Quick question: At the beginning of the season, who had Tim Beckham pegged to play in this weekend's Futures Game?
The answer is nobody, and his presence there is proof of a very important point when it comes to player development. Sometimes, things simply take a while. We can easily get excited about Bryce Harper in Double-A as an 18-year-old or Mike Trout tearing up the Texas League at 19, but those are the exceptions. The journey from draft day to the big leagues is, more often than not, one filled with detours and on-the-fly adjustments, even for the draft's top pick.
Beckham was the No. 1 overall pick in in 2008, but after that his stock plummeted with a pair of downright boring seasons at Low-A and High-A, leaving some to throw the bust label on him far too early. While a recent slump has brought his numbers down (to a more pedestrian .278 AVG/.341 OBP/.392 SLG) at Double-A Montgomery, there has been real progress, both in his statistics and his scouting reports. Players usually see a downturn in their first exposure to upper-level pitching, but Beckham needed just 64 games to match his season high of five home runs, and it's come at no cost to his approach, as his strikeout rate has dipped along with his error rate in the field.
Two scouts who have evaluated Beckham in the past two months noted significant improvement in Beckham's defense. Seen as potentially moving off of shortstop earlier in his career, Beckham is not only leaner than he was as a teen, but he's cleaned up his mechanics, and his arm has always been a plus tool. Offensively, the scouts did not see a future star, but combined with his ability to play baseball's toughest position, the offense should be enough to make him an everyday player and possibly an above-average one at a position where there are arguably less than 30 players who fit that bill.