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January 10, 2013
“I’m a big sushi guy. I know there’s not a whole lot of sushi in Nashville, but I found a good spot. You obviously have the barbecue food around here that you can get and you can pick at. Bruegger’s for breakfast and maybe Pancake Pantry for a little pancakes and waffles and stuff like that.”
That sounds like a normal diet for a college sophomore—I’m getting into sushi myself; Miyake in Ithaca can really hit the spot—but that isn’t a quote from any old college sophomore. It’s Tyler Beede talking about his favorite eats in Nashville, where he’s a big part of the Vanderbilt baseball program.
When it comes to Tyler Beede, not much is normal. He is a rare breed of human. Very few people have what it takes to be a first-round draft pick, and Beede was that in one of the most stacked classes in recent years. Very few people have the intellect to succeed academically at a school like Vanderbilt, and Beede is doing just that. He famously and controversially turned down a ton of money from the Toronto Blue Jays back in 2011 and instantly became one of the top prospects in the 2014 draft.
The package of physical gifts is really likable. Mechanics smoother than gravy. A low-90s fastball with really good life. A 1-to-7 breaking ball with some bite and plenty of depth. Feel for a changeup. Feel for pitching. He’s already got great stuff. When he was drafted, he was listed at 6’4, 200 lbs. After a summer of strengthening and conditioning his body, Beede says he’s added about 20 pounds of muscle to his frame. He’s a guy who has a chance to explode as one of the best players in college baseball this season. Here’s some of what Vanderbilt head coach Tim Corbin had to say about him:
In terms of guys who have been in this program before, if you take a guy like David Price or you take a guy like Mikey Minor or a Sonny Gray, his mind works very similarly to those guys. He’s very competitive; he wants to know everything that’s going on; he pays attention to detail. He’s like a quarterback; he watches film. He’s just immersed in the game of baseball; he wants to try to figure it out. With his work ethic and his personality and his intelligence and his makeup and his care level—which, I think his care level supersedes everything—I don’t think there’s any question that he’s just going to get better and better.
Multiple scouts agree with Corbin’s assessment. There really isn’t much question that the sky is the limit with Beede. Personally, I think this is a prospect who has a chance to make a name for himself with more than what he does on the mound, and in a conversation with him, I could see him becoming something like the academic, super-fun personality that Brandon McCarthy has assumed.
Before Beede appeared on the mound for Vanderbilt last spring, he made some noise by expressing himself through song. Here’s one of his earliest tunes:
He isn’t Macklemore, but there’s some skill there, and he’s expressing his emotion. “The songs aren’t intended to be any type of reasoning as to why I didn’t sign. It’s really just something that’s on my mind, and making music is just something that I do; it’s a passion I have.”
Even in his music, you can see Beede’s progress. Here’s a more recent song:
Beede, for whatever reason, chose not to sign. Industry sources say he was asking for a boatload of money and that that scared many teams away from drafting him. When players turn down a ton of money, Twitter doesn't take it lightly. Some of the more immature fans can’t see beyond projected slot values and make it a point to personally attack the player, often forgetting that these players are making the most difficult decisions of their lives. Just because it’s a nice problem to have doesn’t mean it’s an easy problem to have.
It made me stronger mentally, but specifically after the draft, it was, you know, people had their speculations, people had their opinions, and that’s what Twitter’s for, that’s what social media is for, and paying attention to that stuff will only drive you crazy. I have to be honest and admit that I definitely paid attention to it for longer than I should have. It didn't get the best of me, but it made me think too much about that decision I made… Being a young kid and people always criticizing you is kind of tough, but it’s something that I’ve been getting better at handling a little better, and I can definitely say I’m less affected by it now.
In Beede’s first season at Vanderbilt, the Commodores struggled out of the gate. It was a talented group of players, but they struggled against some of nation’s most talented programs. “It allows you in a very quick way to find out what your inadequacies are as a pitcher,” Coach Corbin added on Beede. Throughout the year he got better and got closer to reaching his ceiling, and while it sounds somewhat cliché, he’s getting better every day.
Here’s a fun video I found from the Beede family draft party, which Tyler alludes to in one of his songs (“That all your family and friends prayin’ together for, or that they came early during June in the summer”):
The Beedes didn’t have to wait much longer, as Tyler came off the board with the very next pick, the 21st overall.
The journey is still just beginning for Beede. He’s got two years left at Vanderbilt before he’ll be draft eligible again, but the early belief is that he’ll be one of the first players off the board then. If things continue on their current trajectory, at the next draft party, Beede’s friends and family can start to celebrate before they hear a last name.