|Tim Beckham legging out an infield hit Wednesdy night. Burlington vs. Princeton. Sammi Craig/mlb.com|
Wednesday night I had the fortune of being in attendance for Tim Beckham‘s minor league debut with the Princeton Rays of the Appalachian League. While Beckham only DH’ed during the game it was great to see the first overall pick in action and see his first hit as a professional. While I am not a scout I’d like to recreate his night for you here in an attempt to give you the same front row seat behind the plate I had. You can pay the $5 later.
When Beckham got into the batter’s box he started by placing his back foot as far back and as close to home plate as possible. His lead foot began pointing towards third base in an open stance. He held the bat high and did several bat wiggles waiting for the pitch. As the pitcher wound up he lifted his front foot bringing it back slightly and then took a stride forward towards the mound. He gets the bat head through the zone extremely fast and showed some very quick hands. You can get a look at this thanks to the great people at MiLB.com who uploaded a video (I am sending you to the recap, the video link is right at the top) that contains two of Beckham’s swings. He reminded me a little of Rickie Weeks with the plate crowding, the bat wiggle, and his quick hands (though Weeks didn’t have the wiggle when I saw him in the minors). For a far better breakdown of his swing check out our very own Alex Eisenberg’s article for Baseball Digest Daily and the Camden Depot breakdown.
How the pitchers worked him
First to greet Beckham was right-handed Royals farmhand Mike Lehmann in the bottom of the first inning with nobody on and one out. Lehmann began Beckham with a curve that dropped low, then threw a fastball that was middle in near the knees which Beckham pounced on and hit a hard grounder past Lehmann. Royals second baseman Angel Franco cut the ball off before it got to the grass but had no chance to get Beckham at first. That hit sparked a three run rally by the Rays. This is the first swing from the video I linked to above around the one minute mark.
Beckham came up again in the second with two outs and a runner on second. He swung at the first pitch which was a fastball that probably was low but over the plate. This time he hit a sharp grounder right to Franco who easily threw him out.
Beckham’s next at bat came in the forth with two outs and nobody on. He swung through an inside fastball and then watched another fastball in the dirt before hitting an 89 mph inside fastball weakly towards the hole. The shortstop Lifete Jose made a nice backhand pickup and strong throw to just clip Beckham at first. This is the second swing shown in the video above.
Beckham’s last at bat of the night came against lefty reliever, and 13th round pick in this years draft, John Flanagan. Flanagan starting Beckham with a slider down and in for a strike and then doubled up on the pitch this time inducing a check swing excuse me roller right back to the mound.
It was clear that the game plan was to bust Beckham inside, which makes sense considering his stance. He has the tools to deal with that pitch but I would expect that he will be getting similar treatment until he really squares up that pitch on a consistent basis. Potentially a bigger concern is if pitchers continue to work him in with his leg lift and stride I wonder how equipped he is at getting out of the way. If his stance stays this way I’d expect to see him near the top of the HBP list. Beckham seemed very willing to take a walk in high school so while he did swing at a few marginal pitches early in the count Wednesday I wouldn’t be too concerned about that. He showed good speed and hustled down the line even on the two routine grounders he hit.
While he only went one for four with an infield hit Tim Beckham showed some of the tools that made him the first overall pick in the draft. By signing early he is only helping himself getting a jump on other high draft picks that have yet to sign. I would be very surprised if rookie ball gave Beckham much of a challenge and it wouldn’t surprise me if he was promoted to Single-A ball late in the year. The Rays could also leave him partnered with his brother Jeremy in rookie ball all year to aid his comfort level. I’ll be checking in with the Beckhams throughout the year so look for more updates as the season goes on.
References & Resources
I’d like to thank everyone at the Princeton Rays for their generosity and taking the time to answer my questions. In particular GM Jim Holland, photographer Sammi Craig, and the wonderful interns. They have a wonderful setup at Hunnicutt Field and do an incredible job with the entire fan experience. They have a promotion every night. I am especially thankful that they let me help take the tarp off the field before the game began. It was a memorable experience. If you would like to read more about the behind the scenes activities that go into minor league baseball or if you would like to read more about my impressions of some of the other players check out my blog.