Thursday, March 12, 2009

Is Jeff Beachum the Missing Piece?

Welcome to Northwest Indiana Jeff Beachum, you might have some pretty big shoes to fill.

Acquired by the RailCats back in January, Beachum may be the man to watch in the first half of the 'Cats season, becuase the 25-year-old rookie will be given an opportunity in camp to win the vacant job at third base. Forget the pressure of filling the only open slot on an infield stacked with quality veterans, Beachum could also be asked to replace none other than 2008 Northern League Player of the Year Tanner Townsend.

Beachum's professional statistics don't look impressive - he's been limited to just 156 at bats in two seasons - but his college pedigree is as good as anyone. He's the Sun Belt Conference's all-time leader in hits, and the Middle Tennessee State program he came from has produced several professionals, including 'Cats second baseman Eric McNamee. In fact, McNamee and Beachum were teammates for two years at MTSU, a fact that should no doubt help Beachum ease into the RailCats clubhouse.

Of course, to say Beachum should fill Townsend's shoes is completely unfair, and is not what the RailCats would like him to do. Townsend's defensive ability will never be duplicated and the offensive slack must be picked up by any number of returning players like McNamee, Jay Pecci, Mike Rohde, Rob Marconi and others who will sign in the coming weeks. All Beachum hopes to do is play a competent third base and remain the patient contact hitter he's always been (in an All-Region 2006 season at MTSU, he struck out only 14 times in 248 at bats).

What the RailCats hope Beachum can be is another inexperienced yet productive position player. Talented enough to play in the Northern League -the Winnipeg Goldeyes held Beachum's rights before the start of last season until he was traded to Washington - if Beachum wins the third base job (veterans Paul Bartolucci and Isaac Omura could also be in the running) his rookie status would make him a tremendous asset as an everyday player. While all Northern League teams are required to have four rookie players, the vast majority are either relief pitchers, back-of-the-rotation starting pitchers or backups; maybe a starting catcher at best.

Teams with productive rookies are usually teams playing into the post-season, including the 2008 RailCats who had rookie-status position players Rohde and Brett Wallace both take part in the All-Star Game. By getting rookies who produce under Greg Tagert, the RailCats have been able to spend higher value and higher paying (LS-4, LS-5 and veteran) roster spots on players like all-league closer Koichi Misawa in positions typically reserved for younger, less experienced players. And with the roster slot and money Townsend left open upon heading to the Florida Marlins camp not filled by Beachum, the RailCats are free to spend more to re-sign and add other new pieces to the mix.

So welcome again to Gary, Jeff Beachum. You won't have to be Tanner Townsend - or even Mike Rohde - but if you show me Beachum at third base in August, I'll show you the RailCats playing into September.


  1. Hopefully some competition at the third base position brings the talent out in this guy.
    It sounds like he has the ability, but has been hampered by injury in his short career. While we've been spoiled with some really great players, the Cats have had success finding guys to fill holes with such departures. Let's hope this is the case here, because it is such an important position if you are going to be a championship caliber team.

  2. Let's hope some competition brings out the best in this guy. It sounds like the talent is there, but he has been hampered by injury in his short career. While we've been spoiled with some great players, the Cats' have had success plugging holes with adequate replacements and still remaining competitive. We need to hope this is the case again at third base, because it is such an important position if you are going to be considered a championship caliber team. Best of luck Jeff!