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Rays prospect Beckham aims to hone craft in AFL

SCOTTSDALE, ARIZ. -- Being considered No. 1 puts a player in the limelight and makes him a target. It's how he handles the situation that goes a long way in determining his success.

Tim Beckham, the top overall pick in the 2008 Draft, signed for $6.15 million, the most ever paid by the Tampa Bay Rays for a Draft choice. He has a quick answer when he's asked if he feels any of that pressure: "No, not at all."

Beckham does admit it was a gratifying experience, saying young players grow up dreaming of getting that honor.

Beckham, who also was rated the No. 1 high school prospect in the country after a standout career in Griffin, Ga., spent the 2012 season with Triple-A Durham of the International League, hitting .256. Through nine games in the Arizona Fall League, in his second stint with the Phoenix Desert Dogs, he is batting .250.

The 6-foot, 190-pound infielder has had peaks and valleys to this point in his career.

In 2010, he led Class A Advanced Charlotte in the Florida State League in RBIs, runs, walks and strikeouts. A year earlier, at Class A, he committed the most errors (43) of any shortstop in the South Atlantic League, but he has raised his fielding percentage significantly since then.

Entering the 2011 season, Baseball America rated him as having the best infield arm in the Rays' organization.

"It's going good," Beckham said. "It always could be better, but it's going good. I'm happy where I'm at; I'm happy with my progression."

Desert Dogs manager Aaron Holbert believes there's always pressure when a youngster is tagged No. 1.

"[Beckham] wants to go out and show the organization, show the baseball world why he was drafted in the first round, why he went that high," Holbert said. "So I think once you get over that initial thought process, you just go out and realize baseball's baseball and go play your game and settle in and be comfortable.

"I think you begin putting up the numbers that you're capable of putting up. There is a slight bit of pressure, but I don't think the pressure comes from the organization. I think it comes from the individual to meet those expectations."

Beckham, who turned 22 in January, said he knows of no timetable on his possible ascent to the Major Leagues. He said whenever the Rays feel that he is ready, "I'll be ready then, and we'll just go about it that way."

Beckham knows there are aspects of his game he has to work on. He expects to improve as he matures, but he knows he won't be flawless.

"Nobody's perfect," Beckham said. "You always strive for perfection and practice for perfection, but nobody's perfect, so I feel like everybody always needs to just work on their all-around game."

Rays hitters in the Fall League
Kevin Kiermaier, a center fielder, was a 31st-round pick in the Draft (941st overall) in 2010 out of Parkland (Ill.) Junior College. He played most of last season in Class A Advanced, but in a four-game stint with Triple-A Durham, he hit .333. Kiermaier is putting together a nice Fall League season, hitting .379 with three RBIs in his first nine games.

Hak-Ju Lee had a lot of momentum after the 2011 season. According to Baseball America, the South Korean infielder, initially signed by the Cubs, was the Florida State League's best prospect, fastest baserunner, best defensive prospect and most exciting player. This season at Double-A Montgomery, he hit .261 and stole 37 bases, but also had a Minor League career-high 102 strikeouts. Through nine Fall League games, he was batting .229 with two stolen bases, but had been caught four times.

Richie Shaffer, a third-base prospect, was a first-round Draft choice (25th overall) by the Rays in 2012. He played 33 games in the Short Season Class A New-York Penn League, and he hit .308 with four home runs and 26 RBIs. The only blemish was his 31 strikeouts.

Rays pitchers in the Fall League
Lenny Linsky, a second-round Draft choice (89th overall) in 2011, he appeared in 18 games as a reliever for Class A Advanced Charlotte in the Florida State League, with two saves and a 3.07 ERA. In his first four Fall League appearances, encompassing 5 2/3 innings, the 6-foot-2, 200-pounder had a 7.52 ERA.

Chris Rearick was a 2012 Florida State League All-Star. The 6-foot-3 lefty -- a 41st-round Draft pick (1,241st overall) in 2010 -- has made solid progress, making it to Double-A for 15 relief appearances with Montgomery of the Southern League with a 2-1 record, 4.38 ERA and two saves. Rearick struck out 26 in 24 2/3 innings.

C.J. Riefenhauser was a 20th-round selection (611th overall) in 2010. The left-hander has both started and relieved, and sports a 17-17 Minor League record. He posted a 1-1 mark in brief duty at Double-A this season with Montgomery. Through five relief appearances this fall, he was unscored upon in 7 2/3 innings with six strikeouts.

Kirby Yates played with Surprise in the 2011 Fall League. The right-handed relief pitcher from Yavapai College in Prescott, Ariz., was selected in the 26th round (798th overall) by the Red Sox in the 2005 Draft. Yates, one of the older players in the league at 25, collected 16 saves and a 4-2 record for Double-A Montgomery this season, appearing in 50 games. He struck out 94 batters in 68 innings and posted a 2.65 ERA.

Tampa Bay Rays, Tim Beckham, Kevin Kiermaier, Hak-Ju Lee, Lenny Linsky, Chris Rearick, C.J. Riefenhauser, Richie Shaffer, Kirby Yates