Very early in spring training the Pirates surprised a few of us by going to the bullpen and calling on Ryan Beckman in the 2nd inning of their second spring training game. After all, he had only pitched in State College the previous year and at age 21, that isn’t the type of pitcher you usually see getting a look in major league camp at that point. He impressed us by retiring all five batters he faced in front of a sold out crowd. Not bad for an 18th round pick with just 81 innings of short season ball to his credit.
That wouldn’t be the end of him making quite an impression this season, by far. Last year he posted a 4.68 ERA in 21 relief appearances with a very low K rate while with State College. After being drafted in 2009 he posted a 5.49 ERA in the GCL with just 19 stikeouts in 39.1 innings so you can forgive us for not expecting him to be promoted after just 4 games with West Virginia despite pitching 6 scoreless innings.
Maybe we shouldn’t have been surprised that he has also succeeded with Bradenton in the closer role, especially after working through a couple tough outings in June. Since the FSL all-star break, the 6′ 4″ RHP has posted a 1.95 ERA in 21 appearances. He has also greatly improved his strikeout rate with 45 in 48.1 innings with the Marauders. Ryan has recorded 11 saves on the season, 9 with Bradenton and just yesterday he picked up his 4th win with two scoreless innings against the first half winners, St Lucie Mets, running his streak to 9 straight appearances and 11.1 innings without a run allowed.
Perhaps the most impressive stat is his home runs allowed. In his 54.1 total innings over 42 appearances he hasn’t allowed a single home run this year. Prior to this season he had given up 8 homers in his first two years against what was obviously a less talented group of batters in short-season ball. His groundball rate this year hasn’t been as good as it was last year when he posted an impressive 2.63 GO/AO but he is still getting more grounders than fly balls and the extra strikeouts certainly help out. Another impressive stat is that left-handed batters are hitting just .200 off him since moving up to Bradenton.
He will likely have a great test coming up if the Marauders can hold on to their lead in the division. Closing out playoff games, even in the minors, is a great experience for a 21 year old. I’m not even going to guess what the future will hold for Beckman, closing games in Altoona would be ideal for him, but at this point I won’t be surprised by any future success he has.