Results tagged ‘ Tim B ’

Post-Hype Prospect: Tim Beckham

Earlier this week, Tim Beckham, the shortstop prospect for the Tampa Bay Rays was suspended 50 games by Major League Baseball.  Prior to this, Beckham has had an up-and-down ride that started with being the first overall pick in the 2008 draft.

Viewed as the best athlete with the best all-around set of tools who projected as a shortstop with power and speed, Beckham was taken first overall by the Tampa Bay Rays.  Beckham signed for $6.15 million just two weeks after being picked and was assigned to the Princeton Rays, the Rays’ Rookie League affiliate in the Appalachian League.  Beckham did not perform particularly well, putting up a 243/297/345 line and committing 13 errors in 171 chances at shortstop.   Beckham also appeared in two games for the Hudson Valley Renegades (who play in the awesomely named Wappingers Falls, New York; where I once saw Peter Frampton play).

Nevertheless, prospect prognosticators were bullish on Beckham’s future.  Baseball ProspectusKevin Goldstein ranked him #2 in the Rays system (behind David Price) and #15 overall (behind Giancarlo – then Mike – Stanton), and said that:

Beckham is the total package, and he’s drawn multiple comparisons to former MVP Barry Larkin. He has a good approach, excellent bat speed, projects for at least average power, and has plus speed. He’s a fluid defender with range, soft hands, and a strong arm.

Baseball America agreed, ranking Beckham #2 in the Rays system (again behind Price) and #28 overall (behind Matt LaPorta), and went even further, naming Beckham the “Best Hitter for Average” in the Rays system after the 2008 season.

Beckham was assigned to the A-level Bowling Green Hot Rods for the 2009 season and put up a 275/328/389 line while making 43 (!!!) errors at shortstop.  Beckham was dinged accordingly, as Baseball America dropped him to the #6 prospect in the Rays organization and #67 prospect in all of baseball, though they did rate Beckham as having the “Best Infield Arm” in the Rays’ organization.  Kevin Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus dropped Beckham comparably, dropping him to #6 in the Rays system (taking him down from a 5-star to a 4-star prospect), stating that Beckham was “less refined than expected” and “far too aggressive at the plate.”  Goldstein ranked Beckham #56 overall (between Dan Hudson and Scott Sizemore) in his Top 101.

In 2010, Beckham failed to impress for a third straight year, putting up a 256/346/359 line while playing for the Charlotte Stone Crabs of the High A Florida State League.  While Beckham’s walk rate increased, causing an increase in OBP despite a drop in batting average, he struggled at bat and in the field, making 25 errors while playing shortstop.  Though scouts still saw the tools, Beckham was failing to actualize and his prospect status was dropping precipitously.  Baseball Prospectus’ Kevin Goldstein ranked Beckham the #18 prospect in the Rays’ system and took him off the Top 101 entirely.   Baseball America responded in a consistent manner, ranking Beckham #15 in the Rays system and not ranking him in their Top 100.  Some pundits went even further, with Matthew Pouliot of NBC Sports’ Hardball Talk noting that Beckham has not excelled at any point, and that it is becoming less likely that he will play shortstop in the Major Leagues.

2011 started off poorly for Beckham, as the Rays made a deal with the Cubs in January, sending Matt Garza with Zach Rosscup and Fernando Perez to Chicago for Chris Archer, Hak-Ju Lee, Robinson Chirinos, Sam Fuld, and Brandon Guyer.  Hak-Ju Lee, a Korean-born shortstop noted for his defensive prowess, was viewed as the shortstop of the future in the Rays organization as very little was expected from Beckham.  Beckham was assigned to play for the Montgomery Biscuits of the AA Southern League, with Lee playing for the Charlotte Stone Crabs in High A.  For the first time, Beckham produced, putting up a 275/339/395 line across 107 games while showing improved defense at shortstop (despite the 20 errors), earning an August promotion to the AAA Durham Bulls of the International League.  Beckham showed impressive power and a complete lack of plate discipline while playing for the Bulls, putting up a 255/282/462 line.  Tim Beckham as a prospect was back.  Beckham was bumped up to the #7 prospect in the Rays’ system by Baseball America and #9 by Kevin Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus.  Jonathan Mayo of MLB showed faith in Beckham, ranking him the #91 overall prospect, stating that Beckham “[swung] a good bat across two levels,” the “power has started to come,” and he “made very good strides with his defense.”

Lee, however, was more impressive.  After being ranked the #92 prospect by Baseball America and #65 overall by Baseball, Lee put up a robust 318/389/44 line over 97 games at Charlotte with scouts raving about his defense.  When Beckham was promoted to AAA, Lee was promoted to AA, where he struggled with a 190/272/310 line across the final 24 games of the season.  After the season, Lee was ranked the #44 prospect by Baseball America and #65 overall by Baseball Prospectus (additionally, ESPN’s Keith Law rated him #12 and MLB’s Jonathan Mayo rated him #46), putting him solidly on the upper echelon of prospects.

But what would this mean for Tim Beckham’s future?  As it turned out, not a whole lot for the beginning of 2012.  Beckham was sent back to AAA Durham and Lee was sent to AA Charlotte, with both struggling in the first few weeks, with Beckham putting up a putrid 204/290/278 line and Lee putting up a lackluster 243/306/333 line.

On Tuesday evening, Major League Baseball issued the following press release:

The Office of the Commissioner of Baseball announced today that Tampa Bay Rays Minor League shortstop Tim Beckham has received a 50-game suspension after a second violation of the Minor League Drug Prevention and Treatment Program for a drug of abuse.

The suspension of Beckham, who is currently on the roster of the Triple-A Durham Bulls of the International League, will be effective immediately.

What does this mean for Beckham?  The most important thing to mention is that this was not steroids or amphetamines, as Beckham was not taking a drug to improve his performance.  The second thing to mention is that this is Beckham’s second time testing positive for marijuana (as was specifically identified in the Rays’ Press Release).  In the Press Release, Beckham stated:

“I regret that my poor judgment resulted in me letting my teammates and the Tampa Bay Rays organization down.  I take full responsibility for my actions and I will use this experience to refocus my commitment to baseball. I recognize that I am blessed to be able to play baseball for a living. I owe it to my teammates, my family, and to myself to respect the game and the responsibilities that go with playing it as a professional. I am sorry.”

Rays Executive Vice President of Baseball Operations Andrew Friedman said:

“We are very disappointed by Tim’s actions.  Tim possesses great potential, and he must rededicate himself in order to become the person and player we know he can be.”

The actions taken by a team in this situation is often directly related to the player’s status and future.  The options are:

(1)    Nothing.  Allow the player to serve the suspension and return to the team.

(2)   Immediate release.

(3)   Demote or otherwise punish the player.

What will happen to Tim Beckham?  This isn’t a situation similar to the Pittsburgh Drug Trials in the 1980’s, and will not have any substantial impact on professional baseball, or any sport whatsoever.  Judging from Beckham’s contrite commends and Friedman’s statement, the Rays will do nothing.  Beckham will merely serve his suspension and return to his job as the starting shortstop for the Durham Bulls.  A knee-jerk release or other punishment could further stunt Beckham’s development, something teams rarely do to players in which they have invested in excess of $6 million.

What will be Beckham’s future?  Beckham has all of the tools to be either a shortstop in the Major Leagues, a tiny subset of all players at any level in the minors, and is still only 22 years old.  While he may spend time as a shortstop in the Major Leagues, I believe Beckham will never be more than a decent second baseman with a little bit of power and a few stolen bases.  His defense will never be much above average and he may only end up as a utility infielder – hardly the goal of a team picking #1 overall.

Until next time, follow me @HypeProspect.


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