Road Weary

MARIETTA, Ga.–Scouts covering the World Wood Bat Association tournaments in suburban Atlanta are downtrodden and weary at this stage of the summer. This week’s 17-and-under tournament includes more than 120 teams from all over the country, Puerto Rico and Canada, and games are played for six consecutive days at as many as 16 different high school and college fields in the area, as well as four fields at the main East Cobb complex. It can be overwhelming for any of the dozens of professional scouts in attendance, but it’s generally a good way to get an early look at some of the top rising high school juniors and seniors, many of whom will be drafted next year.

As the event was winding down, my colleague, intern Travis Young, and I were getting a firm grip on who some of the best players in the class are. There’s been a nice maturation of Tim Beckham’s game this summer, and he might be the best prospect in attendance this week. A 6-foot-2 Class of 2008 shortstop from Griffin (Ga.) High School, Beckham was more flash than substance at the summer’s first wide-scale showcase, Perfect Game’s National Showcase in Cincinnati Father’s Day weekend.

As that event concluded, many scouts departed a touch disappointed with Beckham’s uneven showing, but this week he’s really shown why he was named to the Aflac Classic and ranks among the top position players, including college players, in next year’s class. I watched Long Beach State’s Danny Espinosa for more than a week with the college national team earlier this month, and Beckham’s defensive ability is on par with his, though Espinosa is more consistent.
His defensive skills are unrivaled, and he does things in the middle of the diamond that simply can’t be taught. Body control, agility, instincts, lightning-quick reflexes, soft hands, a plus arm and range are all attributes Beckham has displayed this week.

He’s made consistent hard contact and showed some feel for the strike zone at the plate. He’s not a burner, but he’ll show plus times from home-to-first and he has peppered the gaps with a handful of stand-up doubles in the games I’ve seen him play.