Tim Beckham, inf
Given the overwhelming failure rate of prospects, an organization can rarely afford to be overly patient or forgiving with their young players. However, when it involves a former top draft pick, they tend to be more lenient due to the amount of money originally invested.
Headed into the 2013 season, there are countless former top prospects on verge of falling out of the long-term picture with their current organizations. For many of them, it may be their final chance to right the ship and avoid becoming merely a “what-could-have-been” player.
Here’s a look at five once highly regarded prospects facing a make-or-break season in 2013.
A local New York product selected in the eighth round of the 2006 draft, Betances was expected to contribute in the major leagues last year after making his debut at the end of the 2011 season. However, the control problems that plagued the 6’8”, 260-pound right-hander early in his career resurfaced and prevented a return to the majors.
After registering a 6.39 ERA with 69 walks in 74.2 innings to open the season at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, Betances continued to deteriorate following a demotion to Double-A Trenton. At this point, his development as a starting pitcher is a lost cause. If the Yankees hope to mine any value from the right-hander, then it’s time to relegate him to the bullpen.
A supplemental first-round pick in 2008, Montgomery was on the fast track to the major leagues after reaching Double-A Northwest Arkansas as a 20-year-old in 2010. However, since then the left-hander has struggled, registering a 5.46 ERA with 196/112 K/BB in 242.1 innings over the last two seasons for Triple-A Omaha. The situation took a turn for the worst following a mid-season demotion to Double-A, as he posted a 6.67 ERA over 10 starts.
With no end to his free-fall in sight, the Royals opted to part ways with Montgomery this offseason when they included him in a trade with the Rays for James Shields and Wade Davis. In a system that’s loaded with left-handed pitching, the 23-year-old will have to thoroughly dominate in order to re-assert himself as a legitimate prospect.
Despite a lingering elbow injury as a junior at Louisiana State, the Red Sox still picked Ranaudo, a 6’7” right-hander, in the supplemental first round of the 2010 draft. After an encouraging full-season debut the following year, the 23-year-old struggled to stay healthy in 2012 and made only nine starts for Double-A Portland.
Opening the year on the disabled list with a groin injury, Ranaudo returned to post a 6.69 ERA with 27/27 K/BB in 37.2 innings before he was shelved for the season in July with shoulder fatigue. He still has potential, though, at this point, there’s reason to believe that he may never be fully healthy.
The Cubs’ first-round draft pick in 2009, Jackson regressed across the board last season at Triple-A Iowa, batting .256/.338/.479 with 49 extra-base hits, 27 stolen bases and 158 strikeouts in 106 games. The 24-year-old’s offensive weaknesses were only magnified following a promotion to the major leagues in late August, where he batted .175/.303/.342 with 59 strikeouts (41.5 percent strikeout rate) in 142 plate appearances.
Clearly in need of additional seasoning to refine his approach and pitch recognition, Jackson will presumably head back to Triple-A Iowa to begin the 2013 season. However, it’s become increasingly difficult to envision the outfielder sticking in the major leagues without an improved contact rate.
The No. 1 overall draft pick in 2008 out of a Georgia high school, Beckham’s rise through the Rays’ system has been slow and shaky. The 6’0', 190-pound infielder has not only failed to reach the major leagues over the last five seasons, but hit a paltry .264/.330/.379 along the way.
To make things worse, Beckham was slapped with a 50-game suspension early last year after testing positive for a drug of abuse for a second time. Had he not missed a significant chunk of the season, there is a chance that he would have been a September call-up.
The Rays protected the 22-year-old from the Rule 5 draft in late November by adding him to the 40-man roster. Although that may seem like a vote of confidence, the 2013 season will likely be Beckham’s last chance to put everything together.