Tampa Bay Rays – Why We’re Still Excited About Jalen Beeks
By Tim Smart
Jalen Beeks made his Tampa Bay Rays debut on Saturday in Baltimore. It didn’t go as planned. But while he has struggled in three major-league appearances in 2018, he still has plenty of upside
With the state of the Rays rotation right now, Jalen Beeks will certainly throw meaningful innings for the club down the stretch this year. Here’s why were still excited to have acquired him, and what we expect from him going forward.
Let’s talk about his appearance on Saturday. After taking over for Ryne Stanek, Beeks certainly wasn’t at his best. He didn’t throw enough first-pitch strikes and he fell behind too many hitters. That said, Beeks was terribly unlucky in his first outing with the Rays. He only had one strikeout because he kept falling behind in counts but for the most part, he only allowed weak contact and ground-balls.
Beeks’ fastball sits 91-93 and his cutter works around 87, so he doesn’t have overpowering stuff. He succeeds by limiting hard contact and getting ahead in counts to put batters away with the plus change-up and plus curve. He only did one of those things well on Saturday.
Beeks started by allowing a four-pitch walk to start the third but induced a double-play and a weak grounder to get out of the inning. His four runs allowed in the fourth inning came on three weakly-hit bloopers into right field and a seeing-eye grounder through the left side of the infield. In the fifth, he allowed another bloop-single into right, followed by another weakly hit grounder that got through the infield. But he was able to escape the inning without allowing any runs.
The sixth is where he got into trouble. He gave up back to back well-struck line drives to Trey Mancini and Joey Rickard, another weak pop-up to Caleb Joseph that fell for a hit, a walk to Tim Beckham and a sharply-hit double to Adam Jones before getting the hook.
The results don’t reflect the process
All told, his line of 3.1 innings, 10 hits, 8 earned runs, 3 walks and 1 strikeout doesn’t look very good. But if we account for the .588 BABIP allowed and the 38.5% left on base rate, his appearance isn’t as bad as it looks. Nobody is expecting Beeks to be an ace for this team. But we can expect those numbers to regress to the mean, somewhere around his career .300 BABIP and 79% LOB.
Beeks’ true talent is somewhere around a low-4’s ERA and that’s perfectly serviceable in today’s MLB. Let’s remember that Beeks is still just 24 years old, and he’s coming off a season in which he was voted the Red Sox minor league pitcher of the year. He posted a 3.29 ERA in 145 innings between double-A Portland and triple-A Pawtucket last year. And as he’s shown, and said himself, it takes a few turns through to adjust to moving up a level. For the rest of 2018, we can probably expect Beeks to post a 4.50 ERA in 8-10 appearances. He’ll continue to get chances for this team and Kevin Cash and the Rays should be more than willing to let him work through any struggles he faces.
At the present, this is a great trade for the Rays. They signed Eovaldi for cheap, got a handful of innings from him and flipped him into a major league-ready prospect with full team control. Beeks has really intriguing upside and he’ll be an exciting pitcher to watch for the rest of the season.