Prospect Retro: Rod Beck
Rodney Roy Beck was drafted by the Oakland Athletics in the 13th round of the 1986 draft, out of high school in Van Nuys, California. Assigned to Medford in the Northwest League, Beck went 1-3, 5.23 in 33 innings with a 21/11 K/BB ratio. He gave up 47 hits. At this point his best attribute was command, and he'd rate as a Grade C prospect.
Beck returned to the Northwest League in 1987, with similar performance: 5.18 ERA with a 69/26 K/BB in 92 innings, 106 hits allowed. He showed good command but was not overpowering and was quite hittable. Still a Grade C guy, and a similar player nowadays would probably not get into the book.
Things changed in 1988. Traded to the Giants in a minor league deal that spring, he was assigned to Clinton in the Midwest League, where Beck went 12-7, 3.00 with a 123/27 K/BB in 177 innings, allowing 177 hits. His command was still strong and the quality of his stuff was improving. I think I'd give a similar pitcher a Grade C+ with a sleeper notice nowadays.
Beck began '89 with San Jose in the California League, going 11-2, 2.40 in 13 starts with an 88/26 K/BB ratio. Promoted to Double-A at mid-season, he went 7-3, 3.55 with a 74/16 K/BB in 99 innings, allowing 108 hits. He was getting noticed as a prospect now, thanks to his low-90s fastball and very sharp command. Since he handled the Double-A transition well at age 21, I would probably give him a B-, but unlikely much higher given his hittability.
Returned to Shreveport to begin 1990, he went 10-3, 2.23 in 14 starts with a 71/17 K/BB in 93 innings. Promoted to Triple-A Phoenix, he found the going rougher, with a 4-7, 4.93 mark and a 43/18 K/BB in 77 innings, 100 hits allowed. Note the deterioration in his strikeout rate, as more advanced hitters weren't as fooled by his approach. I'd drop him back to Grade C+.
Beck converted to relief in 1991, posting a 2.02 ERA in 71 innings for Phoenix, then a 3.78 ERA in 52 innings for the Giants. He became a closer in 1992 and saved 17 games with a 1.76 ERA for the Giants. He found his niche in the bullpen, throwing a bit harder than he did as a starter and making hitters look bad with his splitter, breaking stuff, and command. He's a fine example of a guy who was a decent but not spectacular prospect in the minors, who was able to adjust and find a role that suited his talents.
Beck's career Minor League Record: 56-37, 3.23, 11 saves, 559/161 K/BB in 778 innings, 800 hits allowed.
Beck's career Major League Record: 38-45, 3.30, 286 saves, 644/191 K/BB in 768 innings, 703 hits allowed.