Friday, January 7, 2011

Top 15 Hitters: #6 Tim Beckham

Tim Beckham
6'0" 190 lbs DOB: 1/27/1990
Bats: Right | Throws: Right
2010: Charlotte
Acquired: 2008 Draft, 1st Round

First, a quick plug: There will be a lot more on Tim Beckham in the RP 2011 Prospect Guide, and I'll have an update post about that project coming this afternoon.

I don't know if any prospect has divided Rays fans quite like Tim Beckham. On the one hand, there are some people who are calling him a bust. They're wrong. You want to know what a bust #1 overall shortstop looks like? Check out Matt Bush's batting lines in his first and second full seasons:

2005: .221/.279/.276
2006: .264/.354/.306

That's a bust right there. Beckham's numbers are better than that, of course, plus Bush played a grand total of 0 games at high-A (or above) by the end of 2006, his second full season. Beckham played 123 games at that level in 2010, his second full season. Suffice to say, Tim Beckham is in no danger of being moved to the mound anytime soon.

But then on the other hand, the DRaysBay community prospect list has Beckham at #7. Overall. Here, we have him as the #6 hitter in a pitching-heavy system. I think, for the most part, these people are wrong too (and this is where I tease the Prospect Guide again).

This is the abbreviated version why I'm not as high on him as others: His tools aren't as good as advertised when he was drafted. Look, we knew he wasn't an Alex Rodriguez or Justin Upton-type talent. He didn't have off-the-charts tools like those guys but he was still billed as a potential five-tool shortstop. So let's take a look:

Contact: He hit just .256 in 2010 with 119 strikeouts in 123 games. That was with a .328 BABIP, so it's not like he was simply unlikely. Though to be fair, his percentage of swinging strikeouts did improve from 2009.

Power: His Isolated Slugging (SLG%-BA) fell about .010 from a season ago. After hitting a home run in April and four in May, he blanked the rest of the year. He hit 10 fewer doubles than 2009.

Speed: Admittedly, his speed wasn't being hyped pre-draft. He did steal 22 bases in 2010, though he was also caught 14 times.

Fielding: Here we go. His errors were down but there are still doubts about his ability to play shortstop long-term.

Arm: All reports seem to indicate his arm is above-average.

Stats aren't the best way to go about judging pure tools, of course. But then there are reports like one scout told Matt Eddy of BA: "If he wasn't a $6 million man, he wouldn't have stood out." That report is far from radical. Even assuming that his tools are still there, the stats tell me that he isn't turning them into production.

But he is ranked #6, because there is stuff I like. For one, he played all last season at 20 years old, which is young for the Florida State League. Secondly, there are two points in his favor that the five traditional tools don't pick up on. He made a big stride forward in plate discipline. His walk rate nearly doubled and went from being a weakness to being above-average. The other positive is his makeup, which by all indications seems to be at least plus. He's all the things you want him to be: great teammate, coachable, and perhaps most importantly, a hard worker.

It's hard to see Beckham living up to what you think of a #1 pick potential. But that doesn't make him a bust. I think his 2011 will answer a lot of questions. Were his gains in plate discipline for real? Will he be able to cut down on the strikeouts and (relatedly) improve his batting average? Can he show more in-game power? And of course, how's his defense? The Rays could go either way with Beckham for 2011: A promotion to Montgomery would be the next logical step, but if they slowed him down and started him back at Charlotte, that would make a lot of sense too.


  1. Since I was the guy who started the draysbay poll, I guess I will explain the thought process going on (even though I didn't vote for him yet).

    What makes Beckham a top 10 prospect? First of all, value. At this point, most of the people who voted for him bought into the fact that he will be a major league SS. That is not too far off.He has hit okay and his defense should be okay. Let me talk about eah more in-depth.
    Offense: His offense is not that great. However, you underranked his tools, as he still has plus bat speed and some power potential. You can see the plus bat speed in games, although the power is still only potential and is all about his strong body. Right now, I don't see why .275 with 10 homers is out of the possibiliy. Maybe he could steal 20 bases too.
    Defense: THis is where he gets really underrated. He isn't polished at SS, but his range is fine and his arm is above average. If he could settle down in a sense, he could be an average to above average defender.
    For many at draysbay, he ranks ahead of Vettleson and O'Conner because we believe the risk is far less.

  2. Are there not considerable arm accuracy concerns for SS?

  3. From what I've heard the throwing errors are generally a result of his footwork, which I consider fielding. That is to say I think if he improved the footwork in his fielding, the throwing would sort itself out.

  4. I hope that he should start 2011 season at Charlotte. There's no hurry

  5. what evidence do have that he is a top prospect, numbers do not show it nor does the eye ball test. sorry bust with this guy

  6. If the Garza trade goes through, Hak-Ju Lee is ready for high-A, so he'll be at Charlotte and Beckham will go to Montgomery. Lee was born 11/4/90, so he'll play all of next season as a 20 year-old.

    BA had this to say about his defense: "Managers rated Lee the best defensive shortstop in the low Class A Midwest League in 2010. He has quick reactions, good range to both sides and a strong arm, though he needs to improve his reads and his focus after making 34 errors in 118 games last year. He also has to break a habit of flipping throws to first base."

  7. I see Rays traded Garza for some scrubs and Tim Beckhams replacement Lee

  8. Kevin, I'll ask the question I'm sure others are thinking: How are you going to handle the players acquired in the Garza trade? Are you going to leave them out or add them in and re-do the rankings? And obviously the most important question, would Lee be higher or lower than Beckham?

    I'll hang up and listen to your answers :).

  9. I think it was a waste of 6 million dollars but oh well its just money!

  10. Just back from the Rays Spring Opener, and Beckham looked very good, better than I expected. Took a walk in his 1st AB and hit a nice hard groundball that bounced into the Outfield. He was aggressive on Defense, which did cause an error because he charged and bobbled a ball. He looked very good though granted it was the pirates.