Readers Ask Jake

"Chacon to the rotation? This is ******* terrible! Where’s the pitching depth we have had to wait out the "five year plan" to see?" — JT, Pittsburgh

I have been blasted today with "Why Chacon?" emails. It’s unbelievable. I understand Chacon’s career stats against the Reds makes everyone wonder why he was selected. I understand nobody wants to move him from the pen since he is doing so well there (‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fit it’ one reader so eloquently put it). And I understand even losing with JvB or Bullington would be preferred by almost everyone than Chacon starting.

But as I’ve said over-and-over here, none of us know the true health and condition of our rehab players. JvB says he’s healthy, but that doesn’t mean he has a healthy arm. And let’s be quite blunt – the International League bats this year are about as competitive as high-A ball it seems. McLeary had a sub 3.00 ERA and he was crushed. Rogers comes up with good numbers and, well, you’ll see.

Until one of the Indy starters starts running away with a 1.00 ERA, a 5:1 K/BB rate, or maintains an 80% strand rate, I doubt we’re going to see them anytime soon. The stats won’t translate to Pittsburgh.

I mentioned last week that the timing was right to bring up JvB against the Marlins if he was truly ready to go. You can’t hang him out to dry putting him on the mound at Great American against Dunn, Griffey, and Hatteberg – he’d get crushed, then back to Pittsburgh to face the Padres, then on the road against the Nationals and then Yankees. That’s too much to handle.

Chacon was the right move only because the Pirates gave Perez away, didn’t sign his replacement, and now have broken pieces to fill in with, plus Chacon in a contract year. The real issue is now the bullpen which is very weak with Rogers, Bayliss, and Armas, plus Grabow who does not start innings well. We are in deep, deep do-do.

"Have you heard any more about McCutchen? What’s his problem?" — UL Shadyside

Nope – just that he hit an inside-the-park home run Monday. Still lost in space trying to make adjustments to the league. It’s getting to the point now that I have to start wondering about the value of Gregg Ritchie as our roving hitting instructor.

Ritchie worked for the White Sox at Charlotte for two years and, as you probably know, one of the Pirates owners – Don Beaver – owns the Charlotte franchise. Of course, Ritchie never made it past AAA himself and, while he has been heralded for working with teenagers at his hitting camp, pros don’t seem to be flocking to see him.

I’ll put this out here because I heard it.. I don’t know it personally to be true. When Chris Duffy walked from the game last year there was a rumor that Ritchie was a major part of the the reason (his style, not the man). Evidently Ritchie brought in the ‘hit the ball on the ground’ mentality that Duffy, Morgan, and Davis are now driven with, instead of a more traditional take the ball the other way (‘wait late’ approach). McCutchen seems to be infested too now.

"Tell me one good reason why Cota is back?" — CW Allison Park

Because the only way Tracy can yank Doumit out of the game when he isn’t catching is to have a backup catcher on the roster. I mean, Ryan Doumit is a defensive liability you don’t want in the game late with a one run lead, to be sure.

I personally think Cota is a lot better player than most fans believe. His elbow and shoulder problems last year and this year have put a major crunch on his abilities, but he was due to breakout last year in my book. Plus, I like him calling games much better than Paulino when Cota is asked to be out there everyday. He seems to get a lot more respect on pitches on the black than Paulino does.

"Who is going to be our draft pick, Jake?" — LR Pittsburgh

If you believe all the media, one of the non-Boras hitting prospects will be. I don’t think so myself. Pete Vuckovich had been following pitchers, including Porcello and Brackman. (Edit – the independent scout I got this info from was obviously wrong because Vucky later denied this.)  And now that Boras has Brackman doing a late dance (being shutdown) seemingly to get him dropped in the draft to a team that will cough up bigger $$, I have to wonder.

I think if Wieters or Price fall to us, we would take either of them, Boras client or not. But I doubt that is going to happen. I’ll be pleasantly surprised if the Cubs let Porcello go past and I would expect the Pirates to jump all over him, whether the fans like the idea or not.

A pure high school hitter just isn’t the way the Pirates need to draft. McCutchen was one thing – Vitters is quite another.

Michael Main is a very, very exciting high school pitcher but his signability has been questioned. Cole St. Clair is another possibility.

But I think it will come down to Brackman or Porcello. The Pirates have to continue stocking arms – they don’t have a choice, imo.


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