The Rays thrive on playing match-ups against opposing teams in order to maximize the production of their players. In order to do that, they need guys that can play multiple positions. And there is some evidence that the Rays are grooming former top-pick Tim Beckham to be the next full-fledged utility guy.
Ben Zobrist has long been the Rays’ Mr. Do-It-All, but in 2012, he played just three positions (2b, SS, RF) and one of those (SS) only came about after the Rays had exhausted all their other options. And now that Elliot Johnson is in Kansas City, the role of utility player in 2013 is likely to be played by Kelly Johnson, who is expected to play second base, first base, and outfield this season. But he is just here on a one-year deal.
So who is next? Outside of signing another player like Johnson, the most likely candidate from within the organization is Beckham.
In 2012, the Rays started playing Beckham at second base, when Reid Brignac was demoted. But most believe the move was made to make room for prospect Hak-Ju Lee who is expected to be in triple-A this season and is considered a better big league shortstop prospect.
On top of that, Marc Topkin speculates that Beckham could see time in the outfield this season, noting he has the athleticism and attitude to make it work. And defensively, Joe Maddon says he is already a big leaguer…
“He can play here right now on the field and on the bases; he can’t play here yet consistently offensively…Once he’s able to do that, have a consistent approach and understand what he’s doing at the plate, he could play here consistently.”
The Rays are not an organization that is ever going to get caught up on what a player should have been and try to force something that isn’t there. Rather, they will take what they have and try to maximize its usefulness. And for Beckham, that might mean becoming the next Mr. Do-It-All starting in 2014.