I was in the process of trying to finish up my 2012 second base keeper rankings when the name Gordon Beckham came across my eyes. Unlike most of the players I was ranking toward the bottom half of the list, Beckham struck me as one that, in some ways, shouldn’t be there. But why? What has made this former first round pick (8th overall and rated as the 20th best prospect in baseball by Baseball America in 2009) such a colossal flop at the big league level?
The first glaring issue with Beckham is his extremely poor plate discipline, which has actually gotten worse as he has gained big league experience.
The weird thing is, Beckham had an incredible second half in 2010 hitting .310/.380/.497 with six home runs while lowering his strikeout rate and raising his walk rate significantly from the first half. At that point, it seemed as if Beckham had figured things out and was ready to enter 2011 and a breakout candidate.
However, a slow start in April of last season caused the White Sox faithful to begin to rumble about their supposed star prospect. Beckham bounced back a bit in May, but that was about as good as it got for the rest of the season.
After three seasons and with at least 430 plate appearances in each, Beckham’s career line stands at a dismal .249/.318/.386 and his numbers have regressed almost completely across the board with each passing year.
It’s not often that we see a top prospect have such a straightforward regression in numbers while gaining everyday experience at the big league level. One could easily make the case that the White Sox rushed Beckham to the major leagues. He played in only 59 minor league games and accumulated only 259 minor league plate appearances. He has now played in over 100 big league games for three straight seasons since 2009 and he’s still only 25 years old.
It seems unlikely to me that Beckham’s struggles have to do with a lack of talent. In his Junior year at the University of Georgia, Beckham hit .411/.519/.804 with 22 home runs and 54 walks to only 30 strikeouts in 71 games.
Talent is not the issue.
Perhaps the best thing for Beckham would be a fresh start. Already it seems he may have worn out his welcome in Chicago and if he were to move to a new team, perhaps one in a smaller, less stressful market, his talents could flourish.
Fantasy GMs won’t have to make an investment on Beckham in most mixed leagues, but he’s certainly not one to completely push aside. Stats can tell us a lot, but they cannot tell us the entire story. Beckham’s stats are ugly, but his swing still looks good and his power to the gaps is still quite evident. A clear mind could lead to a better approach at the plate, which could unleash the true talent that Beckham houses inside and put him back on the fantasy map, where we thought he should have been all along.