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Archive for Friday, June 6, 2008

Rays make prep shortstop top pick

June 6, 2008

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— The Tampa Bay Rays selected Tim Beckham with the No. 1 pick in the baseball draft Thursday, choosing the talented high school shortstop from Griffin, Ga., over Florida State catcher Buster Posey.

Beckham was recognized as one of the best pure athletes in the draft and labeled a legitimate five-tool player. He established himself as the top prep prospect in the nation with solid performances at last summer's high school showcase events and hit .482 with six homers, 13 doubles, 41 RBIs and 23 stolen bases as a senior.

"I found out this morning. ... The scouting director gave me a call and the general manager gave me a call. It was crazy. I was about to do a back flip in my room," Beckham said.

"It means everything in the world. I've worked this hard the last three or four years, me and my brothers and my dad. This means all the hard work paid off. I hope to become an All-Star and after that I want to become a Hall of Famer."

With the second pick, the Pittsburgh Pirates chose sweet-swinging Vanderbilt third baseman Pedro Alvarez. Florida high school first baseman Eric Hosmer went third to the Kansas City Royals, and the Baltimore Orioles took top college pitching prospect Brian Matusz out of San Diego with the fourth pick.

This is the second straight year the Rays have had the No. 1 pick. David Price, a hard-throwing left-hander from Vanderbilt, was the choice in 2007 and is off to a great start with Class-A Vero Beach.

Beckham is the third high school shortstop taken No. 1 overall in the last five years, joining Justin Upton (Arizona, 2005) and Matt Bush (San Diego, 2004).

There always is pressure to get the No. 1 pick right, but the Rays imposed some extra heat on themselves this year because they're hoping it will be years before they'll be in a position to select first again.

Tampa Bay whittled its list of candidates for the top pick to five, then trimmed it to two - Beckham and Posey, a converted shortstop who developed into one of college baseball's top offensive and defensive catchers over the past year.

"It was an active debate, but I think at the end of the day when push came to shove and we were racing time, I think it was pretty clear to everybody that Tim Beckham was the guy at the top of our board," Rays executive vice president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman said.

"We feel like he's got an advanced approach to the game, a genuine enthusiasm for what he does, and we feel like he's got a great chance to be an impact player in the major leagues."

The Rays called Posey a few hours before the draft to inform him that they were going to select Beckham. The Florida State star, hitting a Division I-leading .468 heading into this week's NCAA super regionals, wound up going to the San Francisco Giants with the fifth pick.

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