Ever since Blake Beavan was selected by the Texas Rangers with the 17th overall pick in the 2007 MLB Draft, he expected to climb up the ladder and make his big league debut with his hometown team.
All that changed on Friday afternoon, as the Irving native was traded to the Seattle Mariners along with Justin Smoak, Josh Lueke and Matt Lawson in exchange for pitchers Cliff Lee and Mark Lowe.
Beavan will be working with a new organization, but that’s not all that has changed in his career during recent years. When the right-hander came out of high school, he was regarded as a fireballer that sometimes flirted with the upper-90s on the radar gun.
The 21-year-old no longer hits 96 and 97 mph, but he has developed and matured as a pitcher during his three years of professional baseball.
Beavan has had strong results at each of his stops on the minor league ladder. He posted a 2.37 earned-run average in 121.2 innings at Single-A Clinton in 2008, despite generally working in the 86-89 mph range.
The 6-foot-7, 250-pound prospect reached Double-A Frisco as a 20-year-old in 2009, just his second full season in professional baseball.
This season at Frisco, Beavan’s numbers were excellent. In 17 starts, he went 10-5 with a 2.78 ERA, giving up 100 hits and walking only 12 batters in 110 innings.
The numbers weren’t the only thing that improved this season––Beavan’s stuff also took a step forward. The prospect now throws his fastball in the low-90s, reaching 93 and 94 mph on occasion. He pounds the strike zone with excellent command of his fastball, and his slider and changeup are also developing.
Beavan isn’t a finished product yet––though he is an advanced pitcher for his age––but his command and three-pitch arsenal make him a solid bet to become a big league regular as an innings-eating starter.
Lone Star Dugout caught up with Beavan the day after he was dealt to the Seattle organization.
Jason Cole: I’ll start off with the obvious question. When you first got the call from the Rangers and learned about what was going down, what were your initial thoughts?
Blake Beavan: I was just kind of in shock. I was kind of surprised and not surprised, because I knew I was talked about in the trades. I knew I had a chance to maybe get traded if the court thing got settled and the deal went through and all that.
But it definitely happened quicker than I thought it would, so it kind of caught me off guard, for sure. It’s my first time getting traded, so I was kind of upset for a minute because it was the Rangers, my hometown team and I got drafted by them. But this is just a good opportunity for me to go somewhere and try to get to the big leagues.
Cole: Now that you’ve had some reaction time to let the news sink in, what are your thoughts? Are you still in shock a bit?
Beavan: No. I mean, I’m kind of over it for the most part. I called my agent and told him what was going on, and then I called friends and family and told them what was going on.
I dealt with it for that day and today just feels like any other day. I’m ready to get to where I’m going and continue what I’ve been doing this year. I’m trying to achieve my goals and get to the big leagues.
Cole: You touched on it a bit, but tell me about how difficult it is to leave behind your hometown team and all the friends you’ve made in the system over the last few years.
Beavan: It’s going to be tough. I talked to Beau Jones and Matt Harrison––a couple guys that have been traded before. They said the first year is pretty tough because you don’t know really anybody. You’re with a whole new organization, and everyone has new philosophies, new ways of doing stuff, rules, and all those things that go with the program and the organization.
It’s just going to be different, going to a new team and basically going into something new for the first time. It’s almost like you’re getting drafted again and you’re starting with a new team and a fresh slate.
I’m just going to go to the Mariners, and wherever they put me, I’m going to work hard to move up and keep doing what I’ve been doing. I’m going to try and learn about the organization and hopefully meet a bunch of guys and start some new relationships with people.
Cole: As you said, you were aware of the trade rumors. Was it ever difficult to put that out of your mind when you were on the field?
Beavan: It was always in the back of my head, but I don’t think it affected my performance. When you’re at the field or you’re around baseball or you’re playing a game, you just forget about everything that’s going on in the outside world aside from your job––baseball.
That’s the good thing about what our job is and what we do for a living. It kind of blocks out everything aside from what you like going to do, and that’s going to the ballpark every day and playing baseball. The performance side of it––it didn’t affect me, that’s for sure.
But when I wasn’t around baseball, you read stuff on the Internet or you hear from friends and other teammates about, ‘Hey, I saw you in the trade rumors,’ and all that stuff, it just kind of makes you realize that this could happen and you might be landing in a new spot.
Cole: You had excellent results during your time in Frisco this year. How did you feel about your 17 starts with the RoughRiders this summer?
Beavan: I thought it was going great for me. I’ve worked so hard the last two years to get to where I’m at now, and I’ve still got a ton of work to get to where I want to be. I’ve been working on a lot with [Frisco pitching coach] Jeff Andrews and [Rangers pitching coordinator] Danny Clark and everybody that has helped me along the way in the Rangers system.
Double-A was definitely a good experience this year to go back after being there last year. I was able to get used to the league and see these guys twice again. It helped me learn how to pitch more and definitely made me a lot smarter on how to control a game and how to come over adversity and deal with things that go on in the game. The Double-A level has been such a good opportunity to face some good hitters and see how your skills match up against some of those guys.
I think, for the most part, I was really happy with what I was doing. When I got called up to Triple-A, that definitely told me that my stuff is starting to show and it’s starting to stand out––that people were starting to recognize me.
Cole: Your numbers in Double-A this year have improved across the board from last season. When did you feel that you were really beginning to hit your stride there?
Beavan: In the month of May, I had six wins and I think I had three consecutive starts with eight innings. That month definitely was the big-time in my career in Double-A this year. That kind of let me know where I stood and where my progression was coming along.
After that month, I definitely achieved a bunch of the things I had been working on in bullpens, side work, and early work that we do a couple times per week. It got me excited and got me pumped up to keep doing what I’ve been doing. I’ve tried not to get out of that rhythm.
Cole: Your velocity has crept up with each full season that you’ve been in pro ball, and now you’re mostly sitting in the low-90s, touching 94 on occasion. What has been the key to getting some of that velocity back?
Beavan: I think, for the most part, it’s probably just my arm getting used to doing the daily grind––throwing every day, throwing bullpens between starts, traveling all the time, not getting enough sleep, not having the right nutrition all the time. Your arm gets used to being on a five-day rotation compared to pitching once a week, like in high school.
I think now––this is my third year, and I’ve heard from a lot of people that it took them three years and sometimes four to get their velocity all the way back to where it was. I’m happy with where I am right now. Like I’ve told people before, if it comes back, it comes back. If it doesn’t, I’m happy with where it is right now. I’ve definitely become a lot more of a pitcher than I thought I would be.
Cole: Your slider has also progressed this season, and you’ve been throwing it quite a bit. What are you doing that has allowed it to improve?
Beavan: I think that’s one of the big pitches for me. What I’ve been working on in the bullpen is just staying on top and trying to throw it like my fastball and not get around it so much. Like every pitcher, you’re going to get around your breaking ball and you’re going to hang your breaking balls. That’s just going to happen.
But if you can cut it down to a very minimum and get the consistent action you want on your slider, it just helps your performance and your ability to make pitches when you need them and when they count.
That’s the big thing that I think has helped me. I’ve been working with Jeff Andrews on my slider––doing a bunch of drills and working on it in the bullpen to really try and concentrate on getting my arm up and keeping my fingers on top of the ball instead of getting around it.
Cole: As you look forward to the remainder of your season in the Seattle organization, what are you looking forward to? What would you like to improve upon?
Beavan: I’d definitely like to keep improving my slider and my changeup. I think my changeup is going to be something that I need to start bearing down on, getting closer to the end of the year. I’m trying to achieve my goals, and the overall objective is to get to the big leagues. I think I’m definitely going to keep trying to improve on that. I need to throw it and get confident with it.
And I’m looking forward to leaving Tuesday and getting back into things. It kind of feels like the offseason right now, because I’m not doing anything. I’m chomping at the bit to get back into pitching and get around a new group of guys and learning their camaraderie.
I definitely see this as being an opportunity for me to get to the next step, whether it be Triple-A or the big league level. I know I go to West Tennessee––Double-A––on Tuesday, so I’m going to start there and just keep doing what I’ve been doing. I’m going to let them take care of the rest. It’s up to their guys and everything they have in their plans written out for everybody.
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