Tim Beckham Is Turning His Career Around With the Baltimore Orioles
A suspension, a season-ending injury, and mostly average play in both the minors and the majors were only highlighted by his draft status -- not to mention that he was taken five spots ahead of Buster Posey. He has been the complete opposite of that since getting dealt to the Baltimore Orioles prior to the non-waiver trade deadline this year, though.
An Underwhelming Career in Tampa
Even though he never panned out for the Rays, Beckham was more than worthy of being a top overall pick. He was considered the top prep bat in the draft, and was seen as having five-tool potential. Beckham was actually one of two players the Rays considered with this pick, with the other being Posey. They bet on Beckham's upside, but he never reached it.
While he eventually improved from the 79 wRC+ he posted in rookie ball, he was largely a league-average hitter at each level in the minors -- the highest wRC+ he posted in any full season was 107. He wasn't disastrous, but that's not what a team wants from their first overall pick. Despite that, he was moved rather aggressively through Tampa's farm system until reaching Triple-A in 2011, and the troubles didn't stop there.
In May of 2012, he was suspended for 50 games for drug of abuse, and after getting his first cup of coffee in the majors in 2013, he tore his ACL that December. He ended up playing in just 18 minor league games the following season, essentially making it a lost year. He ended up being a regular member of the Rays roster in 2015 and 2016, where he continued his mostly average production.
Beckham was not a bad player in these two seasons, but he was far from the star he was projected to be. It was more of the same story in 2017 -- until he switched uniforms.
A New Beginning
Beckham has exploded since being traded, and looks akin to his draft stock now more than ever before. The 2017 splits between his time in Tampa and Baltimore are just a little different when comparing them side by side.
While the sample size is a lot smaller, Beckham has been a completely different hitter. That wRC+ of his is one of the 10 best since the deadline, as is his fWAR. He is finally looking like the first overall pick, but the next question is: What kind of hitter will he be once the hot streak ends?
His BABIP is sitting at .449 since the trade, which is certainly going to come down -- especially since he is not hitting the ball any harder than he usually does (34.7% hard-hit rate in Baltimore, 36.0% for his career). A sudden rise in BABIP without an uptick in hard-hit rate heavily implies that Beckham has been benefiting from good fortune.
He is hitting the ball in the air more (35.8%, four percentage points higher than his career), which has helped his power numbers. His home-run-to-fly-ball ratio (HR/FB) is less than one percentage point higher in an Orioles uniform, so the power can potentially stick around if his fly-ball rate settles where it currently is.
The most important improvement we've seen is his rising contact rates -- his career number sits at 68.9%, but it has skyrocketed it 79.1% in Baltimore. This has also led to a dramatic drop in strikeout rate (29.4% in his career to 18.0% in Baltimore). This will be the biggest thing to keep an eye on going forward. If he can make more contact, his numbers will improve from his time in Tampa even once his BABIP normalizes.
While this is merely an incredibly hot streak (and a very small sample size), it is a little more significant due to Beckham's pedigree. He was a legitimate all-around draft prospect, and it was far from a surprise when he was taken first overall. He struggled in Tampa, ranging from an average minor league career to being suspended and also losing a season due to Injury, but he's making up for lost time now.
He is currently slashing .295/.341/.477, with a 119 wRC+ this season, and while that is far from superstar status, it is certainly an above-average MLB player. Beckham is still only 27 years old, so it is not out of the realm of possibility that he can truly break out with this fresh start.