This is our final NL Central Questions & Answers and this time Pat Lackey from Where Have You Gone Andy Van Slyke answers our questions.
Obstruced View: Neal Huntington – yea or nay?
WHYGAVS: I think Huntington's done a pretty good job thus far for the Pirates; far better than his two predecessors at the very least. The Pirates last three drafts look about as good as three drafts can without the benefit of time to properly evaluate the players and while he didn't hit a home run on his highest profile trade (the Jason Bay deal), he's swung some some nice lower profile moves to bring in guys like Evan Meek and Joel Hanrahan and James McDonald and a few minor leaguers (Bryan Morris and Jeff Locke, to name two) heading towards the Majors. The focus has been mostly on rebuilding from the bottom up and I think that that's where it should be, so it doesn't really bother me that much that his moves to strengthen the big league club in the interim have flopped a bit.
WHYGAVS: I think that they will. I don't know if I can say for certain that the Pirates have what the Rays or even the Reds or Brewers have, but I do think that the young talent they have right now will eventually get them at least a winning season in the next three or four years. Obviously I hope that the team can be more than that, but I think we'll know more after this season is over.
Obstruced View: I remember sometime in the last 3 to 6 years that the Pirates rotation was eventually going to stand out because of their prospects. What happened and is a concern for the future?
WHYGAVS: Well, that was a pretty short-lived hoped. Guys like Zach Duke and Paul Maholm and Ian Snell and Tom Gorzelanny all had nice Pirate debuts and the hope was that maybe they had a higher ceiling than people initially thought, but as it turned out, they didn't. But concerning for the future? They were drafted and developed entirely by a front office that's no longer in charge and the new front office has done it's best to flush the system with new pitching talent, so I don't really think it's applicable here.
Obstruced View: The 2010 team posted one of the worst records in Pirates history and the recent history has been miserable. What does the organization have to do to contend on an annual basis?
WHYGAVS: They have to do what Tampa has done; draft consistently well, recognize and acquire under-valued talent in other systems, and keep doing it year after year after year so that when players hit free agency and they can't afford them, more players are ready to take their place. It sounds easy, but it's a heck of a challenge.
Obstruced View: Are the Pirates going to contend? What has to happen for them to be in that position? Can they even be in that position?
WHYGAVS: Well, they certainly won't this year. What they really need for it to happen in the near future is for Andrew McCutchen, Jose Tabata, Pedro Alvarez, and Neil Walker to keep improving, for James McDonald, Charlie Morton, and at least one or two minor leaguers from the group of Rudy Owens, Bryan Morris, Jeff Locke, and Justin Wilson to make big strides forward to form a good rotation, and to make a couple more good draft picks to supplement all that talent with players that might help before they start hitting free agency. There's a lot that has to go right, but for the first time in a long while it at least doesn't seem impossible.
Obstruced View: How do you think the NL Central ends up 2011?
WHYGAVS: I think it's pretty clear that the Pirates and Astros will be at the bottom of the division and the Reds and Brewers and Cardinals will be at the top in some order (I'd say in that order right now, but any of the three could win the division) and I see the Cubs as kind of a wild card that could end up close to either the top or the bottom, depending on how a bunch of things shake out for them.