Flashback: Blue Jays & Beede: Swing and a Miss?

With the rash of injuries to the Blue Jays starters, the depletion-via-trade of a lot of their young and highly-touted pitching stock in the minor leagues, and with the 2013 MLB draft fast approaching, I thought it would be a good time to poke at an old wound for some Blue Jays fans: the 2011 draft. Specifically, first-round draft pick Tyler Beede (#21) and the Blue Jays not being able to agree to terms and sign a contract.

Now, before I continue to try to make some vague point, let me acknowledge that in the 2012 draft the Blue Jays used their compensatory pick to sign Marcus Stroman (#22 in round 1), another pitcher who is very highly regarded. As such, their failure to sign Beede can in no way be viewed as a complete loss.

At the time, I remember following much of the draft discussion on twitter. A lot of good-natured Blue Jays fans reached out to the youngster, encouraging him to sign and welcoming him with open arms. A lot of fans put their best foot forward in an effort to appeal to Beede. As time wore on and the two sides appeared no closer to an agreement, reports surfaced that Beede wanted a shitload of money. He wanted far more money than his slot was valued at. To put it in perspective, the number one pick, Gerrit Cole signed for $8MM; the number 10 pick, Cory Spangenberg, signed for about $1.86MM; Tyler Anderson, the number 20 pick, signed for $1.4MM; Tyler Beede, the number 21 pick, reportedly wanted $3.5MM. It’s not hard to see why the Blue Jays were unwilling to go that high. As August 15th came and went and news of Beede’s decision not to sign was spread about the internet, Beede was savaged on twitter by a segment of vociferous fans who felt spurned. It was a turnabout both hilarious and stupefying–as well as being highly representative of the highs and lows that come with sports in Toronto.

After Beede opted to go to Vanderbilt instead of taking the $2.5MM the Jays offered, he struggled in his first year, going 1-5 with a 4.52 ERA. For the fans who couldn’t let go, hearing of his struggles was schadenfreude.

This past year, however, Beede has seemingly come into his own, going 14-0 and breaking David Price’s old Vanderbilt record of 11 wins with no losses. As I recently caught wind of his record-setting season, I was uncomfortably reminded of the Blue Jays inability to sign him. I found myself thinking, “I know he’s a kid but with all the injuries the Blue Jays have experienced this year to their starting staff (again), maybe he could have helped. If not this year, then certainly soon.”

I looked at his stats to date and there was one major red flag. Here’s his line:

14 W 0 L 2.10 ERA 15 GS 94.1 IP 57 H 26 R (22 ER) 55 BB 97 K 5.25 BB/9 9.25 K/9

What jumped out at me (and what should jump out at you because I put it in bold) is that all season, Beede has walked an average of 5.25 batters per nine innings. Amazingly, he has also struck out 9.25 batters per nine innings. One can only guess at how he can both walk and strike out so many batters.

I see two possible scenarios to explain how this is possible: (1) his swing and miss stuff is really good and isn’t thrown over the plate which leads to a high k/9 rate (on swinging strikes), or (2) Beede is a bit wild and SEC hitters are free-swingers who have problems with chasing pitches out of the zone. Otherwise I’m not sure how to explain how such a high walk rate can be coupled with a very good strikeout rate.

Without having seen him pitch this year it’s all merely conjecture. It led me to think about how his college career will affect his ranking in 2014 when he presumably re-enters the draft. I also wondered if the Jays would take another shot at him should the opportunity present itself. This in turn made me think of another college pitcher the Blue Jays drafted in the first round: one Deck McGuire.

McGuire’s college numbers compare quite favourably to Beede’s:

9 W 4 L 2.96 ERA 16 GS 112.2 IP 94 H 44 R (37 ER) 33 BB 118 K 2.64 BB/9 9.43 K/9

Deck’s numbers, specifically the much lower BB/9 and similar K/9, suggest that at a similar point his control was much more polished than Beede’s. Of course, Deck has been struggling these last few years in the minor leagues and his college numbers haven’t held up against the more formidable hitters he’s been facing. It is entirely possible that Beede could end up in the same boat. Of course it’s entirely possible that he won’t.

All of which is to say that baseball is unpredictable and everything that happens prior to reaching the minor leagues provides, at best, only a rough outline of the shape of things to come. Sometimes what we see tells us what we’re going to get… but sometimes what we see really just tells us that we need better glasses.

It will be years yet before anyone knows if the failure to sign Beede means anything, and by then I hope nobody cares enough to waste another 800 words on the subject.

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