With major league baseball in the midst of their 2013 Amateur Draft, it may be time to look back at the last player the Rays selected with the top over all pick – Tim Beckham. It is easy to think of Beckham as a bust; after all, he was drafted first overall in a draft that included a player such as Buster Posey. It is even easier to think of Beckham in that vein when Posey was selected fifth, and has already won an MVP award and made an All-Star squad. Add in the Rays continual struggles at catcher, the Beckham pick seems to get magnified even further. Meanwhile, Beckham has yet to reach the majors, and is in the middle of yet another season at Durham.
Yet, it is easy to forget that Beckham is only 23 years old at this point. Although this is his sixth season in the Rays organization, he was only 18 at the time he was drafted. Beckham has been young for level virtually throughout his minor league career, and has displayed some potential. Of course, these displays have been tempered periodic struggles and situations such as his drug suspension last year.
But what exactly may be the ceiling for Beckham? The Rays had started playing him at second base this season, before he reverted back to short in the wake of Hak-Ju Lee‘s injury. This increased versatility could potentially help get him to the majors quicker, but what type of player could Beckham become?
Beckham has been relatively solid defensively at both shortstop and second base. His fielding had improved over his first four years at short, and he has shown decent range at both positions. he may never be in the argument for a Gold Glove, but he likely wouldn’t be a liability either.
The biggest concern with Beckham may be his inability to hit lefthanded pitching. In 2012, he only hit at a .209/.308/.341 clip against lefties, with six extra base hits. Yet, those numbers are better than what he has done against southpaws so far this year, as he has produced only a .182/.294/.233 batting line with two doubles. These struggles are somewhat perplexing however, as Beckham is a right handed hitter.
It is unlikely that Tim Beckham will ever be a start – his time as a top prospect has come and gone. However, he could end up being a useful piece off the bench as a utility infielder or platoon player. If that is all that Beckham ends up being, then he would be a disappointment, but it would still be a better career than former top overall picks such as Steve Chilcott or Matt Bush.