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Ask Bucs Dugout: Who should the Pirates draft, and will the Bucs release Corey Hart?

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Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Thanks, all, for your questions. Here's the second round of answers.

Pton16: Do you see any of Nick Kingham, Tyler Glasnow or Jameson Taillon playing a David Price-esque role coming out of the bullpen for the Bucs this season?

Probably not, although if I were in charge, I might consider doing that with Glasnow. I wondered if the Pirates might consider that with Gerrit Cole in 2012, and they didn't. The Bucs seem to prioritize developing their starters as starters. And it sounds pretty likely that Kingham won't be available then anyway.

McCutchenIsTheTruth: Who do you want the Pirates to draft, or more precisely, from what demographic do you want their first pick to be from? Not looking for a specific name, but more of a general statement. Choices include picking from the fairly generic quartet of college hitter, college pitcher, prep hitter, prep pitcher. If you want go to more detailed, you could pick "a college bat who’s more about offense than any defense of value" or "a super raw, ultra high upside prep athlete" etc. if you so wish. Assume for purposes of discussion that the talent level for each of these general categories are close (or exact if you insist) so don’t cop out!

In general, I'll take college position players first, high school position players second, college arms third, and high school arms fourth. I would also prioritize guys who can mash. The Cubs' recent strategy of grabbing college bats like Kris Bryant and Kyle Schwarber at the top of the draft has worked well so far, and that's a good template. The Pirates in particular have proven that they can acquire ground-ball pitchers fairly cheaply and make them look good with catchers who can frame pitches (who are also still cheap) and defensive shifting (which costs nothing). One player type they generally can't get off the scrap heap is guys who can really hit (as Corey Hart's case seemingly demonstrates -- see below).

With the Pirates' top pick (No. 19) in this particular draft, I don't know. There are a bunch of interesting outfielders who could potentially last until the Bucs' selection (like Nick Plummer, Ian Happ, Trenton Clark, Garrett Whitley and Andrew Benintendi, although it's looking increasingly likely that Benintendi won't fall that far), so if I had to pick a player group most likely to give the Pirates good value for the No. 19 pick, it would probably be outfielders. That might not be what people want to hear, since the Bucs already have a ton of outfield talent, but I think that's the best answer.

There also isn't a ton of agreement about players in this draft in general, so I could see the Pirates grabbing someone like Brady Aiken in the first round and loading up on even more pitching later. Aiken is, of course, hurt, and he's basically a prep arm, but he would give the Pirates upside that might otherwise be hard to come by.

Long4Willie: Are the Pirates trying to build up Mark Melancon’s saves in order to trade him? Will other teams be fooled or be interested as saves are saves as long as you continue getting them?

I doubt the Pirates are doing that, and I don't think anyone would be fooled. This isn't 2003. The few teams who even might highly value a stat like saves are either not performing all that well (Phillies, Braves, Rockies, Diamondbacks), or already have an established closer (Twins) or already have a bunch of potential closers (Royals). (Side note: The Royals bullpen's performance this year has been really weird, even considering Kansas City's spectacular defense.) And even then, those teams would surely actually watch Melancon pitch before trading for him.

PghFan987: If NH could say "psych" regarding the Josh Harrison extension, would he?

I think so. The gamble made sense at the time, but it wasn't a slam-dunk move, and Harrison's track record is weird enough that six weeks of bad play should make at least some difference to his long-term outlook. Also, Harrison was under team control through 2017 anyway. Add those factors, and I think you have a player you shouldn't extend. Joshua Choudhury disagrees, however.

BMcFerren: Does Harrison’s contract give the Pirates Jose Tabata-like flexibility on the AAA-Indy express?

Well, that might be a bit premature. Harrison isn't Tabata (and even Tabata's case is complicated now -- see below). Harrison was great just last year. The effect of his contract on his value -- at least as of right this second -- was to turn him from a big asset into somewhat less of an asset. That is, he's still an asset. His contract isn't a millstone. If the Pirates tried to sneak him through waivers, I'm sure he'd be claimed.

BMcFerren: Is Alen Hanson pushing Jordy Mercer for a job on the 25-man roster?

No, and not just because Hanson has only played second base this season. Hanson currently has a .688 OPS. He hasn't had an OPS above .755 in a full season since 2012. Hanson is only 22, so there's certainly time for him to improve, but mostly what he has going for him are youth and tools. The performance isn't there, and hasn't been since he was in Class A.

PedroPower: Is Corey Hart still on the roster at the All-Star break?

I doubt it. The Pirates pulled the plug on Nate McLouth, a reserve outfielder in a similar career situation, after 57 plate appearances in 2012. I see no reason Hart should be any different. Neal Huntington's recent comments about Tabata suggest that the Pirates don't feel he's much of an option right now, but Tabata does have a .422 OBP at Indianapolis. He could easily take Hart's place on the roster, especially since Sean Rodriguez can soak up at-bats at first base when the Pirates face lefties. I hate to overreact to Hart's 36 bad plate appearances, but from the beginning, his signing was a low-risk upside play, and the early returns suggest the Bucs aren't going to get much out of it.