To help prime us for our current series against the Pirates, I sat down with one of the best Pirates bloggers around, Pat Lackey, from Where Have You Gone Andy Van Slyke?
The Nats Blog: How do you feel about the Pirates number two overall pick in today's draft?
WHYGAVS: I like it a lot. Jameson Taillon was pretty much universally agreed to be the number two talent behind Harper, as 6'7" high schoolers with mid-90s fastballs and four good pitches are pretty rare. It's a big risk and he'll require a big bonus, but the Pirates have to get as much talent as they can in the draft and Taillon is just the sort of big-ticket arm that the system can use.
The Nats Blog: A year ago next month the Nats and Pirates swapped Lastings Milliedge and Joel Hanrahan for Nyjer Morgan and Sean Burnett, at this point are you happy with what you've got for what you gave up?
WHYGAVS: Lastings Milledge has struggled a lot at the plate with the Pirates, but honestly, I'm still pretty happy with the trade. Morgan was never going to be worth more than he was last July and the Pirates already have a center fielder that's much better than he is in Andrew McCutchen. I'm disappointed Milledge hasn't panned out, but it was a risk worth taking. With the relievers, I know Burnett's been pretty good for the Nats, but Hanrahan's been excellent for the Bucs and much better than his ERA has indicated.
The Nats Blog: Nyjer Morgan had a great second half with Washington last season, but has struggled so far this year. Is this more of the Nyjer we should come to expect moving forward?
WHYGAVS: Nyjer's a great athlete and fast as hell, but he's never really been that good at taking routes to the ball in the outfield (the reason the Pirates had him in left field last year was that he didn't look good at all in center in 2008) or stealing bases, despite his speed. He made some strides in the outfield last year, but I'm not surprised to see his UZR come back to earth a bit this year.
WHYGAVS: I do think he's capable of being a little better at the plate than he's been this year, but he's obviously not a .350 hitter like he was for the Nats last year. He's a great guy and a decent player, but not really a whole lot more than that.
The Nats Blog: What's your take on Matt Capps? He seems to have stretches of greatness followed by stretches of god-awfulness. Any theory for why?
WHYGAVS: Capps doesn't really have any secondary pitches. He throws his fastball pretty hard and he's got great control, but his slider isn't that great and his changeup is pretty much non-existent. He just doesn't have the stuff to be a closer, I don't think, and is probably better served in a seventh and eighth inning role when the manager can control his matchups a little better. When the slider isn't working well, all he's got is a fastball and a flat breaking pitch and he gets hammered. It happened with the Pirates last year and it's happening with the Nats now.
The Nats Blog: When can you see the Pirates being competitive again?
WHYGAVS: If absolutely everything breaks right, they might not be as bad next year as people expect. Jose Tabata and Brad Lincoln join the team tonight and with Andrew McCutchen and Neil Walker already up, Pedro Alvarez waiting in the wings for a homestand (presumably), and guys like Tony Sanchez and Rudy Owens and Bryan Morris rising pretty quickly in High-A and Double-A, the Pirates are going to have a much different, younger look in the next 12 months. It's probably still going to be until around 2012 when all these guys make it and get settled in, but I really do believe that things are getting better quicker than some people might believe.
The Nats Blog: What's up with the Pirates mustaches?
WHYGAVS: The Bucs lost a bunch of games and so they pulled up their socks and all grew mustaches for team unity or good luck or some such thing. Hey, why not?