Tech’s Beeter goes from elbow surgery to highly rated prospect for MLB Draft
LUBBOCK, Texas — Clayton Beeter’s first semester as a Texas Tech freshman ended with him undergoing Tommy John surgery.
To borrow a cliché from another sport, the Tech pitcher wasn’t down for the count after having his elbow repaired. In the 2 1/2 years since, Beeter has been a classroom star, an effective closer, a No. 1 starter and now he might even be a first-round draft choice.
The Major League Baseball draft will unfold Wednesday and Thursday, and the consensus opinion among scouts and analysts is that Beeter is looking at a relatively short wait to be selected.
“It’s definitely exciting seeing where it looks like I’m going to go and the possibility of the opportunities ahead,” he said last week. “Leading up to that, I’ve been trying to keep my arm in shape just enough to start back up whenever we’re all allowed, whether that’s with Tech or professionally or whatever the case.”
The 6-foot-2, 220-pound righthander from Birdville is ranked the No. 19 overall prospect for the draft by Fangraphs and CBS Sports, No. 22 by ESPN, No. 24 by The Athletic, No. 51 by MLB.com and No. 80 by Baseball America. Tech’s highest drafted pitcher was Matt Miller, who went 41st overall to Detroit in 1996.
Texas Tech pitcher Clayton Beeter (29) is expected to go relatively high this week in the Major League draft, possibly in the first round. The draft-eligible sophomore had eight saves and a .167 opponents’ batting average as the Red Raiders’ closer in 2018 and went 2-1 with a 2.14 earned-run average as the team’s No. 1 starter this year. (Photo: ABBIE BURNETT/A-J MEDIA FILE PHOTO)
In his four starts before the college baseball season ended over COVID-19 concerns, Beeter went 2-1 with a 2.14 earned-run average, struck out 33 in 21 innings and rose as fast as any prospect on draft boards.
He throws his fastball from 93-96 mph and can run it up to 98. And his curveball, thrown at 81-86 mph, is a difference maker. The Athletic’s Keith Law calls it grade-80, top of the charts on baseball’s 20-80 scouting scale.
Although ESPN’s Kiley McDaniel has Beeter being the ninth pitcher off the board at No. 22, the fastball-curveball combo “has some calling his stuff the best in the whole draft.”
Beeter could well get a bump because he rates high in analytics measures. CBS Sports’ R.J. Anderson wrote that Beeter’s “Trackman metrics are absurd, with his curveball possessing spin rates that would be elite among big-league pitchers.“
The kid who grew up going to 30-some Texas Rangers games a year — his family had season tickets behind first base at Globe Life Park — Beeter might someday get into Major League stadiums without a ticket.
If nothing else, he’s likely to be drafted in a spot high enough to sign.
“I think so, but you never really know,” he said. “I’ve been through two drafts at Tech and seen all my (draft-eligible) teammates go through it. It’s definitely an uncertain circumstance leading up to it, so I’m just excited for what could happen.”
It’s been quite the ascent for Beeter since he had to sit his first season at Tech, the 2018 campaign.
Actually, he didn’t sit. He sweated a lot and called the time spent on recovery from elbow surgery a blessing in disguise.
“Tommy John rehab is a pretty rigorous process,” he said, “and it’s something every day as far as arm care and strength. Thankfully, I got to travel with the team that year, so while everybody else is getting ready for games, I’m just worried about my rehab and strength training.”
Beeter injured his elbow in October 2017. Dr. Keith Meister, the Texas Rangers’ head team physician, did his Tommy John surgery in December 2017. The surgery’s usual 14-month recovery period put Beeter on a timeline to be back right at the start of the 2019 season.
During the time in between, he went to work with Tory Stephens, Tech’s director of strength and conditioning over all 17 sports teams.
“We lifted a lot,” Beeter said. “I got extremely stronger and kind of developed a love for the weight room. It’s made the weight-room training and arm care part of my routine and training program to this day.
“A full year to just work out as hard as you can and not have to worry about your arm or legs being sore for a game, it really gives you a lot of room to grow.”
So when the time came for him to get back on the mound, he was ready. Tech coach Tim Tadlock used Beeter in short stints, but they were high-leverage situations. He notched eight saves, third most in the Big 12, struck out 40 in 20 2/3 innings and held opponents to a .167 batting average.
He did walk 20, about a batter per inning. But after being moved to the rotation this season, he walked only four in 21 innings.
It’s been an eventful three years, even if Beeter pitched a grand total of only 41 2/3 innings for the Red Raiders.
Major League teams probably like that, too. Such a small body of work gives scouts less to go on, but it also means his arm hasn’t been overworked.
In the meantime, Beeter stayed serious about schoolwork. He was a class valedictorian in high school with an average of better than 100. He’s made one B at Tech, carrying a grade-point average of about 3.95 as a mechanical engineering major.
Whenever baseball ends for Beeter, and he hopes that time is years away, he’d like to use his engineering training in the design of cars or boats or airplanes.
“I’ve always been interested in cars and planes and stuff,” he said. “I’ve worked on some cars with my buddies growing up, and Lockheed Martin is just down the street from my house. I know a few people that work there, and it’s just always been interesting to me.”
But there’s another career Beeter will pursue first.
What: MLB Draft
Wednesday: 6 p.m., first 37 selections, MLB Network and ESPN.
Thursday: 4 p.m., remainder of draft, MLB Network and ESPN2.
Format: This year’s MLB Draft is five rounds, reduced from 40 rounds, which has been the length since 2012. The total number of picks will be 160, and teams can sign an unlimited number of undrafted players for a maximum of $20,000 each.
Texas Tech players and signees on MLB.com’s top 200 prospects: 51, RHP Clayton Beeter; 96, RHP Brandon Birdsell, San Jacinto JC; 121, RHP Bryce Bonnin; 137, RHP Chase Hampton, Kilgore HS.
Texas Tech players on ESPN’s top 150 prospects: 22. RHP Clayton Beeter; 148, RHP Bryce Bonnin. No Tech signees in top 150.
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