01 June 2008

Draft Preview -- Finding 1:4 (Tim Beckham)

Introducing Tim Beckham

Baseball America's 2007 Youth Player of the Year has set himself apart as the top high school talent in the 2008 MLB Rule 4 Amateur Draft. After posting an impressive line his junior season as the Griffin High School shortstop (.512, 9 2B, 6 3B, 6 HR, 39 RBI, 20 SB), Beckham solidified his place in the minds of scouts last summer, consistently showing himself to be the top talent in each event of the showcase circuit. While his draft stock dipped a bit during a relatively slow start to his senior year, he finished strong over the final weeks and has reestablished himself as a legit potential 1:1 and a shoo-in to go in the top 5.

As our first HS player examined, we should point out two things. First, high school stats don't tell a huge story. It's enough to see that they are impressive, but they shouldn't be used as a measuring stick against college players or other high school players -- the discrepancies in talent faced from draftee-to-draftee are too great. Second, Beckham is not an Upton (Alex Eisenberg does a good job breaking down the differences in their swings in an article for Baseball Digest Daily). Comparisons are made because he is an African American high school middle infielder being discussed as a number one overall pick, but his game is very different. No team should draft him expecting to get Justin or BJ (Beckham does not have the power or advanced offensive approach of either Upton and his is far superior in the field). With that Said, let's see if he would fit at 1:4.
The Numbers

Senior Year:
At Bats – 78
Hits – 39
Doubles – 9
Triples – 3
Homeruns – 5
Runs Batted In – 31
Batting Average – .500
Slugging – .885
Total Bases – 69
Stolen Bases – 16

Summer Circuit:
At Bats – 132
Hits – 54
Doubles – 15
Triples – 8
Homeruns – 9
Runs Batted In – 38
Batting Average – .409
Slugging – .848
Total Bases – 112
Stolen Bases – 32

The summer circuit stats are particularly impressive, given that Beckham was consistently playing against the best talent in the country. He was able to hit for average, as well as power, and he was at the top of his running game. It would be fun to see what he could do in three seasons at Southern Cal, but it doesn't look like that will be in the cards.

The Frame

Beckham stands at a wiry 6'2" and 190 pounds. He has the frame of middle infielder. There is little chance that his body grows out of shortstop, making him the best bet of the top middle infield talents to stay at the six-spot.

Scouting: Film

Load – Beckham's hands are in good position and his elbow is at a solid 45 degree angle, paving the way for a very quick path to the ball. He is a little too heavy on his back foot, but is close enough to a 60/40 weight distribution that it doesn't cause any big issues in his swing, other than a slight tendency to hit off of his front foot.

Stride – The stride is moderate in length and smooth. His hands stay in a power-load position, locked to his body as he moves forward. Because he was a little heavy on his back foot in the load, there is more weight moving forward in the stride, which causes his front hip to occasionally open a little early. Again, this should be easily correctable and will be key in Beckham making the transition from a line-drive hitter to potentially an above-average power bat.

Swing – His swing is very quick, utilizing mostly the upper-half of his body. His wrists and upper body whip the bat through on a clean plane, and because his hand and arm position were each solid through the load and stride he has a short path to the pitch. He is a little early with his weight-transfer, losing a bit of power before he actually gets to contact. Against more advanced pitching, this might be a problem. Again, it should be an easily correctable flaw.

Contact – Despite an imperfect weight-transfer, Beckham squares-up on the ball consistently and sprays the ball to all fields. His superior hand-eye-coordination and short path to the ball make hitting come natural.

Follow-Through – Beckham's follow-through is clean, though he spins-off a bit. This is likely because his upper body has too much momentum in comparison to his lower body at this point in the swing. Rather than flowing from hips to elbow to knob to barrel, his upper body is playing catch-up. Also, he sometimes is too strong with his top hand, limiting his extension a bit and causing him to finish up.

Swing Grade – B+ – There is a lot of room for improvement in Beckham's swing, which is pretty scary given his high level of success already. With some seasoning and professional development, Beckham has a tool set that could make him a well above-average hitter.

Beckham is smooth and confident in the field. He is a plus-defender with great hands, above-average arm strength and good range to both sides. The tool-set is ideal for shortstop, and Beckham has a world of potential at that position.

Fielding Grade – A

Is Beckham Worthy of 1:4?

At this point, compared to the rest of the candidates to go in the top 3, Beckham is primarily a set of tools -- and what a set his is. He profiles as an above-average hitter, an above-average fielder at a valuable position and anywhere from an average to above-hitter hitter for power, depending on how his swing is crafted at the pro-level. If Baltimore is fortunate enough to have the opportunity to draft Beckham at 1:4, they would be wise to jump at it. Beckham will take a few extra years to develop, but the wait should be well worth it.

Prospect Grade – A
Suggested Draft Slot – 1-3
1:4 Recommendation – Draft

Current Draft Board

1. Pedro Alvarez (3B) Vanderbilt University
2. Tim Beckham (SS) Griffin High School (Georgia)
3. Buster Posey (C) Florida State University
4. Justin Smoak (1B) University of South Carolina
5. Gordon Beckham (SS) University of Georgia

Draft Preview Schedule

6/1pm Brian Matusz (SP) University of San Diego
6/1pm Aaron Crow (SP) University of Missouri
6/2 Potential Targets for Rounds 2-3
6/3 Potential Targets for Rounds 4-5
6/4 Mail Bag and Final War-Room Review
6/5 Camden Depot Shadow Draft and Live Draft Coverage

Don't forget to keep the great questions coming for this Thursday's Mailbag.

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