As the St. Petersburg Times’ Marc Topkin points out here, the first overall pick in the 2008 draft, Tim Beckham, was left off Baseball America’s list of the Rays’ top 10 prospects when it was announced last week.
Beckham, a shortstop taken out of a Georgia high school, was ranked by BA as the Rays’ No. 2 prospect behind David Price headed into 2009 and the team’s No. 6 prospect a year ago. As a 20-year-old, he hit .256/.346/.359 for high-A Charlotte in the Florida State League last season.
The Rays have traditionally had strong prospect lists, and they have a few more outstanding youngsters coming along in pitchers Jeremy Hellickson and Matt Moore and outfielder Desmond Jennings. Still, their second five is nothing special at the moment and it says something that Beckham and all of his tools can’t crack the list.
Beckhan has managed to hold his own while being among the youngest players in his leagues, but he hasn’t excelled at any point since being drafted. There’s still good reason to think that he’ll develop 20-homer power as he matures. However, it doesn’t seem likely that he’ll last at shortstop and he’d have to get a whole lot better offensively in order to make it as a corner outfielder. Third base could be another option for him, but not with the Rays.
With fellow 2008 top-five picks Buster Posey, Brian Matusz and Pedro Alvarez all showing a lot of promise as rookies last season, the Rays appear to have made a costly misfire. But that’s the gamble they made by taking a chance on the raw talent. Unlike with the Padres and Matt Bush years earlier, this wasn’t a case of the Rays going with an overdraft in an attempt so save money. The team thought it was pretty well set at catcher and third base with Dioner Navarro and Evan Longoria, and Beckham was given pretty much the same bonus that Posey and Alvarez received.
Alcides Escobar finished with a .292 OBP this year. He came in at .246 in 117 at-bats in August and .257 in 109 at-bats between September and October, so he wasn’t exactly flying high entering the postseason. Still, that didn’t stop Ned Yost from putting him into the leadoff spot for Thursday’s Game 1 against the Astros.
Yost finally did reconsider hitting Escobar first in September. It took Alex Gordon‘s return to health, plus the previous addition of Ben Zobrist to the lineup, in order to make that happen. However, it didn’t stick. Escobar hit ninth in each of his starts from Sept. 7-26, batting .236 with a .276 OBP during that span. With five games left to go, he was suddenly returned to the leadoff spot. The Royals went on to win all five games. Yost saw it as a sign, even though Escobar went 5-for-22 with no walks in those games.
Escobar went 0-for-4 in Thursday’s loss to the Astros. He did not swing at the first pitch of the game, which probably explains the defeat.
It’s been difficult to argue with Yost since last year’s World Series run and this year’s incredible run out of the game. The blind spot with Escobar, though, gets rather infuriating. One can defend hitting him leadoff against the Astros’ lefties. His career OBP against southpaws is .319 (.316 this year). Against righties, he’s the most obvious No. 9 hitter alive, with a career .258/.290/.342 line (.252/.284/.314 this year). He’s not a pace-setter. He’s not a spark plug. He’s a liability.
After shutting out the Yankees in the AL Wild Card game on Tuesday, the Astros beat the Royals 5-2 in Game 1 of the ALDS on Thursday at Kauffman Stadium. Road teams are now 4-0 to begin the 2015 postseason.
The Astros grabbed an early 3-0 lead against Yordano Ventura through two innings. Chris Young took over for the Royals after a 47-minute rain delay and was very effective for the most part, allowing just a solo homer to George Springer over four innings while striking out seven batters. Colby Rasmus, who homered in the Wild Card game, took Ryan Madson deep in the eighth inning to give the Astros’ bullpen some extra breathing room.
Collin McHugh stayed in after the rain delay and ended up tossing six innings while allowing just four hits and one walk. Kendrys Morales did all the damage against him with a pair of solo homers. He’s the first Royals player to hit two home runs in a postseason game since George Brett in the 1985 ALCS.
The Royals’ offense showed some signs of life in the bottom of the eighth inning with back-to-back two-out hits against Will Harris, but Oliver Perez got Eric Hosmer to foul out to end the threat. Luke Gregerson tossed a scoreless ninth inning to finish off the victory.
Consistent with their identity during the regular season, the Astros won despite striking out 14 times. The same goes for the Royals, as they struck out just four times. Despite putting the ball into play more often, the Kansas City lineup wasn’t able to muster anything aside from the home runs by Morales.
Game 2 of the ALDS will begin Friday at 3:45 p.m. ET. Scott Kazmir will pitch for the Astros and Johnny Cueto will get the ball for the Royals.
After Kendrys Morales brought the Royals within one run in the bottom of the fourth inning with his second solo home run of the game, George Springer took Chris Young deep in the top of the fifth to extend the Astros’ lead to 4-2 in Game 1 of the ALDS.
According to Statcast, the ball traveled an estimated 422 feet and left Springer’s bat at 109 mph. Royals fans are happy it was just a solo home run. It could have been worse, as Jose Altuve singled to lead off the fifth inning before being thrown out trying to steal second base during Springer’s at-bat.
The Royals will try to answer as we move to the bottom of the fifth inning at Kauffman Stadium.