This week’s Future Rookies share a few common characteristics. The first is that they both play shortstop. The second is that they both recently were promoted a level. The third, and perhaps most interesting similarity, is that they are both Tampa Bay Rays’ prospects! The position may be a black hole of futility at the moment, but the future looks bright.
Tim Beckham, SS, Tampa Bay Rays, 21 years old
It will be awfully difficult for Tim Beckham to live up to the expectations that come with being the first overall selection, a distinction he holds as the top pick in the 2008 draft, but his stock is up from where it stood at this point last year. At this time last year, Beckham was playing baseball in Hi-A. One year later he’s been promoted from Double-A to Triple-A. It’s a rare that the Rays are aggressive with their prospects, but Beckham appears to be one of the exceptions to the norm. It would have been difficult to have criticized the Rays had they opted to have Beckham repeat Hi-A this year, but instead they challenged the youngster and his play has improved while moving up levels.
Now just one level below the show, a cup of coffee in September is possible, and a full-time starting gig in 2012 isn’t out of the question. Questions surrounded Beckham’s defense, leaving many wondering if he could stick at shortstop. Like his offense, his defense has also improved according to most accounts giving him a chance to stick at the position for a bit. Offering a dash of pop and a pinch of speed, Beckham has the tools to be an above average offensive shortstop, and fantasy relevant. How long he’s able to stick at shortstop may end up out of his hands ultimately, as the object in his rear view mirror is coming up fast.
Hak-Ju Lee, SS, Tampa Bay Rays, 20 years old
The 2011 season has been a bit of a disappointment for the Rays. For all intents and purposes, they will not be playing postseason baseball. The unlikely performances of Bartolo Colon and Freddy Garcia have helped the Yankees compete for the American League East crown with the preseason division favorite Red Sox, with the loser serving as the near certain wild card team. Considering the way things played out, Andrew Friedman should be praised for his decision to re-stock an already loaded farm system by trading Matt Garza to the Chicago Cubs. Garza has performed quite well for the Cubs, but prospect haul, coupled with the dollar savings look good. The highest rated prospect coming to the Rays in the deal was pitcher Chris Archer, but when the dust settles, shortstop Hak-Ju Lee might just prove to be the crown jewel of the deal.
Unlike his counterpart, Beckham, there are no questions about where Lee will play defensively at the major league level. Managers in the Lo-A Midwest League voted Lee the best defensive shortstop in the league in 2010. For the most part, defensive accolades hold little importance in the fantasy world. In this case, they hold more importance than most because it will likely result in Lee forcing Beckham to find a new defensive home. On the offensive side of the ledger Lee is no slouch either. The most impressive facet of Lee’s offensive game is his ability to get on base. He sports a solid on-base percentage in part because he hits for average, but also because he’s able to draw walks at a healthy clip. Getting on base regularly helps him attempt to steal bases frequently. He’s stolen 31 bases this year, but is still working on the nuances of taking bags having been caught stealing 15 times. His power isn’t overly impressive at the moment, but he is still physically maturing and described as having plus bat speed capable of generating above average power down the line. His total package makes him incredibly appealing in dynasty formats, so much so I’d venture to place him as a top-15 prospect in those leagues. A reasonable estimated time of arrival is the summer of 2013.
Josh is a graduate of SUNY Cortland's Sport Management program, and an aspiring fantasy writer. You can catch up with Josh in the Cafe Forums where he posts as B-Chad. You can also follow his work at The Hardball Times and follow him on Twitter (BChad50).
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