Thanks for your questions. Keep them coming, and here's the first round of answers.
Pedropower: How should we interpret the steep drop in Mark Melancon's velocity?
Joshua Choudhury is going to cover this in more detail later today, but Melancon's velocity drop is a problem. FanGraphs says his cutter is off by about three miles an hour, and it isn't even categorizing any of his pitches as fastballs anymore. Either he needs to get back on track or the Pirates need to develop some kind of contingency plan. I wondered yesterday why the Pirates brought him into a four-run game, and then a reader pointed out that a four-run game might not be a bad spot for him if he has things to work on. Which made sense, but then it's not clear why the Bucs let him stay in the game after he gave up three runs and put the tying run on base. In any case, I don't want to speculate on the cause of Melancon's velocity drop, but a drop this big isn't one of those small sample size issues that we should just wave away.
Karp62: I believe that putting Jung-Ho Kang on the 25-man to start the year was the right thing to do. He needs to be around MLB-caliber players, see the speed of the game, the way pitchers attack hitters and what areas separate him from a MLB regular. At what point after that will it be smart to send him to AAA for regular at bats and steady playing time? I don’t think it needs to be for more than four to six weeks, but the benefits certainly seem to outweigh any downside to the idea. This isn’t about his results now, just a question about how to help him with the process. I’m thinking you give him the entire month of April in the bigs and let him know it’s not really a demotion, but an opportunity.
I don't know Kang personally, and obviously you'll never get the people best equipped to give you a concrete answer about his development plan to actually give you one. But I think what you propose makes a lot of sense, particularly if Kang doesn't hit right away.
SammyKhalifa: Can you please give us your top 10 countdown on why the Padres were so desperate for a closer that they were willing to take Melvin Upton's $45 million contract?
To be fair, the Padres also got rid of the Carlos Quentin and Cameron Maybin contracts. And Craig Kimbrel isn't just "a closer," he's the best in the business. But what the heck.
10. Totally going to prevent John Hart from winning MLB inter-office rotisserie league
9. Ran out of superfluous corner outfielders to trade for
8. Revives "Upton here, Upton here" jokes
7. Except now one of the Uptons is on the bench, which makes those jokes real knee-slappers
6. Hadn't made an attention-grabbing trade in at least an hour
5. Hadn't traded a top prospect in almost two
4. A.J. Preller's terrible diet a symptom of his inability to delay gratification
3. Part of secret plan to give Dodgers fans back problems
2. Need to compensate for hitting the infield won't provide
I hope that was sufficiently smart-alecky. Preller is clearly smart, and I agree with Jon Daniels that he deserves credit for thinking outside the box with the Padres' strategy, but I don't like the Kimbrel trade, or a lot of what Preller has done these past few months.
Pton16: If Corey Hart continues to rake, what will be the outcome?
It's been six at-bats. I'm not sure we need to worry about that yet. But it doesn't sound like the Pirates will hesitate to find him more playing time. Already he's starting in place of Starling Marte today. Even if no one else struggles, finding 400 plate appearances for Hart shouldn't cut into anyone's playing time too much, since he could conceivably bump Pedro Alvarez or any of the Bucs' three starting outfielders. Even if Andrew McCutchen needs a day off, the Pirates could slide Marte into center and have Hart play one of the corners.
Pittsburgh_Slim: Chance that Cole Hamels is in a Pirate uniform by the end of the year, assuming Philly eats a ton of salary?
Minimal, in my opinion. The Phillies likely aren't going to eat a ton of salary, and nor should they, unless it dramatically increases the prospect haul they get back. If the Bucs trade for Hamels and have the Phillies take on, say, $50 million, that's $50 million in extra talent the Pirates will have to give up. And for obvious reasons, I don't think the Pirates will want to take on Hamels' contract themselves, either.