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What do the Orioles have in Tim Beckham?

The acquisition of Tim Beckham came to be a shock, but the O’s don’t have a long-term solution at shortstop. At virtually no cost, the Orioles may have stole a player who’s yet to figure out what he can be.

MLB: Kansas City Royals at Baltimore Orioles Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

Like most Twitter-versed Oriole fans, I was glued to my timeline through the entirety of the non-waiver trade deadline.

Every Ken Rosenthal update in the minutes leading up to the deadline was met with either an instantaneous nod or cringe. My gut said that the Orioles were going to get a deal from the likes of the Dodgers or Astros willing to shell out the necessary prospect ammunition to force Peter Angelos to say yes, but it didn’t happen.

I assumed a Britton deal would be made, but I, as well as a lot of folks, underestimated how much more contenders valued the attic of the barn. The Orioles were berated for it, but if they weren’t getting the kind of deal they felt forced approval, it kinda is what it is.

However, the Rays didn’t value former first-round pick Tim Beckham to be worth much capital on the open market or in the infield. Beckham’s name garnered not a yes or a no, but genuine surprise. At first, it seemed dumb.

Why Beckham, a guy who’s reportedly battled bouts of composure with being one of the handful of underwhelming first-overall picks in the last decade? What’s the point of trading for a 27-year-old shortstop in truly his first full season? Do the Orioles really need another guy that has major issues putting the baseball in play?

All legitimate concerns, but very much moot.

The Orioles shipped off Tobias Myers, an 18-year-old at Short-A Aberdeen, in exchange for Beckham. A kid with a good fastball, good changeup and athletic delivery, Myers looks to be molding into his body and seemed to be adding even more velocity on his fastball (reports of him touching 96 MPH have floated around the Twittersphere).

Perhaps tough to stomach, there’s no shame in swapping a teenager whose future is far in front of him for a guy capable of playing shortstop at an everyday pace.

Tim Beckham Career Plate Discipline

### O-Swing% Z-Swing% Swing% O-Contact% Z-Contact% Contact% Zone% SwStr%
### O-Swing% Z-Swing% Swing% O-Contact% Z-Contact% Contact% Zone% SwStr%
2013 28.6 % 68.8 % 50.0 % 75.0 % 100.0 % 93.3 % 53.3 % 3.3 %
2015 32.1 % 68.8 % 49.5 % 54.0 % 76.1 % 68.5 % 47.4 % 15.6 %
2016 33.6 % 68.4 % 49.1 % 48.7 % 74.2 % 64.6 % 44.7 % 17.4 %
2017 35.7 % 71.0 % 51.6 % 49.5 % 79.3 % 67.9 % 44.9 % 16.5 %

Yes, Beckham’s execution at the plate has been flailing with increase as he’s progressed as a big leaguer. More chases have meant less contact in certain areas, and while it’s no longer all that strange to lack the ability to make consistent contact, you’d hope to see Beckham utilize his extreme athleticism a bit more.

No matter, as Beckham has continued to swing with haste, he’s managed to make more contact, and that contact has been put to impressive use.

Tim Beckham Offense 2015-17

### Average OBP SLG wOBA wRC+
### Average OBP SLG wOBA wRC+
2015 0.222 0.274 0.429 0.3 91
2016 0.247 0.3 0.434 0.314 98
2017 0.262 0.316 0.411 0.313 97

Barring injury, Beckham wasn’t getting a lot of consistent playing time with the Rays, especially so after Brad Miller’s 30 home run outbreak a season ago and with Adeiny Hechavarria getting a chunk of time at shortstop. Despite his overall lack of plate appearances, Beckham has still managed to be a nearly league-average hitter, with the introduction of pop into his game.

Already with 12 home runs this season, Beckham has a swing intended to lift the baseball. And as the Orioles have seen in only two games, the guy is an athletic freak.

These are two signs that move in parallel.

Since Beckham has been in Baltimore, he’s showed off all of the positives that come with a guy who is capable of hitting the baseball as hard almost anyone. That slight uppercut doesn’t lose any credibility going to right field, because he does look like a guy with uniquely natural power for a middle infielder. Such a display suggests that the home runs are legit, and this is may be a major league swing still in its infancy.

As Jonathan Schoop has shown us this season, plate discipline can be learned, and Beckham is certainly a candidate of those kinds of small improvements. But, regardless of his strikeout tendencies, this is a swing capable of damage.

He’s shown incremental improvement in contacting the breaking and off-speed stuff with more plate appearances, another trend in the right direction. Perhaps overlooked, this is a player yet step into the box 800 times at the big league level. We’re still not really sure how good Beckham can be.

For an organization not known for being fleet of foot, Beckham’s two-game sample has also offered a nice change of pace (in the proper direction). Beating out a dribbler and extending a usual double into a triple, the speedy Beckham also uses the base paths as a venue for his athletic prowess. The Orioles haven’t had a kind of athlete such as Beckham in quite some time, and quite simply, it’s refreshing.

It’s understood that the Rays are proficient in pinpointing what a pitcher does best, giving the departure of last year’s sixth round pick an eery feeling, but the Orioles got a project worthy of taking on.

With J.J. Hardy to come back sooner rather than later, Beckham will continue to get a steady number of at-bats until the day comes. As Hardy’s tenure with the Orioles is likely to end after this season, Beckham’s arrival in Baltimore comes with the unspoken promise that he’s going to get consistent playing time in 2018 and beyond.

Being able to plug in a growing player at a position of need, especially one such as Beckham, is an easy gamble to make. Even at the rate he’s shown for most of two seasons, he’s a passable defender whose bat isn’t limited to singles and doubles. If Duquette is right, and Beckham progresses as a hitter, then the Orioles will have stealthily snagged a rare commodity. If not, then you’re left with a shortstop still capable of providing value most days of the week.

At first glance, Beckham becoming an Oriole was assumed to be small because of what Beckham is on the surface. As it pertains to Beckham, we can’t yet assume anything, because, in all honesty, there’s still much to learn.