Featured image courtesy of Zimbio.com (Feb. 19, 2018 – Source: Elsa/Getty Images North America)
The Boston Red Sox made a semi-surprising move last Tuesday, announcing that left-handed pitcher Jalen Beeks would earn a spot start on Thursday against the Detroit Tigers. This will be Beeks first major league appearance, and he earned the honor over more experienced options like Hector Velazquez and Brian Johnson. The Red Sox clearly see something in the 24-year old, so let’s get to know Jalen Beeks and everything he brings to the mound.
Who is Jalen Beeks?
How He Got Here
Beeks initially arrived in the Red Sox system as a 12th round pick in the 2014 MLB draft. The odds were stacked against Beeks, as most 12th-round players don’t develop into major league talent. For a while, it looked like Beeks wouldn’t amount to much.
Beeks spent all of 2015 on the Greenville Drive, the A affiliate of the Boston Red Sox. He didn’t impress facing the relatively low competition, posting a 4.32 ERA, 1.26 WHIP, and a 4.29 FIP. He struck out just 6.18 batters per nine innings, Put simply, he looked like a 12th round rookie.
His 2016 wasn’t much better. While he managed to make it all the way up to the Portland Sea Dogs, Beeks posted just a 4.68 ERA and a 4.22 FIP against the AA competition. He wasn’t on anyone’s radar, and it looked as though he would be a career minor league.
However, something changed in 2017. Beeks started his season in Portland and dominated the competition he used to struggle against. In nine appearances, Beeks posted a 2.19 ERA and a 3.18 FIP before earning a promotion to the Pawtucket Red Sox. Beeks held up well to the uptick in talent, recording a 3.86 ERA in 17 starts. He was officially on the teams’ radar, earning a spot on the 40-man roster.
Beeks showed that his 2017 success was no fluke. The young lefty built on his solid 2017, and absolutely dominated his AAA competition in 2018. Beeks currently owns a 2.56 ERA, 2.99 FIP, and is striking out a career-high 12.78 batters per nine innings. His incredible seasons has earned him his first major league appearance, as the Red Sox want to see what they have in the young lefty.
What He Can Do
Beeks career transformed entering the 2017 season, and there was a clear catalyst for that success. Early in his career, Beeks primarily used his fastball, changeup, curveball, and slider. However, his slider wasn’t anything special, so he opted to replace that pitch with a cutter.
The change has done wonders. Beeks cutter has become his best pitch and has brought his game to a whole new level. Despite the cutter being a breaking pitch, he’s not afraid to throw it to lefties and righties alike. When it’s on, it has great movement and rides in on the hands of a right-handed hitter. While it’s not on Mariano Rivera’s level by any stretch, it appears to be major league ready.
As previously mentioned, Beeks also uses a fastball, changeup, and curveball. While none of these pitches are as good as his cutter, they’re all solid complementary pitches that play well off each other. Beeks isn’t a guy that overpowers hitters with his fastball, as his velocity usually is in the low 90’s. However, he has a solid command of the fastball, and it works as a decent pitch.
His changeup and curveball usage have drastically dropped since Beeks discovered the cutter. When his changeup is on, it can be a really solid offering. His motion when delivering is essentially the same as the fastball, so hitters can’t tell anything offspeed is coming. When the changeup works, it dips at the last second and can be a solid offering.
However, his changeup doesn’t always work. Beeks struggles to command the pitch, and sometimes the changeup doesn’t dip. When that happens, hitters are left teeing up on a low to mid 80’s meatball. With his cutter becoming so reliable, Beeks has decided to minimize his changeup usage due to the inconsistency.
The curveball is easily Beeks worst pitch. Its movement is inconsistent, and it doesn’t have the spin to consistently fool batters. Beeks rarely throws the pitch, and only uses it to surprise hitters. For all intents and purposes, this pitch is no longer in Beeks’ arsenal.