I hope everyone had a good holiday.
Last week, Prospect A-Z wrapped up with Tyler Skaggs, the lefty Arizona received from Anaheim in the Dan Haren trade during the 2010 season. Skaggs has emerged as a very good pitching prospect and has advanced through the minors quickly. Just three years after he was drafted by the Angels, Skaggs could make his ML debut sometime in 2012. He was a part of a rotation at AA Mobile with great potential. That staff also included Trevor Bauer, Jarrod Parker, Wade Miley and Pat Corbin. Today, Prospect A-Z picks back up again with perhaps the most talked about minor leaguer in the Rays blogosphere, shortstop Tim Beckham.
Tim Beckham, SS, Tampa Bay Rays (2011: AA Montomgery, AAA Durham)
In one respect, being picked first overall was unfair to Beckham from the beginning. He was sandwiched as the first pick between David Price and Stephen Strasburg, two guys that everyone knew had elite, probably can’t miss talent. No one in the 2008 draft really did, but someone had to be taken first overall. At the time, he was considered to be a toolsy, high school shortstop that could develop into an above average player. He never really had star potential, but as the best high school position player with the chance for five average or better tools, it’s easy to see why he was coveted as a top pick.
Entering the 2008 season, the likely first overall pick wasn’t Beckham, but Vanderbilt third baseman Pedro Alvarez. Surely the Rays would be interested after they spent the previous spring and summer scouting his Vanderbilt teammate, David Price. Even though Evan Longoria was about to emerge as maybe the best third baseman in baseball, Alvarez could always move to first base or designated hitter. He certainly had the bat for it; entering the 2008 season, Alvarez had 40 home runs in his college career, and it was clear that he was a top amateur slugger. Over the course of a season, things can change.
Early in the season, Alvarez suffered from a hamate injury which seems to have plagued so many hitters in recent years. He missed about 1/3 of the season, and his statistics suffered. He didn’t hit for as much power, and his draft stock slid. On the flipside, another college hitter saw his stock rise dramatically, Buster Posey of Florida State. He had just learned how to catch two years earlier after playing shortstop until his sophomore season, and he was a great athlete probably capable of playing any position. In his junior season, Posey posted phenomenal stats: .463 BA, .566 OBP, .879 SLG and 26 home runs in 68 games. The Rays chose Beckham though, and the Giants were fortunate enough to land Posey later.
Beckham has had an interesting career. It’s difficult to say he’s failing because to me, that would mean getting held up at a level and not advancing. Beckham has risen steadily through the system, he’s just never stood out like one would expect from someone taken first overall. Since he started his full season career in 2009, his OPS’ each year have been .717, .705 and .736. His batting averages have been .275, .256 and .271. His on base percentages have been .328, .346 and .328. His slugging percentages have been .389, .359 and .408. He certainly deserves credit for being a consistent performer when he’s younger than most players at that particular level, but that doesn’t necessarily lend itself to a promising major league career.
Where does Beckham fit in among first overall picks? He’s one of six that have never made the majors, although three of the others, including 2011 teammate Matt Bush, likely will. Steve Chilcott and Brien Taylor both retired without having played in the majors. I’ll break down the remaining 39 first overall picks into categories: below average (fewer than six years of service time,) average (six to 10 years of service time, no All-Star appearances,) good (at least one All-Star appearance or 10+ years of service time,) and great (multiple All-Star appearances.) Pretty arbitrary, but let’s look anyway. An asterisk indicates their career is ongoing and still has a chance to move up.
Have not appeared
Tim Beckham (2008, Rays)
Matt Bush (2004, Padres)*
Steve Chilcott (1966, Mets)
Gerrit Cole (2011, Pirates)
Bryce Harper (2010, Nationals)*
Brien Taylor (1991, Yankees)
Shawn Abner (1984, Mets)
Matt Anderson (1997, Tigers)
Bryan Bullington (2002, Pirates)
Al Chambers (1979, Mariners)
David Clyde (1973, Rangers)
Danny Goodwin (1971, White Sox; 1975, Angels)
Luke Hochevar (2006, Royals)*
Stephen Strasburg (2009, Nationals)*
Paul Wilson (1994, Mets)
Kris Benson (1996, Pirates)
Ron Blomberg (1966, Yankees)
Mike Ivie (1969, Padres)
Jeff King (1986, Pirates)
Ben McDonald (1989, Orioles)
Dave Roberts (1972, Padres)
Delmon Young (2003, Devil Rays)*
Bill Almon (1974, Padres)
Floyd Bannister (1976, Astros)
Tim Belcher (1983, Twins)
Andy Benes (1988, Padres)
Pat Burrell (1998, Phillies)
Tim Foli (1967, Mets)
Bob Horner (1978, Braves)
Mike Moore (1981, Mariners)
Phil Nevin (1992, Astros)
B.J. Surhoff (1985, Brewers)
Harold Baines (1977, White Sox)
Jeff Burroughs (1968, Rangers/Senators)
Shawon Dunston (1982, Cubs)
Darin Erstad (1995, Angels)
Adrian Gonzalez (2000, Marlins)
Josh Hamilton (1999, Devil Rays)
Chipper Jones (1990, Braves)
Joe Mauer (2001, Twins)
Rick Monday (1965, A’s)
David Price (2007, Devil Rays)
Alex Rodriguez (1993, Mariners)
Darryl Strawberry (1980, Mets)
Justin Upton (2005, Diamondbacks)
Obviously Stephen Strasburg probably won’t finish his career with the below average criteria. It’s interesting that it seems like the great career group is skewed towards players in recent seasons. Where does Beckham fit in? Right now, I could see him settling into the average player group with a career as a fringe starter/utility infielder for several seasons. He’s still very young and anything could happen, but his career performance so far suggests that anything more than that is probably unlikely.
Come back tomorrow to read about a guy the Rangers hope is the next pitching sensation.