Pirates president Frank Coonelly participated in his monthly live online chat with Pirates fans on Wednesday. During the chat, Coonelly answered questions about the makeup of the Pirates roster heading into the season, the 2011 Draft, the health status of some of the Pirates injured players and more. The complete chat transcript follows.
Coonelly: Hi everyone and welcome to today's chat. I'm joining you today from lovely Bradenton, Florida, where the Buccos are off to a great camp.
oscar43: Eight time Gold Glove winner and Hall of Famer Bill Mazeroski is in camp. What kind of impact has he had on the players?
Coonelly: Oscar, it is a real benefit to the organization to have former championship Pirate players in camp working with our players. Players like Virdon, Sanguillen, Tekulve and Maz add not only expert instruction but also help to instill a championship mentality. Maz in particular has been reinvigorated by the challenge that Clint Hurdle has given him to help us improve defensively. Maz's work with Neil Walker at second base has received quite a bit of attention, but he is working hard with all of our infielders to help them improve.
bucsin09: Hello Mr. Coonelly! Thanks as always for your time. How much of the Bucs 25-man roster is still up for grabs?
Coonelly: Bucsin09, there are several positions that are subject to significant competition. Obviously, there are several bullpen jobs that have multiple candidates that Clint and his staff are evaluating. We brought in several veteran arms and several members of our farm system are making a strong showing to break camp with the big league club. There is also competition for the corner infield slot, middle infield and fifth outfielder. Of course several pitchers are competing for the fifth spot in the rotation. It's early of course but there are spirited competitions going on at each of these positions.
Thanatos: What position will be the focus of the Draft this year?
Coonelly: Thanatos, We do not target any particular position in the Draft based on our perceived need. Instead, our guiding principle for our scouts is to select the best player available for each and every one of our selections. Often, it may appear that we have targeted a position based on our selections but that has always been a result of the strength of the Draft. For instance, last year we selected a large number of high school right-handed pitchers because that was the strength of last year's Draft, particularly in the positions we selected.
marmari: I'm perplexed regarding Neil Huntington's comment recently that the Pirates couldn't reasonably compete for everyday players or middle rotation pitchers on the open market. Don't Lyle Overbay and Kevin Correia fit that profile?
Coonelly: Marmari, Lyle Overbay and Kevin Correia would certainly qualify as everyday players or starters and you are correct that we secured each in the free agent market. I think that Neal's point was that we need to develop internally top-of-the-rotation starters and middle-of- the-order bats. Players like Jameson Taillon and Pedro Alvarez are players we need to develop internally rather than looking to fill those types of positions through the free agent market.
Bucsfan: Mr. Coonelly, If the injury to Joe Beimel is more than what it seems, and Scott Olsen is already not doing all baseball-related activities, are you comfortable with Daniel Moskos and whomever in the lefthanded reliever position?
Coonelly: Bucsfan, we do not believe the injury to Joe will keep him from competing this spring. Scott Olsen is performing baseball activities and has already thrown several bullpens. Scott seems to be well on his way to pitching in games, possibly as early as next week. Daniel Moskos and Tony Watson are two young exciting left hand arms who are in camp and competing for a spot in the bullpen. It's early, but both have looked strong. Brian Burres is also a veteran lefthander who can pitch out of the pen if he is not in the starting rotation.
rebelee: What is the status of Alex Presley going into the season?
Coonelly: Rebelee, Alex Presley, who had an outstanding year last year in Altoona and Indy is in camp and competing for the fifth outfield spot. Alex can play all three outfield positions and provides speed off the bench.
Thanatos: Where will Tony Sanchez start? How long until he's in Pittsburgh?
Coonelly: Tony was slated to move up to Altoona last year before he broke his jaw and needed to be shut down. Kyle Stark and his development staff has not made any assignments as of yet, but it is likely that Tony will start the year in Altoona. He has been in big league camp for a second year this spring and is in great shape and looks more comfortable than ever.
bucs777: Would the presence of Pedro Alvarez keep us from drafting Anthony Rendon?
Coonelly: No. As I indicated earlier, we will select the best player available in the first round and in every round that follows. If Anthony Rendon is viewed as the best player in the Draft, he will be the first selection in the 2011 Draft.
Coonelly: Let's take one more question.
marmari: Have there been or will there be discussions on revamping or removing the Draft pick compensation process?
Coonelly: The Commissioner's Office and the Players Association will be commencing negotiations on a new collective bargaining agreement shortly and I am confident that the Draft will be a topic of their discussions. One issue that I'm sure they will address is the number of compensation picks that are granted between the first and second rounds. It is difficult for the Draft to serve its original purpose when the team selecting first does not select second until the 62nd selection as it appears we will this year. I'm sure this is an issue that the parties will tackle in collective bargaining.
Coonelly: Thanks for all the great questions everyone.
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.