Tim Beckham is a glowing example of why I decided to only write prospect reports on players I see in person. In heading to the ballpark to watch Beckham, I expected to see a sleek, athletic "Hot Rod" and left without seeing it.
I wrote this piece a few weeks back comparing Beckham and Red Sox shortstop prospect Oscar Tejeda. Is Beckham a better player, sure, but is he ten times better than a borderline top 200 prospect? No. That's the problem with Beckham. He's good, but as the first overall pick in the draft and six million dollar man, I expected to see future greatness.
Demeanor: Beckham's maturity was impressive considering his young age and enormous bonus. During game one, he served as the designated hitter with the responsibility of warming up the left-fielder. In taking pictures down the left-field line, I witnessed Beckham toss a ball to a young child pre-game and hustle out to handle his between inning duties after looking downright awful on a strikeout to end an inning early in the game. An immature player might have taken the opportunity to pout and it speaks volumes about his character.
In game two, the brother of a Bowling Green player who happened to be roommates of both Beckham brothers (Tim and Jeremy) struck up a conversation with me. He mentioned his brother thoroughly enjoyed rooming with both Beckhams and talked about how down to earth both were. It sounded as if the money and notoriety which comes with being the number one overall pick had no negative impact on the younger Beckham which is great to hear.
Physique and Athleticism: When seeing Beckham in person, I realized just how much bloggers around the country were going off of high school scouting reports. To reading Beckham runs a 6.3 second 60-yard dash, to him being described as lean and projectable, I was expecting a much different player physically. Had I been a random fan, I would have assumed Beckham was a pitcher, not a hitter, and especially not a shortstop. His shoulders were undefined and smaller than the rest of his upper body. His back was broad, and only widened to the hips which were close to fully developed and muscular. After standing three feet away from Beckham, my thoughts turned to how his large lower half is affecting his agility and speed.
Defense: Untested for most of the game, his only fielding chance was a ball to his backhand side deep in in the 5/6 hole. With ease, he fielded the ball and fired a strike to first base. It was a glimpse of what made him a premium prospect, but did little to answer questions raised by his build. In hearing chatter about his not sticking at shortstop, but not being sure exactly why, I can only assume his lateral movement has been affected by the increase in size and he has lost range.
Speed: With ten stolen bases in eighteen attempts, it's hard to envision Beckham as the forty stolen base threat he was expected to be. With his build, I'd be surprised if he ever steals more than 15-20 bases annually, if that. Beckham was far from the burner I had previously read about and seen video of.
Offense: With three singles in the twin bill, Beckham showed lightning quick hands through the zone and an easy, fluid swing. He tattooed fastballs early in the count and did his best to hide his difficulty with breaking balls stemming from a long load and swing path. In watching subsequent video of Beckham, my thoughts are the length of his swing is causing him to guess on pitches leaving him out front on off-speed stuff. He's going to have to learn to keep his weight back and take his hands directly to the ball to better utilize his wrists and become more consistent. The raw ability is there for Beckham to be a high average hitter, but his swing and batting eye need significant refinement. I doubt his power will ever be more than average.
Amongst the few glimpses of what made Beckham the first overall pick in the 2008 draft were enough questions for me to downgrade his prospect status from pre-season elite to borderline top 100, if not lower. With his ability to stay at shortstop in doubt, along with questions surrounding his speed, is he a five-tool talent or tweener who may be forced off of the position which made him so valuable in the first place? As 2009 comes to a close, the Rays simply can't be pleased with the early on field results of their six million dollar man.
Read more from Mike Newman at scoutingthesally.com.