Tim Beckham’s Offense | The Process Report

Tim Beckham’s Offense

Aspects I’m ignoring to try and move the Tim Beckham conversation forward:

1) Defense
2) Baserunning
3) The opportunity cost involved in selecting Beckham

Why? Because responses and takes on the above topics vary by the person. Some people say Beckham’s range is phenomenal and he’ll be a shortstop in the majors. Others think he’ll still outgrow the position. There is an old saying about how you can find someone in baseball to say just about whatever you want to hear. I do not have enough exposure to Beckham’s game to feel comfortable commenting on the non-offensive aspects.

As for the third selection, the dialogue involves a lot of hindsight. It can also expand to include venom towards Beckham, which is regrettable given his age and supposedly high work ethic. The signing bonus talk seems illegitimate as well. Beckham inked a contract with a $6.15 million signing bonus. At the time, that set the major league record for largest signing bonus on a non-major league deal.

Nobody would label the David Price ($5.6 million) and Evan Longoria ($3 million) selections as pure signability picks. Yet, in both cases, players drafted afterwards received larger signing bonuses (Matt Wieters ($6 million) and Andrew Miller ($3.55 million) for starters). A lot of that is due to performance, or perceived performance. Longoria and Price dominated the minor leagues from the get-go. Understandably, that annoying human apparatus known as expectations drives the distaste towards Beckham.

Beckham’s descent down the prospect lists is doing him no favors in the public eye. Baseball America’s top 10 list failed to include him, instead going with a number of 2010 draftees. A decision in which I disagree with, although far be it from me to question their undefeatable level of knowledge and expertise. Beckham’s .256/.346/.359 line looks unspectacular. His career .263/.332/.371 performance si unremarkable. Minor league stats are dangerous to use without context. Even more so than major league stats. At least in the majors the baseline level of competition is well-established. Not so in the minors.

Begin with the age. Born in late January in the year 1990, Beckham’s 2010 season represented his 20-year-old season. That means his 2009 season came under the age of 19. For the sake of brevity and relevancy, his 200-something plate appearances in the 2008 season will be ignored as it tells us little. It’s easier to lay this out numerically than in sentence structure, so here’s the first point I want to make:

2009 South Atlantic League
Average age of batters: 21.5
Average batting line: .254/.324/.368
Average Isolated Discipline (OBP-BA): .070
Average Isolated Power (SLG-BA): .114
Average BB/K: 0.38

2009 Tim Beckham
Age: 19
Batting line: .275/.328/.389
Isolated Discipline: .053
Isolated Power: .114
BB/K: 0.29

2010 Florida State League
Average age of batters: 22.7
Average batting line: .255/.324/.364
Average Isolated Discipline (OBP-BA): .069
Average Isolated Power (SLG-BA): .109
Average BB/K: 0.40

2010 Tim Beckham
Age: 20
Batting line: .256/.346/.359
Isolated Discipline: .090
Isolated Power: .103
BB/K: 0.52

In words: Beckham has hit at league average rates in leagues that he is between two and three years younger than the average hitter. Not only that, but he also managed to improve his walk-to-strikeout ratio despite being aggressively promoted, while (mostly) retaining his power production and learning how to play shortstop (not necessarily well, remember, the defensive aspect is being ignored besides noting that he is still learning the position).

Thanks to Baseball-Reference and FanGraphs the next answer is easy to come by. The question: how did other 19- and 20-year-old shortstops fare in comparison to Beckham in these leagues? In the 2009 SAL, Wilmer Flores (17), Ehire Adrianza (19), and Jose Pirela (19) represent the shortstops of (or younger than) Beckham’s age. As the below table shows, Beckham displayed more power along with a lesser ratio of strikeouts and walks. His slash line stats are in line throughout.

In 2010, Beckham again shared a league with Flores and PIrela, as well as Tyler Pastornicky and Junior Lake; both of age 20. This time, Beckham shows the least power (albeit slightly) while showing an improved BB/K and slash lines that fit in with the pack on the higher end in each frame except slugging. This is where park factors come into play.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t find park factors that were multiple year (and current). I could cite that Beckham’s team had the lowest ERA and home runs allowed per nine innings ratio in the league, along with a low team slugging percentage, but that’s not proof that he played in an arctic offensive environment. Particularly not when that pitching staff featured Matthew Moore, Nick Barnese, and Joseph Cruz – or three of the best dozen or so arms in the system.

The takeaway points here are pretty transparent. Beckham is young with a strong work ethic. His performances have not been as poor as suggested, especially not when compared to his closest peers. Indeed, in an ideal world, his performance would shoot up entering 2011 – and presumably Montgomery. If he continues to hit like a league average player, the other things, the things ignored in this piece, become vital to his success in the majors. For all the ire, there’s a decent chance Beckham makes his major league debut around age 23. Same as Desmond Jennings and only months later than Evan Longoria.



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