or in the outfield. What do Pirate fans think of him and his future with the team?
Charlie - Speaking only for myself and not for all Pirate fans, I'm not about to let my heart get all aflutter about anyone's Spring Training performance. Young could hit enough to be a good starting second baseman if he could play second base, but he can't, so he'll probably just bounce around the league for a few years in a Jeff Keppinger sort of way.
4. Andrew McCutchen looks like the guy from the other side of the Rockies who can join Matt Kemp as one of the young elite center fielders in the game. Can you tell Dodger fans what is so special about him?
Charlie - McCutchen's game is exceptionally well-rounded. He hits for average, he draws walks, his power is coming along, he's a potential future Gold Glover, and his baserunning is amazing. He's also a ton of fun to watch on a purely aesthetic level, which definitely makes those September series against the Astros more interesting. He's a very good player now and a potential superstar down the road.
5. Do you feel the relatively new administration under Neal Huntington is doing a good job in rebuilding the Pirate franchise?
Charlie - The short answer is yes. There are some things he probably deserves some criticism for, like not yet signing any high-profile Latin American amateurs, but he's done a pretty good job given the toxic waste dump he's cleaning up. You know how Ned Colletti is kind of an idiot, but he keeps winning because of the excellent core of talent he inherited? Neal Huntington is the opposite of that. When he took over, most of the Pirates' 67-win core was due to hit free agency after 2009, and the organization had practically nothing in the minors, other than McCutchen. It takes a long time to fix problems like those, particularly when you can't just throw money at them. Huntington wisely dealt most of that 67-win core and has made the Pirates among the majors' biggest spenders in the draft. Shockingly, though, other teams were unwilling to part with Jason Heyward and Desmond Jennings for a bunch of 67-win players, and building through the draft takes years. It will take a couple more seasons for Huntington to really get things sorted out, if he ever does. I know I'm not being totally fair to Colletti, by the way--he definitely deserves credit for the Andre Ethier and Manny Ramirez deals, and Huntington has so far ended up with the short end of the stick on the latter.
6. If I can sneak in one more question. Other then Pedro Alvarez and McCutchen who are you most excited about in the organization and why?
Charlie - Since you asked this, you probably realize that the Pirates are still pretty thin on obvious impact players beyond those two. If I have to pick one guy, it's Starling Marte, an incredibly toolsy outfielder who could easily finish the year as one of the better prospects in baseball (or not). Beyond that, there's actually a fair amount happening, which there wasn't a couple years ago. There are a bunch of reclamation projects in the majors (Lastings Milledge, Charlie Morton, Jeff Clement, LaRoche) who bear watching, and Jose Tabata is on the way. And I think Tony Sanchez, who the Pirates took a lot of flak for grabbing with the fourth overall pick last year, is actually pretty interesting--he has hit well since being drafted, and his defense is supposed to be stellar. And beyond that, Class A will have a ton of good players the Pirates have signed in the past two years, often for bonuses well above slot. Zack Von Rosenberg, Quinton Miller, and Victor Black
are already solid prospects, and there are several other pitchers who don't yet look like much on paper but who have been very impressive in camp--Bryan Morris, who came from the Dodgers in the Ramirez deal, is one of those.
See, what gets Dodgers fans going is the prospect of heading to the postseason. What gets me going is the number of prospects playing for the West Virginia Power. In a few years, if we're extremely lucky, the latter could lead to the former.