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Tim Beckham Is the Post-Hype Breakout You've Been Looking For


Tim Beckham is the MVP. At least, he was one week into the MLB season. He earned the year's first American League Player of the Week honors after hitting .423 with three HR, eight RBI, eight runs scored and a 1.401 OPS in the first seven games. So much for the theory that a trip to Japan hurts a team's early-season performance.

Beckham didn't waste any time, going 3-for-3 in the first game of the season, including his first homer. He's collected at least one hit in 10 of 13 games so far as of April 10. Still, we're already forgetting about his hot start. Attention has shifted away from Beckham now that his entire team is going H.A.M. and even less-heralded Daniel Vogelbach is stealing the show lately.

Overreacting to small sample sizes is for suckers, as is declaring someone a breakout after one week when we have several seasons of lackluster stats to prove that the ship has already sailed. This just might be different, though. Let me tell you why Tim Beckham may actually be the post-hype breakout you've been looking for all preseason.

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The Pedigree Is Real

Tim Beckham has bounced around to three different teams in the past three years, playing at second base, third base, shortstop, and occasionally DH. On paper, he seemed to be a journeyman infielder in the making. It wasn't always this way, though.

Beckham was a former #1 overall pick by Tampa Bay. This is a team that has drafted very well over the past few years and only moved on from Beckham because they knew they had great talent waiting in the wings. At the age of 27, he found himself with a fresh start in Baltimore, ready to breakout. And he did, sort of.

You may recall, he has done the fast-start-with-a-new-club thing before. Upon first arriving in Baltimore back in August of 2017, he went 14-for-24 with three homers and six RBI, winning AL Player of the Week. Nothing like a good first impression, right? He would finish the year with a .306 average and 10 HR in 50 games for the Orioles.

Then 2018 happened; we know that didn't go over so well for any O's player not named Manny. Beckham found himself on the outs again for a team rebuilding with youth. While he slightly underperformed on his expected stats, it was a disappointing season as he saw his Barrel rate cut nearly in half and plate discipline still lacking with an 18.2% K-BB%. Onto another rebuilding club in Seattle where he would just hope for a chance at regular playing time...

 

The Amazin' M's

The story of Tim Beckham's resurgence to fantasy relevance has been overshadowed by the performance of the entire Mariners lineup, which just set the record for consecutive games with a home run to start the season at 15. Players like Mitch Haniger, Domingo Santana, Jay Bruce, and the aforementioned Vogelbach are putting up bigger numbers than Beckham. The whole team is overachieving (FantasyPros had Seattle's preseason win total over/under at 72.5) and is bound to fall back to Earth at some point, especially on offense. So why have interest in Beckham?

First, even with negative regression baked in, it's obvious this Mariners lineup is far better than we anticipated. In fact, aside from the HR record, they're off to a historically hot start with the bat, having scored the fifth-highest run total after 13 games in MLB history. They have a great balance between veterans and youth, power and speed. With table setters like Mallex Smith and Dee Gordon and a group of mashers in the middle, RBI opportunities should be plentiful for Beckham.

Second, he's done the most important thing a player needs to take a leap forward and that's to improve his plate discipline. Yes, it's just two weeks in, but he's walking at a 13.7% clip, which is more than double his career 6.6% BB%. The strikeouts have been cut down to 17.6%, which is by far his career best as well.

Next, he should get a slight bump in value over guys like Santana and Bruce because he slots in at third base or shortstop. Positional eligibility at CI or MI is valuable in deeper leagues and may allow you to move an extra bat if you find yourself in need of pitching help (who doesn't?).

Finally, Statcast approves this message. He has found a way to strike the ball harder, with a 90.1 MPH average exit velocity that is three points above his career norm. That's not exceptional by any means, placing him 110th on the MLB leaderboard, but it's a big improvement from last year's 86.6 mark. He's also managed to increase his launch angle and zone contact rate significantly, which has helped him hit five doubles along with four homers thus far. He is definitely outperforming his .409 xwOBA with a .514 wOBA to start the year but a .300 xBA and .553 xSLG tell of a player who isn't getting lucky with the bat. Expect some regression with the K-BB rate, but he could very well hit close to .300 by year's end.

 

Conclusion

Beckham has already been scooped up in many leagues, currently with a 76% ownership level. Chances are this is a player who will be dropped over the next couple of weeks by non-believers or impatient streamers once he goes through a couple of hitless games. While many will discount his fast start as a byproduct of a hot team or a flash in the pan, we should remember that Beckham has always had the potential to be a star but hasn't landed in the right situation.

Doubt Seattle's World Series chances all you want, but from a fantasy perspective, this team has proven it can produce runs. I'm buying Beckham as the post-hype sleeper I had him pegged for last season. Don't be afraid to buy in, even if it means jumping on a shaky bandwagon. After all, without risk, there can be no reward.

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