The Tampa Bay Rays’ 25th man in 2015 will be a righty-hitting bench player. As it stands right now, they have three players in Kevin Kiermaier, David DeJesus, and James Loney who could use help against left-handed pitching. Nick Franklin would be a fourth if he makes the team. The Rays have a pair of righty bench players in Brandon Guyer and Logan Forsythe, but they need one more.
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Who will that player be? On their 40-man roster, the Rays have just one option who makes any sense at all: Tim Beckham. The former number one overall pick now has 1021 plate appearances at Triple-A, and if the Rays aren’t going to give him a chance, why is he on their roster? Maybe the Rays will sign a minor league free agent to compete with him, but Beckham looks like the clear favorite for the role.
However, something recently occurred that could shake things up. Tyler Pastornicky has been designated for assignment by the Atlanta Braves and just so happens to be a righty-hitting infielder and a former top prospect. Could the Rays make a move for Pastronicky and give him the inside track to make their team?
It was not so long ago that Tyler Pastornicky was considered the Braves’ best option at shortstop over Andrelton Simmons. He never hit for much power, but he was excellent at spraying line drives all over the field to go along with great speed and solid defense. However, since the 2012 season began, he simply hasn’t been the same player.
Pastornicky received terrible grades for his defense at shortstop in 2012 and doesn’t even play there anymore. He’s a second baseman now, with the Braves not considering him a good enough shortstop to play him there a single time in his 75 games between Triple-A and the major leagues in 2014.
On a related note, Pastornicky’s explosiveness on the basepaths is gone. After he stole 27 bases in 2011 alone, Pastornicky has 21 combined in the three seasons since. He suffered an ankle injury in 2011 and knee surgery in 2013 before struggling through more knee problems this past season. Clearly the injuries are affecting him both defensively and on the bases.
It is a little scary how much Tyler Pastornicky’s story parallels Tim Beckham’s. Look at all the similarities! We can talk about their breakouts in 2011 between Double-A and Triple-A, their knee surgeries, their moves off shortstop, their identical home runs totals from the last two years, and the overarching fact that neither is the player he once was.
Pastornicky does have better Triple-A numbers than Beckham, managing a .734 OPS to Beckham’s .708 mark, and he also has more big league experience. However, he fell to just a .676 mark at Triple-A in 2014 while continuing to look helpless in the majors. Even if overlook all of that, though, is Pastornicky really better than Beckham?
Prior to 2014, Beckham had more power and more speed than Pastornicky, and he could still fake shortstop. It remains to be seen how Beckham will come back from his knee surgery, but he at least deserves a chance to prove that his recovery will go better than Pastornicky’s. Given how Pastornicky’s career has come apart, could Beckham’s fate really be any worse?
The Braves designated Pastornicky for assignment because they think he is damaged goods. Unless the Rays are about to designate Beckham for assignment, obviously they are not quite at that point with him.
It makes no sense for the Tampa Bay Rays to have both Tyler Pastornicky and Tim Beckham on their 40-man roster and they are extremely unlikely to DFA Beckham to make room for Pastornicky. Expect them to move forward with their own middle infielder whose name recognition is better than his talent and see if he can begin to change that next season.