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Ask BD: Who will start at catcher next season, and how excited should we get about the low minors?

Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Let's do this. Keep your questions coming.

PedroPower: Assuming the Bucs don't re-sign Russell Martin, Francisco Liriano or Edinson Volquez, do you see them making a strong run at Brandon McCarthy, Brett Anderson or Jason Hammel?

If Liriano is too expensive for the Pirates, McCarthy probably will be too. Steve Adams of MLBTR predicted McCarthy would get three years and $36 million. He shouldn't be that undervalued after his performance with the Yankees. Hammel is a decent enough pitcher who could be somewhere near the Pirates' price range, but he doesn't fit the Pirates' preferred ground-ball profile. I could definitely see the Bucs pursuing Anderson.

IA Pirates Fan: Let’s say that Elias Diaz has an excellent spring training, while Tony Sanchez and Chris Stewart are just "meh." Bring Elias Diaz north with the big club to be the regular starter?

PedroPower: What are chances the Pirates trade for a veteran catcher to bridge to 2016? Vlad theorized someone like Yasmani Grandal. Do you see chances as greater than or less than 20% that Neal Huntington gets a deal done sometime over winter?

I'll address both questions at once. If you haven't read Travis Sawchik's piece on Chris Stewart as an interim starting catcher, you should, not only because Sawchik makes a compelling case, but because it's likely to be close to the way the Pirates are thinking. The gist is that other than Martin, the free agent catching class is very poor, and Stewart saves a bunch of runs with his pitch framing. So if you're not re-signing Martin, there isn't necessarily much point in signing someone else.

The trade market might present clearer ways for the Pirates to upgrade. I especially like the Grandal idea, depending on what the Padres want in return. Grandal is a good framer, and he's younger and a better hitter than Stewart. Another commenter mentioned John Jaso and Carlos Ruiz. Jaso isn't the best defensively and is only one year from free agency. He is, however, a terrific hitter, and he's left-handed, which is an asset for a catcher because it's convenient to just platoon him as part of the usual limitations on a catcher's workload. Ruiz is still a decent hitter and a strong defender, although I'm not sure how much the Pirates should want to pay for a catcher who will be 36 in January.

As for Elias Diaz, his timeline probably won't be determined by his spring training performance. He hasn't played much for Indianapolis. The Pirates generally like prospects to get a few months of Triple-A time, and I can't imagine that wouldn't be the case for someone who plays the most complicated defensive position on the field.

BMcFerren: When Martin goes, will there be any reinvestment in the starting lineup?

Heh -- "when." Anyway, my guess is probably not. At what position would the Pirates reinvest? Unless it's someone like Ruiz, spending much money at the catcher position would be silly if Martin isn't coming back. The Pirates have few needs at most of the other positions on the diamond, and as I mention in my upcoming preview of the Pirates' offseason for MLBTR, many of the top hitters on this year's weak free agent class are outfielders or third basemen, and the Pirates definitely don't need starters at those positions. They could sign Gregory Polanco to an extension this offseason, which is "reinvestment" in a sense, but based on the way pre-free-agency extensions are typically structured, Polanco wouldn't cost the Pirates much next year even if the Bucs signed him through 2022 or something. If Martin leaves and the Pirates do spend a significant amount, my guess is that it will be in the rotation.

PedroPower: Should I be excited about John Sever, who put up some incredible numbers this year, or do you think this is most likely a result of being more experienced than competition?

Anytime a pitcher strikes out 14 batters per nine innings in a significant sample at any level, as Sever did in his pro debut, you should take note. But keep in mind that this was in Bristol. Short-season statistics can often lead us astray, and it seemed to me, from my extremely limited time in Bristol, that the Appalachian League really is more like the GCL than the New York - Penn League.

In the NYPL, which is one notch higher, the players are mostly recent college draftees who basically look like men, or at least guys who have had a couple years of experience in US professional leagues. In the Appy League, many players haven't grown into their bodies and haven't had as much professional instruction. The average age of NYPL hitters this year was 21.0; in the Appy League, it was 20.2. That doesn't sound like a huge difference, but it is. Here's what Bristol manager Edgar Varela said when I asked him about Sever in July:

He's a college kid, mature. He's got a good arm -- left-handed, good arm, good secondary pitches, and knows how to pitch. He learned how to pitch in college, it looks like.

From the context of the conversation, Varela seemed to be suggesting that college draftees, who usually arrive in the pros as baseball players, rather than just toolsy projects -- have a big edge in the lower minors. Let's see how Sever does in West Virginia next year.