Thanks, all, for your questions. Feel free to keep them coming. Here’s the first round of answers.
mpowerOR: Does Jared Hughes make the Pirates’ Opening Day roster? If so, why?
Yes, he does. That decision was effectively made when the Pirates tendered him a contract for the 2017 season. He’s played almost five years in the big leagues now, so the Pirates probably aren’t going to option him to make room for someone else. Drew Hutchison aside, that doesn’t happen much, because the Pirates and all other clubs tend to show deference to veterans. (They might stash a veteran in Indianapolis if he’s on a minor-league contract, but not if he has four-plus years of service time and is already in his arbitration seasons.) They had opportunities to option Hughes last season, and they didn’t.
Personally, I thought Hughes should have been non-tendered, but maybe the Pirates see reasons for optimism there that I don’t. Obviously, his ground-ball rate is still outstanding, although it’s getting harder to see how that’s more important than the many things he did poorly last season.
I don’t imagine, by the way, that Hughes’ spring training performances will change the Pirates’ outlook, unless they’re really disastrous. I’m not sure if his pitching so far this spring had anything to do with your question.
Scott Gigliotti: Was there anything else this front office could’ve done to prevent last year’s mess at the back end of the rotation? They have what appears to be a solid 1-3 this year, but I’m concerned about history repeating itself in the starting rotation.
Yes, they could have signed someone who wasn’t Ryan Vogelsong to provide rotation depth. Not that the Pirates’ rotation this year is perfect, but I’m a lot more confident in it heading into this season than I was last year. Ivan Nova is obviously a much better (re-) addition than Vogelsong was, and at Chad Kuhl, Steven Brault and Tyler Glasnow (and maybe Hutchison and Trevor Williams, too) are all more interesting than Jeff Locke was. And, of course, a lot of the Pirates’ problems last year stemmed from them getting way less than they should have from Francisco Liriano and Gerrit Cole.
JoeBagOfDonuts: Will Pedro Alvarez play in Japan this year?
I haven’t heard rumors to that effect, but it would make sense. MLB clubs don’t seem to have much interest in him, and I imagine a proven MLB power hitter would be very marketable in Japan. Chris Carter was reportedly thinking about heading to Japan before signing with the Yankees, and I can see why Alvarez would if things don’t change for him. One potential reason he might not is that he’s mostly been an extreme fastball hitter throughout his career, and Japanese pitchers would surely feed him an intense diet of offspeed stuff. But he fared much better against non-fastballs last year than he had in the past, so who knows.
Star(ling) Power: If the USA actually had a 25-man filled with its best 25 players (i.e. Clayton Kershaw, Mookie Betts, Mike Trout, etc.) could any other country come close to competing with that?
No, although before our American hearts swell with pride over that, it’s worth noting that baseball was invented in this country and that it’s by far the most populous country where baseball is widely played. The US has 30 times more people than the Dominican Republic.
IAPiratesFan: How encouraging do you find the Pirates’ spring training W-L record so far?
I don’t even know what it is. I don’t look at it.
SammyKhalifa: Adam Frazier and Jose Osuna ... all they do is hit.
Yeah, they remind me of Matt Hague.
IsIt2015Yet: Could Jose Osuna someday be a starter?
He doesn’t project as a good one. Steamer, for example, guesses he’ll hit .253/.295/.394 this year. It wouldn’t be a total shock if a 24-year-old were to suddenly set his career on a different path, but we should probably wait for a couple months of great Triple-A performances before we worry too much about it. He’s had 20 spring training plate appearances to this point.
ManhattanBucsFan: Do you think Wilbur Cooper should be in the Hall of Fame?
I’m no expert on translating century-old statistics, but no. Great pitcher, but by stats like WAR he’s pretty significantly short. Still the best West Virginia-born pitcher of all time, though.