It’s not often that a team has multiple prospects in the minor leagues that come up playing the same position. It’s even less likely that position is shortstop. That is the fortunate problem the Tampa Bay Rays have right now with Tim Beckham and Hak-Ju Lee. Recently both of these players were promoted up the ladder, with Beckham being sent to Triple-A Durham and Lee being moved to Double-A Montgomery. The Fansided blog, Seedlings to Stars, detailed these players rise through the minor league ranks.
Their paths have been very different. Beckham was the number one overall pick from the 2008 draft that featured fellow first rounders Buster Posey, Justin Smoak and Ike Davis. The fanfare that came with being the number one pick was coupled with expectation of immediate greatness. When that greatness was slow to surface, the detractors were quick to pounce. Beckham was labeled a disappointment and the dreaded “bust” moniker was being tossed around for a player that was barely 20 years old.
What Tim Beckham has done, though, is continuously work to make himself better and improve his overall game. After struggling his first year, failing to bat .250, Tim batted .275 in A-ball. One problem, he had 43 errors in 117 games! Needless to say his first couple years were less than stellar. The Rays were patient and have seen Beckham get better both at the plate and in the field. Since his move to Durham, he has shined. He’s batting .318 in five games and of his seven hits; three have been for extra bases.
Hak-Ju Lee came to the Rays in the offseason as part of the Matt Garza deal with the Chicago Cubs. He was signed as an international free agent in 2008 but had to sit out his first year to recover from Tommy John surgery. Since then, Lee has been a force at every stop in the minor leagues. His first year he batted .330 and after a somewhat disappointing 2010, he has bounced back strong in 2011. Before his promotion to Montgomery, Lee was batting .317 for the Class A Advanced Charlotte Stone Crabs. The Rays love his speed and athleticism as well as his range at short.
This is the time of the year when fans often get a closer look at the future of their ballclub. Both of these players were listed as top 100 prospects by Baseball America to start the year and the Rays certainly could use productive, efficient middle infielders. While neither of these players can be expected to have an impact this season at the major league level, their progression gives a peek into what’s to come. It could be a crowded left side of the infield in Tampa in a couple of years. Coaches and scouts say Beckham seems to have the build and ability to possibly switch positions at some point. He has an incredible work ethic and a team first mentality. How does an infield of Longoria at third base, Lee at shortstop and Beckham at second base sound? Sounds pretty exciting to me.