Rays bench player Tim Beckham, forced into an everyday role at shortstop through injury, started out the season poorly at the plate (.166 BA, 2 runs scored, and 0 RBIs). Things were shaping up for Matt Duffy to come right on in (with an expected return date in May) and be the everyday shortstop for the Rays.
Duffy was an asset the Rays traded for in hopes that he would be a future cog high in the batting order with a respectable middle infield glove after a decently successful stint in San Francisco.
Now it appears Beckham won’t give up the starting role without a fight.
Something clicked for Beckham in the Boston series, where he started to settle into some real contributions on offense. Beckham has now recently brought up his poor .166 batting average to a much more respectable .280 after coming off a multi-homer game.
Beckham is starting to hit for power as he got his power stroke going as well, accumulating 4 home runs, while driving in 8 RBIs while scoring ten himself. While his strikeout rate remains high, fans should be able to deal with strikeouts as long as he can continue to produce.
On top of his improved offensive capabilities, Beckham also showcased his range and great arm. Note: Beckham threw out Bregman who gets down the line pretty decently. All of the staff here at DRB were pretty impressed by the play.
For all the trouble the Rays might have faced with Beckham at shortstop, he’s made only one error and has proven to be more effective than a bench player should perform.
Matt Duffy and Tim Beckham are two different types of shortstops.
On offense, Duffy is not exactly a power hitting shortstop with a 2016 ISO of .099, while Beckham had a 2016 ISO of .187. Duffy is more of a contact guy, as demonstrated by a significantly lower K% than Beckham who will K twice as often. Also, both shortstops 2016 wRC+ fall a bit below average (Beckham is 14 points higher than Duffy’s at 98, while Duffy was playing injured), but both are still serviceable offensively. Therefore, it is fair to say they might be even. It all depends on what the team wants more, contact or power. Beckham, for his part, has hit seven extra base hits on the season, including four home runs, batting .280 on the season with a 124 wRC+ through 21 games.
Meanwhile, Beckham has shown starter level defense while filling in for Duffy. Beckham is more accustomed to playing shortstop than Duffy, who was slotted into 3rd by the Giants after a minor league career at short. Duffy had a limited exposure at the Trop before electing for surgery, but should have a learning curve ahead of him as he adjusts back to his natural position, but now on artificial turf.
Beckham and Duffy have shown great arm strength and ability to make plays out of range, but we do not know what Duffy is capable of at shortstop coming off an Achilles injury. That applies to both sides of the ball.
In other words, Tim Beckham has an opportunity here to make it a real competition at shortstop, where the position would otherwise have been guaranteed to Duffy.
In order for Duffy to be an upgrade over Beckham, he would have to prove he can continue to play as good a defense at short as he did at third, and he would have to have a similar season to his last few years in the big leagues. Beckham has never hit over .250 in his career, while Duffy has eclipsed that every year he has been in the majors. This shouldn’t have been a conversation, but if Beckham can continue to hit where Duffy was last year, I can’t help but think this is an open competition.
Overall, the Rays seem to have a few young, capable shortstops. Duffy has better career numbers so far, in defensive grades at third and as a contact hitter in the Giants line up, but Beckham really seems to be locked in. Cash might just stick with the hot bat and for regularity’s sake.
Then there’s the question of the next generation as well. Daniel Robertson and AAA prospect Willy Adames could be the future, especially if the Rays think Beckham or Duffy are not long-term answers. Does that impact how Beckham or Duffy are deployed?
As of now, Beckham seems to be in control of his fate. If he continues his strong offensive showing, it will be hard to keep him off the field. Duffy, meanwhile, is still in rehabilitation but travelling with the team, a positive sign for his recovery.
Let’s hope by a few weeks from now we can have the problem of having two good shortstops, and have no idea who should start.
Who will be the starting shortstop?
This poll is closed