2008 first overall pick Tim Beckham becomes a long shot

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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.

Max Scherzer will not be ready for Opening Day

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Ten days ago Nationals ace Max Scherzer said he’d be ready for the start of the regular season. “I’m gonna do it,” Scherzer said.

[Ron Howard from “Arrested Development” voice] — No, he’s not:

Nationals manager Dusty Baker said that Max Scherzer is not on track to be the team’s opening day starter, and will most likely open the season as the third pitcher in the rotation.

He’s still projected to make it to the opening rotation, taking the hill, most likely, on Thursday April 6 against the Marlins. At least if the schedule doesn’t slip any more.

Scherzer, as you probably know, has a stress fracture in the knuckle of his right ring finger, which has messed with his preparation and has caused him to alter his grip a bit. As of now Stephen Strasburg will get the Opening Day nod.

Theo Epstein named The World’s Greatest Leader

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Fortune Magazine has put out a list of The World’s Greatest Leaders. Not the greatest business leaders, not the greatest leaders in a given industry, but the Greatest Leaders, full stop. The greatest according to Fortune: The Cubs’ Theo Epstein.

For some context, Pope Francis was third. Angela Merkel was 10th. Lebron James was the next greatest sports leader, ranked 11th. Take Fortune’s methodology with a grain of salt, however, given that it has John McCain above Merkel — what, exactly, does he lead now? — and Samantha Bee in the top 20.

So what makes Theo the world’s best leader according to Fortune?

The Cubs owe their success to a five-year rebuilding program that featured a concatenation of different leadership styles. The team thrived under the affable patience of owner Tom Ricketts, and, later, under the innovative eccentricity of manager Joe Maddon. But most important of all was the evolution of the club’s president for baseball operations, Theo Epstein, the wunderkind executive who realized he would need to grow as a leader in order to replicate in Chicago the success he’d had with the Boston Red Sox.

I don’t want to take anything away from what Theo has done — he’s a Hall of Fame executive already in my view — but I feel like maybe one needs to adjust for the fact that this is a baseball team we’re talking about. They’re the whole world to us and their brands are nationally and even world famous, but as an organization, sports teams are rather small. There are guys who run reasonably-sized HVAC companies with more employees than a baseball team and they don’t get the benefit of an antitrust exemption and a rule which allows them to get their pick of the best new employees if they had a bad year the year before.

Really, not trying to throw shade here, just thinking that being the spiritual father for 1.2 billion Catholics or running a foundation that serves 55 million needy children — like the woman who comes in at number 14 — is a bit of a tougher trick.

But this will make a great framed magazine article on Theo’s wall in Wrigley Field.