What if I told you that a player slashed .206/.229/.294 with zero home runs, zero walks, and 12 strikeouts in 34 Spring Training at-bats? Would you be interested to see who the player is? What it make a difference if he was on his third team in better parts of five Major League seasons? Would you rush to the waiver wire after he slashed .474/.545/1.053 with three home runs, six RBI, and seven runs scored through the first week of the 2019 season? Simply put, would you drink the kool-aid?
Tampa Bay has been an interesting organization since they busted onto the scene as the Tampa Bay Devil Rays in 1998. 10 years into their existence, they reached the World Series only to lose to the Philadelphia Phillies in five games. We’ve seen the organization have up and down seasons, as well as land number one overall picks in four different drafts (i.e. 1999, 2003, 2007, 2008). With those picks, they selected Josh Hamilton, Delmon Young, David Price, and Tim Beckham. Of those four number one picks, none are currently in their organization. With the exception of David Price, the latter have moved on to teams and had successful stints within other organizations. This season, we’ve seen Tim Beckham get off to a hot start, in his age 29 season, with the Seattle Mariners. While he’s never blossomed into the number one overall pick experts once projected, he did show signs of putting it together after a career-best season in 2017. During that season, he was traded to the Baltimore Orioles, and finished strong. However, last season was anything but glamorous, and he signed a one-year deal with the Seattle Mariners this past winter.
Undrafted in numerous leagues, Beckham got off to a hot start against the Athletics, during their two-game series in Japan. Over seven at-bats, Beckham slashed .857/.889/1.643 with one home run, two RBI, and four runs scored. He was the first player scooped off the waiver wire in numerous leagues, and he didn’t stop after leaving Japan. His next three games were equally as impressive slashing .519/.581/1.219 with two home runs, four RBI, and three runs scored. It’s hard to argue any player has gotten off to a better start, but let’s be real, has Tim Beckham truly put it together or are we being teased? Could we possibly be seeing the MVP of the waiver wire after the first week of the season? Ryan Zimmerman had a career-year a few seasons ago, and was arguably the best player snatched off the free agent pool, but he’s had solid seasons in past seasons, but Tim Beckham has looked like nothing more than a bust after being a number one overall pick.
Through better parts of ten seasons in the minor leagues, Beckham has slashed .266/.331/.379 with 35 HR, 295 RBI, and 85 stolen bases in 126 attempts. Those numbers aren’t horrible, but through his first five Major League seasons he’s compiled a slash line of .244/.297/.422 with 48 HR, 150 RBI, and a whopping 12 stolen bases in 21 attempts. He’s never been one to show speed at any level of professional baseball, but it shows he’s never truly proven pivotal any statistical category, let alone in fantasy baseball. Looking at a five-year span, we can see, as well as get an idea, of how Beckham has performed throughout his career. Also, we can see what he’s currently doing different that has allowed him to get off to a hot start to the 2019 season.
Look at the above charts, a few things immediately come to mind. Beckham is a player that’s never been shy of the strikeout, and he doesn’t command the strike zone well as he’s always been one to try and pull pitches leading to a high number of ground balls. This isn’t a great case for a player that possesses average speed at best. One of the most concerning statistics, when looking at contact percentages, is Beckham’s swings at pitches outside the zone (O-Swing%) and SwStr%. He’s always been one to chase outside the zone, and he’s had a higher-than-normal SwStr%. Again, this players into the fact he doesn’t have the greatest plate discipline.
What has made Beckham successful to the start of the 2019 season? One thing not noted in the graphs is that Beckham is jumping on fastball early in the count. He’s hitting a .333 when the count is 2-1 or 1-1. He’s currently batted 1.000 when swinging at the first pitch, and he’s done very well against the curveball compared to seasons past. As I mentioned earlier, hitting the ball on the ground has been a no-no for Beckham, and he’s currently sitting at his lowest GB% in his career and the highest FB% of his career. Add in the fact that his Soft% is the lowest it’s been coupled with the lowest SwStr% of his career, and there is reason to get excited for Beckham’s hot start through the first week.
Do I believe Beckham can sustain his hot start? Clearly, we won’t see him maintain a BABIP of .462 and wOBA of .639. However, if he can continue to keep the ball of the ground, keep his SwStr% in-check, and lay of pitches outside the zone, I believe Beckham could put together a career year. Tie in the fact that he’s swinging at pitches early, and hitting off-speed pitches, and he should easily surpass his career-best numbers.
What do I expect the rest of the way? I can’t imagine his numbers won’t start mimicking his career averages as the summer months approach. He’s always had issues laying off pitches outside the zone, and I can guarantee you pitchers breaking balls will become tighter, and sharper, as the season progresses. It’s hard for me to put too much stock in a player’s start to the season, let alone a player, at the age of 29, that has never truly showed signs of being able to correct his main concerns: keeping the ball off the ground, and striking out. Still, Beckham’s hot start seems more like a trend you should ride out. I can’t imagine Beckham’s trade value being very high due to the fact that true baseball minds know what Tim Beckham is as a baseball player. Unless there is an owner that has Francisco Lindor on his injured list, you are probably stuck with Beckham until you decide that the spark is over, and it’s time to release him. Still, the early adjustments have been exciting to see, but it’s highly unlikely Beckham maintains his hot start, and for that reason, I’m not drinking the Tim Beckham kool-aid.
Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio Show: Join host Cole Freel, and Kyle Amore live on Thursday March 28th, 2019 from 9-10:30pm EST for episode #147 of Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio. We are a live broadcast that will take callers at 323-870-4395. Press 1 to speak with the host. You can listen live on blogtalk, majorleaguefantasysports.com, or download the podcast on I-Tunes or any Android podcast app. This is our OPENING DAY special. Cole and Kyle will discuss the latest happenings in the world of MLB and fantasy.
Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio Show: Join host Brian Roach, Jr, and Cole Freel live on Sunday March 31st, 2019 from 8pm-9:30pm EST for episode #148 of Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio. We are a live broadcast that will take callers at 323-870-4395. Press 1 to speak with the host. You can listen live on blogtalk, majorleaguefantasysports.com, or download the podcast on I-Tunes or any Android podcast app. We will discuss spot starters for the coming week, plus a weekend update, and look ahead to next week.
Our guest this week is Brandon Ziman. Brandon is the newest baseball writer to join the crew in 2019. His articles publish every Thursday and covers the minor leaguers.