Beckham, Harper compete in Futures Game

Photo by Jordan Megenhardt

By Greg Dillard

Now in its 13th year, the XM All-Star Futures Game showcases the up-and-coming stars of America’s pastime. Top prospects from all 30 organizations go head-to-head in a battle of elite talent.

 The 2011 Futures Game was no different. Both the USA and World rosters were loaded with future Major League stars. The USA team featured a pair of former No 1 overall picks in Tampa Bay’s Tim Beckham and Washington’s Bryce Harper.

Beckham was the top pick in the 2008 amateur draft by the Rays out of Griffin High School in Georgia. Harper, meanwhile, went No. 1 overall by the Nationals in the 2010 draft.

For Beckham, the draft process and No. 1 selection was the thrill of a lifetime.

“Of course it was a dream come true,” Beckham said. “That’s what everybody works hard for. I feel great being the No. 1 pick.  I was ready to get out there.”

Just three years after entering the professional baseball world, Beckham is representing the Rays organization in the Futures Game.

“It’s a great opportunity we have to play,” Beckham said. “I mean just to showcase our skills, play in front of the world and just to be nominated for this game is an honor.”

After entering the game as a substitution, he collected an RBI double and later scored in the USA team’s 6-4 victory.

This season has been a notable one for Beckham, who at 21 years old, is in the midst of a breakout season. In 81 games at Double-A Montgomery, he owns a .277 batting average to go with 59 runs, 17 doubles and 41 RBI.

Beckham’s defense has also been solid so far this season. In 331 chances, he’s made just 10 errors, which is good for a .970 fielding percentage.

“It’s going great,” Beckham said. “I’ve been swinging it good and playing defense good. My all-around game has been great. So I can’t really ask for too much, just go out and play everyday and take it day by day.”

Then there’s Harper, whose draft selection was surrounded with plenty of hype. After playing at the Junior College of Southern Nevada, he burst onto the professional scene this season.

Harper started the year at Single-A Hagerstown where he batted .318 with 14 homers and 46 RBI in 72 games. Harper’s showing earned him a promotion to Double-A Harrisburg. He’s off to a strong start for the Senators, hitting .357 with five hits in four games.

“It was good to be called up and get refocused with a fresh start,” Harper said. “I feel good. I just want to go out there, play hard and have fun.”

Since before the draft, Harper has been mentioned as a possible five-tool player. Not only does he have eye-popping power, but also he possesses a cannon of an arm, above-average speed and a quick bat.

Although Harper has catching experience, the Nationals have stationed him in the outfield. In the Futures Game, Harper’s strong arm was on center stage. He fielded a ball in deep left field before uncorking a long throw that one hopped the catcher.

Strong fielding is just another tool in Harper’s arsenal. Through 76 games this season, he’s posted a .965 fielding percentage. Harper doesn’t care where he plays as long as he’s in the lineup and on the field.

“I like center field, but I’ll play wherever they need me,” Harper said. “As long as I’m playing, I’m happy being wherever I am.”

As the No. 1 overall picks in the 2008 and 2010 MLB drafts, it’s clear that both Beckham and Harper are not short on talent.

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