Mar 5, 2012; Port Charlotte, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Rays shortstop Tim Beckham (29) signs autographs for the fans before the game against the Baltimore Orioles at Charlotte Sports Park. The Orioles defeated the Rays 3-1. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Could Rays Prospect Tim Beckham Be the Next Brandon Phillips?


Tim Beckham has been a disappointment up to this point of his career, but it may still be too early to label him a lost cause.

The Tampa Bay Rays’ No. 1 overall pick of the 2008 Draft, Beckham looked like a complete bust before showing some signs of life this season. The 23-year-old made his Major League debut last week, and has a chance to make an impact down the stretch as a utility player for the Rays.

Beckham lost much of his 2012 season due to testing positive for a recreational drug and did not impress when he was on the field, hitting .256/.325/.361. The Rays had planned to use him at second base in Durham this season, but a season-ending injury to Hak-Ju Lee forced Beckham back over to shortstop. Beckham ended the season with a .276/.342/.387 line. That’s nothing spectacular, but there is some reason for optimism.

Defensively, Beckham may not be able to hack it as a big league shortstop, but could be an asset as a utility guy. With his speed and strong arm, I’d be interested to see how he’d fare in center field.

Obviously, that’s not the kind of discussion the Rays had imagined when they took Beckham 1:1, but they could still get a long, productive career out of him.

Maybe he could benefit from a change of scenery. Maybe switching positions could help. Or maybe he just needs some more time.

It wasn’t too long ago that Cincinnati Reds All-Star second baseman Brandon Phillips was in a similar situation.

Heading into the 2003 season, Phillips was a big-name prospect. A former second-round pick, Phillips was one of the key prospects acquired by the Cleveland Indians in their trade of Bartolo Colon to the Montreal Expos. He was rated the seventh-best prospect in the game heading into ‘03 by Baseball America.

Phillips, who had just switched from shortstop to second base, failed miserably with the Indians, hitting .208 over 112 games. He spent two more seasons with the organization, appearing in just 12 more Major League games over that span.

Cleveland threw in the towel on Phillips in 2006, sending him to the Reds for reliever Jeff Stevens, who never donned an Indians uniform. Phillips had a productive season as the Reds’ everyday second baseman that season before really breaking out as a 26-year-old in 2007.

No one could have seen that kind of turnaround coming after Phillips flopped in Triple-A as a 24-year-old. In 2005, his last season in the minors, Phillips hit .256/.326/.409 with 39 walks and 90 strikeouts. This season, Beckham hit .276/.342/.387 with 44 walks and 108 strikeouts as a 23-year-old.

While the Beckham-Phillips comp definitely has it’s flaws, what I’m try to point out is some guys are late bloomers and as long as a player is showing improvement that’s something to get excited about. The tools are there. If Beckham can carry over some momentum, use this call up as motivation and further improve his game he could turn into an asset for Tampa Bay.

Tags: Opinion Tampa Bay Rays Tim Beckham