State of the Expansion Franchise: Destin

Last in a five-part series reflecting on our 2012 expansion.

There’s no truth to the rumor that at the Destin Beach Bums’ home stadium, turnstiles have been replaced with revolving doors.

Even though that would be appropriate for the expansion franchise that has seen more turnover than any other, both on the field and in the front office.

Debuting in 2012 under GM Rick Lackey as the English Pigdogs, the club has wheeled and dealed and cut with reckless abandon, and now sports just three remaining players out of 40 who were part of the organization prior to it playing its first game less than three years ago.

Now known as the Destin Beach Bums, the club remains in search of an identity as it is reshaped yet again under new manager Mark Gergel, while lurking on the fringe of playoff contention.

Freddie Freeman

Freddie Freeman

Destin Beach Bums Roster Evolution

Players acquired pre-2012: 40
Players dealt away: 17
Players cut: 20
Still Pigdogs/Beach Bums: 3  — OF John Jay, SS J.J. Hardy, P Nathan Eovaldi.

2014 record: 59-61 (.492)
2013 record: 62-98 (.388)
2012 record: 62-98 (.388)

Face of the franchise: Freddie Freeman

Fast Fact: An abysmal record within its division — 10-25 — doesn’t bode well for a playoff bid with 25 games still to play against North clubs. Destin is 49-36 (.576) outside the division.

After back-to-back 62-win seasons, Destin shocked the league with its fast start out of the gate this year, only to fall back as the season wore on. While it is currently in last place in the North Division, it is only four games out of first place and four games out of a wild-card berth with 40 to play.

My immediate goal upon taking over English was to try to get the team to the .500 level in 2014,” said Mark. “I am fairly competitive in nature and felt that as a newbie my love for Strat might waver if I continuously took a pounding in every series.”

The Beach Bums made a huge splash in that regard at the draft, trading the No. 1 overall pick, and passing up a shot at Jose Fernandez or Yasiel Puig, to Hickory, primarily for third baseman Evan Longoria and the No. 4 overall pick, which was used for Gerrit Cole. But both Longoria and Cole are having middling years.

The three players who have survived all three seasons with the franchise are not exactly major contributors to this year’s Destin club, even though OF John Jay (.687 OPS) and SS J.J. Hardy (.573 OPS) play regularly, and P Nathan Eovaldi — chosen in the last round of 2012 — has a 3.86 ERA in 12 starts.

It’s Freddie Freeman instead who has emerged as the face of the franchise, hitting .328 (fifth in the league) with a .900 OPS, and having a great season in real life too (.860 OPS).  The Beach Bums are able to flank him with Yoenis Cespedes and Victor Martinez, in addition to Longoria.

And next year the BBs will have speedster Dee Gordon (58 steals) and Jay, suddenly an on-base machine (.390 OBP) ahead of that meat.

The pitching staff for next year also looks solid, with an ace in Jeff Samardzija (1.11 WHIP), followed by Chris Tillman, having a breakout year (1.22 WHIP), Mike Leake (1.23) and Eovaldi (1.28). All four of those guys will be flirting with 200 innings. And the fifth spot can be shared among Tim Lincecum, Zack Wheeler and Cole.

“My trading strategy has been to try to stockpile some young starting pitching and hope a few of these boys take their game to the next level,” Mark said, referring to 2014 acquisitions Wheeler, Carlos Martinez and Ryan Cook. “I’ve got a better nucleus of arms heading into 2015 and hopefully a strong draft and a few trades can make Destin a perennial playoff contender starting in 2015.”

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