There are three keys to a small market team’s long-term success:
1. They need to draft well. It all starts with the draft. Every now and then they need to hit a homerun with their first round pick .
2. They need to get back quality players when they trade their star players. This might be the most important. If a team trades one of their star players, the players they get in return have to pan out.
If a small market team gets three players for one star player and none of those players contribute – then that team is just spinning their wheels.
3. They need some luck. Listen, every team needs some luck in order to win. But a small market team even more so.
They need that 11th round draft pick to pan out (Corey Hart, Brewers) or they need that throw-in in a trade to become a solid contributor (Jason Bartlett, Rays).
Now as we all know, the Pittsburgh Pirates for the last 17 years haven’t done any of the above. For the most part they have been a terrible drafting team (look at their first round picks for the last 20 years, just terrible), they have very rarely gotten quality back for their star players (Brian Giles for Jason Bay being an exception), and they have been very unlucky.
Sooner or later, you would think the Pirates luck has to change. Well, I think in terms of drafting – it has. In 2005, the Pirates drafted OF Andrew McCutchen with the 11th pick in the first round of the draft. Four years later and now firmly entrenched as the starting centerfielder for the Pirates, Andrew McCutchen as star written all over him.
I know McCutchen is only 246 AB’s into his major-league career, but I like everything about this kid. He can run, he can hit, he can hit for power (hit three HR’s in one game already this year), and he can play defense.
McCutchen has the look of one of those players that can beat you in four or five different ways. Those players don’t come around too often.
Last night against the Colorado Rockies was a perfect example. Though McCutchen only got one hit, he helped the Pirates beat the Rockies with his eyes and his legs. He walked three times, saw 25 pitches (most in the game), scored three runs, and swiped three bases last night. If he is not hitting homeruns, he is beating a team in other ways.
McCutchen is batting .293 with seven HR’s, 32 RBI, 43 RBI, and a .359 OBP in 59 games. After all these years it looks like the Pirates have finally found their franchise player.