The full package, top prospect Beckham ready to make leap
GRIFFIN, Ga. -- Tim Beckham signed his first autograph as a 12-year old at Dreams Park in Cooperstown, N.Y. The significance is not lost on him.
"I don't just want to be an average player," he says. "I want to be a Hall of Famer."
Brash words from an 18 year old, but as a player who may be drafted somewhere in the top five in Thursday's Major League Baseball draft and possibly No. 1, the future can seem limitless.
Beckham is a five-tool shortstop who excelled on the high school all-star circuit the past two summers, wowing scouts with his athleticism in the field and on the basepaths. At 6-foot, 190 pounds, Beckham is physically mature, and most scouts feel he will be able remain a shortstop at the major-league level. Baseball America rates Beckham as the top high school prospect in the country.
"He's got soft hands at the plate and in the field," says Griffin (Ga.) coach Jamie Cassady, who has been at the school for 16 years. "Tim is the best player we've had and it is not even close. Tim is the whole package."
Scouts and baseball front office personnel have descended on this blue-collar town 20 miles south of Atlanta for the past three months. Cassady said there has not been a day -- practice or game -- that was not attended by someone who wanted to watch Beckham work out. Every day, Beckham says, feels like a tryout.
"There really hasn't been a time where he could relax, but he has taken it well," Cassady says.
During a recent double-header in the state tournament, Beckham demonstrated everything scouts have come to love. He showed off his arm on a relay from the outfield to home, turned a double-play, fielded a ground ball behind second to nail a runner, stole bases, crushed a triple and reached base six times in nine plate appearances.
Beckham led Griffin to the state championship series for the first time since 1981 after batting .482 with a .570 on-base percentage from the leadoff spot. Griffin was swept 2-0 in the best-of-three final, but Beckham banged out five hits and reached base all but once during the two games.
"He picked it up a notch," Cassady says. "The great ones usually do in the big games."
With all the attention and hype Beckham has received since emerging as a top-flight prospect two summers ago, it is easy to forget he's still three years away from being able to buy his first beer. One minute he's talking about agents, contracts and minor-league ball, the next he's thumbing through his yearbook and looking at his girlfriend's note.
"She wrote a whole page," he says. "I don't know if I can read all that."
Though his signing bonus is expected to fall in the $4-6 million range, Beckham still giggles when he says he leaves his high school's campus (against the rules) every once in a while for lunch, and regularly checks his Facebook page, which currently boasts 568 friends. Clubs throw the term makeup around, referring to a player's character, and Beckham's more than checks out.
"I think he is [ready] because I think he expected he would be [a high draft pick]," says Jimmy Beckham, Tim's father. "It didn't take him long to realize, he wasn't just better than the next guy, he was a lot better than the next guy."