Ask Bucs Dugout: Polanco, prospects, the Pirates' offseason

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Here's the first round of answers to your questions. I'll do another round later this week.

DG Lewis: I was going to make some joke question about Polanco. But I just couldn’t.

The timing of Gregory Polanco's promotion never should have been an issue, except in the sense that it's unfortunate that MLB's rules make it rational for teams to keep helpful players in the minors. It's reached the point now, though, where there's no serious case for promoting Polanco at all. All the Pirates have to do is wait three to four weeks. If Polanco turns out to be a good player and they promote him now, they might end up paying $10 million or more for a rookie's first four weeks in the big leagues. That prorates to something like $60 million or more for a season. I'm all for the Pirates spending more money. That they didn't re-sign A.J. Burnett, or make some other serious effort to add impact talent this offseason, was extremely disappointing. But there's a way to spend. Promoting Polanco and letting him get four years of arbitration isn't it.

Bourgmic: What is your favorite baseball movie?

Sugar.

Aj94: If you didn’t have to worry about money complications, what would your Pirates lineup be right now with their AAA and MLB roster as your basis?

I'm guessing you're also not interested in practical considerations like Russell Martin not being completely healthy, or Andrew McCutchen being the team's official center fielder. Against righties (and I'm not going to worry about a batting order):

C Russell Martin
1B Ike Davis
2B Neil Walker
SS Jordy Mercer
3B Pedro Alvarez
LF Andrew McCutchen
CF Starling Marte
RF Gregory Polanco
P Gerrit Cole

Against lefties, the same lineup, but with Gaby Sanchez in Davis' place. Sorry that's not very creative. Walker and Alvarez have both hit lefties well in very small samples this season. I'm not sure whether to make anything of that. Alvarez has a long track record of struggling to hit for average or power against lefties, however, and is past the point in his career where he ought to be allowed to struggle against lefties just because. I toyed with a couple of lineups that had Josh Harrison starting at second or third against lefties, and in general that's how I would find at bats for him.

Battlingbucs: What if any changes would you like to see implemented in regard to Super 2 status and service time in general?

I'm not sure. You can replace the system with a different one, but then GMs will just manipulate that. For example, if you eliminate Super Two eligibility, then you'll probably just see fewer top prospects promoted at the very beginnings and ends of seasons, rather than being held back in late April and May.

One possibility might be to have free agency eligibility determined not by big-league service time, but by when a player signed his first pro contract, sort of the way Rule 5 Draft eligibility is determined (with different eligibility timelines for players signed at different ages). The downside is that you would likely see more players in the majors before they were ready, although that would probably be less of an issue than it would have been 15 years ago, when you had GMs like Cam Bonifay bringing up players like Aramis Ramirez and Jose Guillen who clearly needed another year or two in the minors. Most of today's GMs would recognize that they would be shooting their organizations in the feet by promoting promising players too ambitiously, but pressure from one-marshmallow fans and writers would probably be even greater than it is now, with the clock ticking toward free agency even for minor leaguers.

KentuckyPirate: When (if ever) will we see a team hire a "stats geek" as manager? GM’s use advanced stats to build teams; when will we get a guy using them in games so as not to hurt his team's odds of winning through indefensible strategic decisions based solely on a guy’s "guy?"

Joe Maddon is basically a "stats geek," isn't he? I get what you're asking, but my offhand impression is that managers are much better at this tactical stuff than they were even five years ago. Big league locker rooms are conservative institutions, and these changes probably needed to occur slowly. But they are happening.

It's also worth keeping in mind that managers know more about their players than we do, and some decisions aren't as irrational as they seem. Maybe that lefty specialist who would be perfect for a given situation is feeling under the weather, or maybe he's been getting down on himself in the locker room. We don't always know. That's not to say managers never make awful decisions, only that our view isn't always as clear as we imagine it to be.

BattlingBucs: It's early, but how do you view the current progression of the Pirates minor league system as a whole? What has been the biggest surprise and disappointment for you?

It hasn't been a strong season for the farm system. Jameson Taillon, Tyler Glasnow, Austin Meadows, Luis Heredia, Barrett Barnes and Clay Holmes have all spent at least some time on the shelf, and Reese McGuire and Harold Ramirez haven't hit much. Not many players have stepped up to take their places. There's a ton of attrition in the minors, and of course there's still lots of talent in the Pirates' farm system, but it would have been nice to see it get off to a better start than this. Gregory Polanco looks like an even better prospect than he did entering the season, though, which is an enormous positive, and much of the Indianapolis roster has looked very good -- Andrew Lambo, Chris Dickerson, Casey Sadler, Jake Brigham and Vance Worley have all played very well so far. Those players probably won't have a huge impact on the Pirates' long-term fortunes, but it's nice to have depth. Josh Bell and Alen Hanson have hit pretty well so far, too.

DL Da Burghcast: I know we don't have access to the Pirates' books, but considering that obvious, massive downgrades were made at RF, 1B and SP, how upset should we be with the front office and ownership? Granted, none of us wanted to block Polanco, but didn’t we see most of these problems coming? Our offseason couldn’t have gone any worse, right?

It was wretched. What happened was consistent with the hypothesis that Neal Huntington just didn't have much to spend. He may have gotten too ambitious in trying to get James Loney and Josh Johnson rather than A.J. Burnett, and that's probably partially on him, but the real problem is likely that ownership didn't open its checkbook. It's hard to blast the Pirates for "downgrading" at right field when they only had Marlon Byrd for a month anyway, and at first base, I think the Pirates are better served with Ike Davis and Gaby Sanchez at first than they were with Justin Morneau. But there's no question that this year's rotation is much worse, and there's no evidence that the Pirates were willing to spend an appropriate amount following the team's best season in two decades. That's on Bob Nutting. Again, I don't know if the money just wasn't available or if the Pirates just didn't want to spend it, but it's disappointing either way.

The Warning Track: Pirate most deserving of a space on the NL All-Star team (at a guess there won’t be more than one this time): Neil Walker?

Gregory Polanco! No, just kidding. Andrew McCutchen. That's an easy one.

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