Rays News

Rays SS Depth: 4 Will Battle for Starting Job

By Mat Germain
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Oct 3, 2015; St. Petersburg, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Rays second baseman Tim Beckham (1) hits a walk-off game winning 2-RBI single in the bottom of the 9th with 2 outs against the Toronto Blue Jays at Tropicana Field. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Griffith-USA TODAY Sports

He was always supposed to be the one earning the position as a super-star. The Rays truly thought they had the position covered when they drafted him, but years of inconsistent play have forced him to earn playing time as a backup utility player.

Past

Batting

Fielding

Splits

Miller’s main competition at SS will likely come from Beckham if things remain as they are. As with Miller, I’d like to believe that if he were given a full season of playing, he would improve his approach at the plate significantly and see a jump in his numbers. Unfortunately for both, they don’t have the time to wait around for them to figure it out as they will likely be in the playoff hunt for the majority of the year, as they were in 2015.

Beckham’s time with the Rays has been like a yo-yo, up-and-down and never steady for a long period of time. He showed us last July what he’s really capable of when all gears are churning, managing an impressive 6 extra base hits in 35 PA and a .323/.400/.548 line. If he could come close to that more often during the season, he could have a shot at getting more ABs.

What was surprising last season was that his fielding came down slightly, with a RF/9 of 3.25 that is well below the league average of 4.21. In comparison, Miller’s sat at 4.53 in 2015 and 4.01 in 2014. That gives Miller a pretty significant edge defensively speaking.  That was reinforced on Fangraphs through Beckham’s -4.0 Def rating.

Present

When it comes to hitting, you can see how and why Beckham may get playing time. When Miller needs a rest, most likely vs LHP, Beckham could get some starts as his tOPS of 105 vs LHP indicates he can provide some decent production. It would limit the abuse Miller gets and continue to give Beckham the reps he needs to improve.

There’s no doubt that increasing Beckham’s ability to cover more positions – particularly 3B and 2B – will significantly improve the likeliness that he maintains his spot on the roster. However, doing so also limits his ability to improve at SS, where he’d likely want to play full-time if he could.

Future

Steamer tends to believe that Beckham will improve defensively but that he’ll ultimately remain a league average value player at 0.0 WAR. It has him achieving a .227/.276/.340 line with 4 HR in 190 AB. Not exactly awe-inspiring, but there it is.

Baseball Reference, on the other hand, has a really optimistic take on Beckham’s 2016. They have him achieving a .245/.300/.433 line with 11 HR and 27 XBH in 282 AB. That’s a step forward for someone that may not get near the playing time he needs to accomplish this. If correct, this would put him on the map as a potential regular and would be Miller failed to meet expectations.

With the July Beckham had, I can’t put it by him that he could be capable of exceeding expectations. However, the fact that he never put 2 good months of baseball together – or had 2 in the entire season – tells me that it unlikely to happen. Rather, I’d expect he’ll get moved around a lot, that he’ll be used more vs LHP as a SS, and that his end year production could look close to what Baseball Reference has with fewer AB, HR and XBH.

Next up is somewhat of a AAAA player.

Next: When looking at this, it helps to be FRANK

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