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Beckham is the 1

The Rays took Griffin (Ga.) High SS Tim Beckham with the top pick in today's draft.

"We feel has has 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,'' Rays executive VP Andrew Friedman said at Tropicana Field shortly after the selection.

Beckham, 18, is an athletic, five-tools type of player projected by many scouts to be a future star, possibly along the lines of current Rays CF B.J. Upton, or his brother Justin, a RF with the Diamondbacks. The Rays on Wednesday said they had narrowed the field to Beckham and Florida State catcher Buster Posey.

Scouting director R.J. Harrison said when he first saw Beckham play last summer he considered hi, a blend of five current major-leaguers: Gary Sheffield, of the Tigers; Orlando Hudson, D'backs; Brandon Phillips, Reds; and the Uptons. "I felt there was a little bit of everybody from that group in this kid,'' he said.

Baseball America ranked Beckham the top high school prospect in the draft and second among draft eligibles on their list of "best pure hitters" and "closest to the majors" and third among "best defensive players.''

Beckham, who spent the day with family and friends in Griffin, Ga., spoke on a conference call with Tampa Bay media shortly after 5 and said he was overjoyed at the news. "It was crazy,'' Beckham said. "I wanted to do a back flip in my room.''

More importantly, he said he expects to be in the majors in "2-3"  years - "the quicker the better for me.''

The Rays are hopeful of getting him signed quickly so he can start playing for their Princeton, W. Va., farm team, and said indications from the Beckham family and his advisors are that the feeling is mutual. Beckham has a college scholarship offer to Southern Cal, and there is an Aug. 15 signing deadline. "We're hopeful that it won't be something that will drag on throughout the summer,'' Friedman said.

Beckham said he was eager to get started as well, but would meet first with his advisers on Friday. ""As quickly as I can get it done the happier I'll be,'' he said. "I'm ready to play ball.''

Beckham hit .482 (53-for-110) with six homers, 13 doubles, 41 RBIs, 58 runs and 23 steals in 36 games during his senior season, leading Griffin to the state finals. He had a slugging percentage of .701, and on-base percentage of .570 and an OPS of 1.271.

Here is what Harrison said about Beckham at last week's media session:
"A really good player at a premium position. Middle of the field player, very good athlete, an advanced bat, had a real good awareness on the field. He plays the game with a great deal of enthusiasm, and then when you spend time with him away from the field, he's the same guy. He's a fun guy to be around.''

In an interview with the Times earlier this week, Beckham's father, Jimmy, said he his son, the youngest of three, was the total package as a player, offering comparisons that he hits with the power of Marlins star Hanley Ramirez, runs with the confidence of Mets star Jose Reyes and had the leadership abilities of Yankees star Derek Jeter.

"He's special. He has real unique leadership skills,'' Jimmy Beckham said. "I brag about my sons all the time, but he's a great kid, a really great kid. He's got the ultimate personality. He's the life of the party.''

Beckham started playing baseball as a young kid in Griffin, about 40 miles south of Atlanta, then gave up the sport when he was 11, only to be urged back in about three years later by his father and older brother Jeremy, who played at Georgia Southern and also could be drafted.

"There was a time where like most black kids he gravitated toward basketball and football, but my deal with him was that he could play other sports but he couldn't totally quit baseball,'' Jimmy Beckham said. "And then he got excited about it again.''

There were reports by Baseball Prospectus and other web sites that Posey was seeking a package of a record $12-million, which could be an issue for teams. Friedman said that was "zero factor" in the Rays decision.

[Last modified: Monday, December 21, 2009 12:35am]


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