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DRaysBay Prospect Predictions Series: Tim Beckham

Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6.

It was a specific goal to use general questions in this series, thus allowing the panel of experts to have flexibility and guide the direction of their answers. However, Tim Beckham is such a polar prospect that the opportunity to ask a question regarding him was an opportunity too tantalizing to miss.

After the jump is the list of the participants, today's question, and their answers.

The experts that decided to take part in the list are as follows: Jim Callis of Baseball America, Kevin Goldsteinof Baseball Prospectus, Frankie Piliere of, David Rawnsley of Perfect Game, and John Sickels of Minor League Ball.

Finally, we have reached the most anticipated question. What are your thoughts on Tim Beckham (both offensively and defensively), and how do you think he will perform in 2012?

Jim Callis: Beckham made some positive strides last year, but he still doesn't fit a classic profile. While he has a strong arm, he doesn't have the range or the quickness to stay at shortstop for the long term. He could fit at third base, but that won't happen with Evan Longoria in TampaBay, so he probably faces a move to the outfield. And that's going to put a lot of pressure on his bat. He hasn't shown a lot of power yet, though he is only 22. He never has hit more than 12 homers in a season, and that came last year, matching his previous career total. He looks like a .260-.270 hitter with 15 homers a year, and that's not going to be enough to play regularly on an outfield corner in the majors. This is a big year for him, as his bat needs to continue to grow and do so more rapidly, and he needs to find a defensive home.

Kevin Goldstein: I think he'll be good, but not great in Durham, and likely get a September look in the big leagues. I think he'll have a decent, but again, not great career in the end.

Frankie Piliere: I just think the expectations need to be adjusted. I think he'll be solid in 2012 and could be a good big leaguer. But, in my opinion, I just think you need to adjust the expectations. I don't think he's a star but I think he can be a decent big leaguer

David Rawnsley: The absolute key point about Tim Beckham’s future is whether he can stay at shortstop defensively at the Major League level. I have not watched him play and would have to rely on other people’s opinions. Because if he can play shortstop at an average big league level, he should be an above average hitter for a Major League shortstop. If you can post a .730 OPS in the big leagues as a shortstop, you’re a quality player and there is no reason to believe that Beckham can’t do that. Four shortstops posted OPS’s between .727 and .743 in 2011: Derek Jeter, Jimmy Rollins, Erick Aybar and Alexei Ramirez. That’s good company to keep.

If Beckham can’t play average ML defense at shortstop, the question becomes moot, as he isn’t a good enough hitter to play regularly at another position.

The question might also be moot since the Rays have a much better shortstop prospect in Hak-Ju Lee one level below Beckham.

I find it interesting, as a side note, that Beckham has never played another position as a professional other than shortstop. 407 games at shortstop, none at second, none at third.

The bottom line is this. Beckham hasn’t been the first pick in the draft since 2008. Yes, it would be nice if he suddenly morphed into Buster Posey. But that’s not happening. If he had been the 24th pick in the first round in 2008, the Rays and their fans would be patting themselves on the back for having a 22 year old athletic shortstop with some offensive potential knocking on the big league door. There’s plenty of value in that.

John Sickels:

The main thing he has going for him is age. He's still just 22. I wouldn't expect a lot out of him this year, and while it's true he showed more pop after moving up to Triple-A last summer, that came in combination with some really awful strike zone judgment. I wasn't impressed with him in the fall league. He's got a strong throwing arm (a tool!) but his skills have been slow to develop. I don't see enough range for shortstop and I doubt he hits enough for third. He looks like a utility player with some pop to me, but he is still young enough to grow beyond that and prove me wrong.

This concludes this seven part DRaysBay Prospect Predictions Series. I am very thankful that the panel took time out of their busy schedules to participate, and hopefully we can do this again next year!