After the “Going to Bat for Vermont Farmers” program was over, I had the opportunity to ask Neal Huntington some questions. Here are some notables..
- When asked if Hanrahan might be traded given the ridiculous Papelbon contract, Huntington replied with the standard ‘I’ve been told to consider everything’ statement. He clarified a bit by saying that if the market holds, if Madson signs a contract a little less than Papelbon’s, a Hanrahan trade might be more do-able/attractive.
- The Rod Barajas signing was as much for veteran presence as on-field performance. Huntington spoke to the fragmentation of the team down the stretch last year. With all the injuries, the AAA players seemed to be focused more on not getting sent back down than winning games. Huntington described this as a normal response to being called up, but when so much of your team is in this place it’s a recipe for disaster. The Pirates need a couple solid players that have been around the block.
- That said, he’s looking for more leadership from Neil Walker.
- Huntington noted that he doesn’t want to place too much on any one player, but the key to next year’s success lies squarely on Pedro Alvarez- his performance specifically, or the quality of the contingency plan should he underperform again.
- Starling Marte’s skills deviate from Andrew McCutchens is a couple important ways. McCutchen had more power at the same age. Marte’s defense is better than McCutchen’s- right now. Marte struggles with plate discipline which could slow things as he moves through the system. Marte’s ETA is 2013 but that could be reasonably delayed by some anticipated struggles with AAA pitching. Huntington described the 34-year old pitcher with the 81 mph slider on the edge as a tough next step for Marte. When asked about McCutchen moving to a corner to accommodate Marte’s call-up, Huntington laughed and suggested that “you tell him that.”
- In a follow-up to the question about Marte’s ETA, Huntington said that Gerrit Cole is “another story”, implying that he may come up earlier. Earlier than 2013 is 2012. Hmm… He said Cole was trying to throw “147” at the Rising Stars game.
- In terms of pitcher development, Huntington said they look to prepare guys for “Major League success not, single-A success.” The example he gave was Jameson Taillon. He doesn’t want Taillon striking out a bunch of kids on breaking stuff. He’d rather Taillon work on fastball control rather than making unpolished hitters look bad.
- There are four guys in the system that hit 100 mph on the gun.
- When asked if the Pirates were in play for Yoenis Cespedes, Huntington simply replied with, “no.”
Overall, Huntington exuded confidence in the farm system and uncertainty about the 2012 season. He clearly has a specific plan that centers on amateur talent and player development. That may sound obvious, but the money invested and the recent results add some encouraging weight to the case that the team is moving in the right direction.
Oh, and he also stepped away briefly to kiss his elderly mother goodbye…