When scouts referred to one particular 18-year old shortstop as “raw” prior to the 2008 MLB First-Year Player Draft, they were correct.
And more correct than they desired for sure.
Once a first overall selection believed to be the future face of the franchise, Tampa Bay’s Tim Beckham has now become an afterthought struggling to find his way into the everyday lineup. It’s been seven long years since Beckham left Griffin High School in Georgia to grab a signing bonus of over $6 million and join the Rays.
His development process has gone a little longer than expected. Beckham has barely managed to play 60 major league games in that time span.
For Beckham it has been a journey just to make it this far. He’s had to deal with the hype of being a top draft choice and cope with extensive time in the minors among other things.
None of the obstacles along the way have seemed more demoralizing than when Beckham received a 50-game suspension from a second positive drug test, suspected to be marijuana according to one Tampa Bay Times writer, back in the summer of 2012.
Until that point Beckham had been, for the most part, on track to the bigs. He participated in the MLB Futures Game and had already been promoted from AA ball to AAA at the age of 21 just a season before the ban. This suspension meant it would be at least another year before he had his shot in the majors.
2013 marked the third campaign in which Beckham played for the Rays AAA squad, the Durham Bulls. His numbers with the Bulls, a triple slash of .276/.342/.387, were convincing enough for him to receive “the call” in mid-September, right as the Rays were hunting for an AL Wild Card position. Despite appearing in just five big league games that season, Beckham was able to collect his first career hit and RBI in his short spell with Tampa.
Based on his performance in the minors that year, it appeared that maybe Beckham could still be capable of producing at the big league level; but not quite at the first-overall-draft-pick-level once expected of him.
Then another setback.
24 minor league games was all Beckham managed to play in 2014. Beckham tore his ACL in the winter, just a few months removed from debuting with the Rays. Beckham would miss Spring Training, Opening Day, and eventually the majority of the regular season. Once returning from injury and a rehab stint in Rookie League and high-A, Beckham played a handful of AAA games without getting a chance in the majors that year.
Just this April, the Rays made a bold move regarding Tim Beckham. They decided to put him on the 2015 Opening Day roster for the first time. In the off-season the Rays signed former Indians and Nationals shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera to a one year, $7.5 million deal leaving Beckham as a reserve at short. The Rays also had a solid option at Beckham’s secondary position, second base, with Logan Forsythe.
So where exactly would Beckham start 2015? By coming off of the bench primarily subbing in for Cabrera and Forsythe on off days and occasionally serving as a pinch hitter.
That brings us to the present.
It appears to be a season of mediocrity for Beckham so far with his low average and poor fielding, yet oddly high slugging percentage.
While fans and critics alike are prepared to write off Beckham as a career bench-warmer lacking the skills to become an everyday player, there are signs that he’s not quite done for, just yet.
He can’t be considered a bust yet.
Baseball fans have been down right spoiled the last couple of years with of all of the dominant pitchers and sluggers putting up all-star numbers in just their first two or three seasons. The Bryce Harpers, Mike Trouts, and Jose Fernandez type players who took the league by storm before even being of legal drinking age…that’s not normal.
Fans have gotten accustomed to prospects being called up so young and performing so well, that when a player doesn’t make an immediate impact, they’re declared a bust or overhyped. In reality, many “late bloomers” can still make a breakthrough later in their careers.
Tim Beckham is only 25, despite being in the limelight for seven years already. In the last five seasons, players such as Todd Frazier, Corey Kluber, Stephen Vogt, Sean Doolittle, Evan Gattis and Jacob deGrom have all debuted AFTER their 25th birthday and still produced within their first few seasons. That list includes an NL Rookie of the Year, AL Cy Young winner, a Home Run Derby champion, and two other all-stars.
Beckham still has time to reach his potential; with his energetic makeup and athletic build, it wouldn’t surprise me in the least to see him finally put some solid numbers in the bigs.
He’s highly motivated.
Just take a look at Beckham’s twitter page. You can often find him tweeting Bible verses and retweeting inspirational quotes pertaining to success and failure, opportunity, and personal growth. He frequently interacts with the Tampa Bay fan base tweeting out his appreciation for them cheering on at Rays games. If you tweet at him, he may even give you a retweet or a reply.
Beckham clearly has a strong bond with his fans and wants to contribute to the Rays in any way possible. He’s a man of strong faith and a firm believer in hard work and improvement. If his Twitter is any indication of his work ethic, Beckham’s game is going to be on the rise.
Look at the potential roster openings.
Although Asdrubal Cabrera has had a pretty solid campaign producing a line of .264/.312/.413, he’s only on a one year deal and no contract rumors have surfaced as of yet. Cabrera is 29 with lots of baseball still left in the tank, but a multi-year deal with the Rays doesn’t seem likely. Cabrera was dealt to the Nationals after spending parts of eight seasons with the Indians. Cabrera has played on playoff teams before and is likely to move to a contender this offseason in need of a middle infielder.
Beckham could potentially start at shortstop next season if Cabrera signs elsewhere. The only other threats to Beckham would be Hak-Ju Lee, who is yet to reach the majors this season, and Nick Franklin, who was demoted after batting .139 this year.
Beckham is on the right path and if things actually go smoothly for a change, be prepared to see him making an impact soon.