Over the last three years, the Chicago Cubs have rebuilt a farm system that was annually ranked near the bottom into one of the best in baseball. While they have acquired great talent through trades and the International Free Agent process, the draft is where they have done their best work. With Javier Baez (2011), Albert Almora (2012) and Kris Bryant (2013) all ranked among the top-30 prospects in baseball by most, they have hit on their first-round picks the last three years.
The system is top heavy on offense. While they do have some talented arms in guys like Pierce Johnson, Paul Blackburn, C.J. Edwards, Dillon Maples and others, they still lack a true ace prospect. Most insiders project the organization to snag a top arm with the team’s first-round pick (fourth overall) in the 2014 MLB draft.
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That’s where Vanderbilt’s Tyler Beede enters the conversation. The junior right-hander “checks a lot of the boxes” as far as what this organization seems to like when it comes to the draft:
- At 6’-4” and 200 pounds, he has the ideal frame to be a frontline starter. With an easy, compact delivery, his mechanics are sound.
- He is a high-character kid who is a co-founder of the More Than Me Movement, a non-profit organization that helps young athletes find ways to support their communities.
- He has bloodlines as his dad Walter is a former player and, coincidentally, was drafted by the Chicago Cubs in the 1981 MLB draft. His brother Kyle is a right-handed pitcher who will play for LSU-Eunice this season.
- The Cubs minor league pitching coordinator is Derek Johnson, who was the pitching coach for Vanderbilt for 11 years and helped mold guys like David Price, Sonny Gray, Mike Minor, Grayson Garvin and others. Johnson’s last year was Beede’s freshman year, so he is very familiar with him.
- And most importantly, Tyler Beede has the stuff of an ace. His four-seam fastball can touch 97 mph and sits in the 93-94 range. His two-seamer was sitting 91-92 mph this fall and had Wiffle ball movement on it, often resembling a change-up to batters. His curveball is a knee-buckler with 12-6 action, sitting in the low 80s. His change-up has great deception and was also rated plus by scouts this fall. That is four quality pitches that all rate as plus when he is on.
After a decorated career at Lawrence Academy in Auburn, Mass., that included being named First Team All-American by every major outlet, Tyler Beede was selected in the first round (21 overall) by the Toronto Blue Jays in the 2011 MLB draft. He opted to honor his commitment to Vanderbilt, temporarily turning down millions of dollars to pursue his dream as a college baseball player in hopes of leading the Commodores to the College World Series.
As a freshman, he started 11 games, going 1-5 with a 4.52 ERA, 1.54 WHIP and 68 K/32 BB over 71.2 innings. He was named to the SEC All-Freshman team as Vandy finished 35-28 and finished fourth in the SEC and were eliminated by North Carolina State in the Raleigh Regional Finals. Tyler Beede pitched 5.1 stellar innings of relief in the final game, striking out a season-high eight batters, but the bullpen couldn’t hold a 7-3 lead as North Carolina State scored six runs over the last two innings to secure the 9-7 win.
As a sophomore, Tyler Beede was one of the best pitchers in the nation, leading Vanderbilt to a 54-12 record, first in the SEC. He set a school record with 14 wins and posted a 2.32 ERA, 1.26 WHIP and 103 K/63 BB over 101 innings. He allowed just 64 hits, holding batters to a .187 average. Vanderbilt was the second overall seed in the tournament. They made it to the Super Regionals in Nashville before losing to Louisville in two games.
Tyler Beede was a finalist for the Golden Spikes Award, Dick Howser Award and was named second team All-American by Baseball America. He was also selected to play for the Collegiate National USA Team. I got a chance to see him pitch at Kane County (the Cubs class-A Minor League affiliate) over the summer and it appeared he was working on some stuff during the exhibition. He was hitting the mid 90s with ease although he wasn’t as sharp with his command. Still, you could see the mound presence he has and how effortless he makes it seem on the mound.
Over his first two seasons at Vanderbilt, the one knock on him has been his command and inability to find his release point at times. Everything else is there, he just needs to refine that one aspect of his game. Well, if his fall numbers are any indication as to the amount of work he has put into correcting that one flaw, his junior season should be something special. Over 14 innings, he allowed three runs on just three hits while striking out 23 to zero walks. When a pitcher is still maturing and has a spike in velocity, it sometimes takes time to adjust his body to it — syncing his upper half with his lower half. That’s exactly what happened to Tyler Beede, and it appears he has figured it out with offseason work.
Tyler Beede enters this season as a pre-season All-American and a frontrunner for the Golden Spikes and Dick Howser awards. With his command issues apparently in the rearview mirror, he is set up for a monstrous junior season for the Commodores. He is just what the Cubs are looking for as far as talent and character goes, let’s just hope he is still around when they select at four.
Feel free to follow me on Twitter @DanMKirby for 2014 MLB draft updates, prospect news and Chicago Cubs ramblings.