Tim Beckham struggled once again to make contact in his sophomore season, striking 67 times in 64 games -- his strikeout rate saw a slight bump to 31.2 percent while he managed to make contact at only a 66 percent clip. His maturity also continued to be an issue, as he was sent down for good on Aug. 31 after a baserunning error. On the plus side, his hard contact rate saw a significant bump to 36.1 percent, and Beckham was able to rip off 22 extra-base hits in 215 plate appearances. That tally included an impressive five triples, but the 26-year-old's speed has nevertheless failed to translate into appreciable stolen base production throughout the years. Beckham only attempted three steals at the big league level in 2016, swiping two bags, and his 22 stolen bases back in 2010 at the High-A level remains his career high. He'll have to battle Nick Franklin for time behind the Rays' starting middle infielders this spring.
Beckham was scratched from the lineup due to an irritated hip flexor prior to Sunday's Grapefruit League game against the Yankees, Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reports. Beckham is off to a nice start in spring training, but will sit out of Sunday's contest with his hip irritation. It's unclear how significant the injury is, so he will be listed as day-to-day for the time being.
Beckham is set to open the season as the starting shortstop in the wake of Matt Duffy's (heel) continued absence, Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reports. "I think he came in very motivated and has basically taken to an opportunity to make the most of it," Rays manager Kevin Cash said. "Beck's always been a guy who's been adamant about playing time, and he's earned some playing time, no doubt about it. We're happy for him." The mercurial utility man has enjoyed an excellent spring, hitting .306 with four doubles, a triple, a home run, four RBI, six walks and eight runs. Beckham has also been making plays in the field and perhaps just as important, has displayed a stellar attitude and work ethic. Both of those traits have been questioned in the past, such as the lackadaisical play Beckham exhibited in late August that earned him a demotion to Triple-A Durham for the balance of the season. Barring any unforeseen personnel moves, the 27-year-old is projected to start the season at shortstop and eventually slide into what should still be a sizable utility role when Duffy returns.
Beckham is a candidate to be part of a leadoff platoon this coming season, Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reports. "We're trying to narrow (it down),'' manager Kevin Cash said. "I don't think we have, as it stands right now, a defined leadoff guy. We're trying a couple different options. ... We're still trying to work through do we have a guy versus left and a guy versus right." The 27-year-old is slashing .333/.455/.667 over 27 at-bats this spring and certainly brings the requisite speed to set the table at the top of the order. However, that is largely negated by the fact that Beckham also strikes out at an alarming rate and tallied just a .300 OBP over 215 plate appearances in 2016. If he is given an opportunity to fill the right-handed side of the platoon, he'd likely be paired with either Logan Morrison or Corey Dickerson to open the season.
Beckham went 1-for-2 with a solo home run in Friday's 4-1 Grapefruit League loss to the Pirates, bringing his spring line to .375/.500/.813. Beckham is now the potential Opening Day shortstop with Matt Duffy (heel) possibly out into April, and fortunately, he's playing like a front-line player this spring. The homer was his first over seven games, and he narrowly missed a second round-tripper when a strong wind knocked down another well-hit shot to left field. A steady dose of playing time this spring seems to have greatly benefited Beckham's hitting, a development that hasn't been lost on manager Kevin Cash and could affect how the utility man is deployed in the regular season. "Part of that is probably because of the consistent reps," he said. "That's helped him. That's something we'll have to value during the season."
Beckham went 2-for-3 with a double, two-run homer and two runs in Wednesday's 9-7 exhibition loss to Team Colombia. Although the numbers don't go on his official spring tally, Beckham's production Wednesday was an extension of the red-hot streak he's been on through his first six games. The speedy utility player has slashed .357/.471/.643 with two doubles, a triple, two RBI and three walks over 14 at-bats. He's also racked up a superb 1.114 OPS, and his efforts at the plate have made a notable impression in his bid for a roster spot. "Wow, what a spring he's having and just continues to have,'' manager Kevin Cash said. "I hope he's understanding how big of a role he can play for our team this year whether it's short, whether it's outfield, second base, wherever. The way he's swinging the bat he's in a really good spot. We've got to find a way to keep him there heading into another two weeks or whatever.''