Beckham Gets First Call To Majors

It’s unusual to see noteworthy callups in the second half of September, but for the second straight day we’re getting one.

Yesterday, the Royals promoted righthander Yordano Ventura. He allowed just one run in 5 2/3 innings, reaching triple digits with his fastball six times and peaking at 102 mph. But Kansas City couldn’t hold the lead he gave them in what wound up as a crucial loss to the Indians.

Today’s big-name callup is infielder Tim Beckham, whom the Rays drafted No. 1 overall in 2008. He signed for $6.15 million, at the time a Draft record. Once he makes his debut, there will be only five No. 1 overall picks who haven’t played in the Majors: Steve Chilcott (1966), Brien Taylor (1991), Matt Bush (2004), Carlos Correa (2012) and Mark Appel (2013).

Tampa Bay summoned Beckham to serve more as a reinforcement than to play a significant role down the stretch. His best pure tool is probably his arm strength, with his raw righthanded power a close second. However, he hit just four homers in 122 games this year at Triple-A Durham, where he batted .276/.342/.387.

Beckham has played mostly shortstop in the Minors and also has seen action at second base in the last two seasons. Though he’s still just 23, scouts are divided on whether he projects as a future big league regular. He’s just a career .266/.332/.381 hitter in the minors, hasn’t tapped into that raw pop and may lack the quickness for the middle infield. He may profile best at third base—provided his power comes to fruition—but he’s blocked there by Evan Longoria.

Five years later, it may be easy to second-guess the Rays for not using the top selection on Buster Posey, who lasted until the Giants pounced on him at No. 5. Tampa Bay’s camp was split between Beckham and Posey, with some mild support for Brian Matusz (who went No. 4 to the Orioles).

To be fair, at the time Beckham was clearly the top high school prospect in the Draft, an athlete who projected as a potential five-tool shortstop. He drew comparisons to B.J. and Justin Upton, with scouts saying that Beckham’s bat wasn’t quite as good as theirs but that he showed more defensive aptitude. For reasons that never have been explained, Beckham seemed to lose some of his athleticism as soon as his first full pro season in 2009, putting more pressure on his bat.

Assuming that the Rays continue to deploy Ben Zobrist primarily at second base and pick up Yunel Escobar’s $5 million option for 2014, Beckham will have a hard time earning a starting job in Tampa Bay next year. If he produces in spring training, he could serve a role as an offensive utilityman.

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