The Pittsburgh Pirates are the first team to reach 50 wins in 2013 and though they have a ludicrously long streak of finishing seasons under .500, this is surely the year it will be washed out. The Pirates are in this position in part from smart team and franchise management from Neal Huntington. Since he’s taken over in 2007, the Bucs’ stock has consistently risen and they’re combining their drafted prospects with a mix of veterans acquired via trades and free agency to become the next “it” team in baseball. Using Andrew McCutchen as the anchor and Pedro Alvarez and Neil Walker to help build their foundation, Pittsburgh is finally expected to end a season with a winning record. We’ve seen this formula over the past decade with the Rays and even the Orioles (though I think the O’s success is attributed strictly to Buck Showalter changing the culture of the team). Now some other smaller-market and long-struggling teams are trying to follow suit with youth movements.
Teams who see success with this plan tend to field veterans and slowly work the rookies into the lineup as the seasons go on. Tampa Bay called up Evan Longoria in 2008, who along with Carl Crawford and Ben Zobrist were the foundation with which they would build a winning franchise. Two years later Desmond Jennings was called up to the majors and the offense was up and running. The Rays combined defensively skilled veterans like Sam Fuld and Akinori Iwamura with the up-and-coming hitters to put together a contending offense. Pitching should not be overlooked as the Rays have brought along David Price, Jeremy Hellickson and are now working on Chris Archer, but Longoria is the face of this franchise.
The Orioles are a similar case but as I stated earlier, most if not all of the credit goes to Buck Showalter for changing the culture of the franchise. The Erik Bedard trade helped them immensely, bringing in Adam Jones and Chris Tillman while dumping a disgruntled starter whose best days were behind him. The trade goes down as one of the best in history for the O’s and the worst for the lowly Mariners. Speaking of Seattle, they along with the Astros, Twins and Marlins have been dipping into the wealth of their respective Minor League systems in an attempt to rebuild and reload with younger players. The M’s have brought up three rookie batters in the last three weeks and with the others will continue to dip into the wealth of their farm systems.
While many teams attempt to copy this pathway to success, the Kansas City Royals are starting to crash and burn. GM Dayton Moore has always preached patience but that was heavily tested after KC decided to trade top prospect Wil Myers for established pitching with the Rays, fueling Tampa Bay’s rise to prominence. The Royals are still in the process of their youth movement but are not getting what they had hoped from Mike Moustakas, Danny Duffy and even Eric Hosmer. It’s too early to tell with draft pick Bubba Starling and along with Myers, they sent Mike Montgomery and Jake Odorizzi to Tampa for James Shields and Wade Davis. Moore should not be allowed to ask fans for patience any more because he obviously doesn’t have any, sending off the franchise’s most-hyped prospect since George Brett for a pair of above-average (at the very best) starting pitchers.