I bought on Gordon Beckham. Hard.
In 2008, the White Sox had their highest draft pick since Alex Fernandez in 1990 on the heels of their awful 2007 season. I was as invested in the draft as I'd ever been, and I was really, really excited. I was even more excited when they got the player I hoped they would, and the pundits felt the same way. His first year of pro ball he annihilated the minors and less than one year after being drafted, he changed positions, burst into the majors and just kept hitting. Beckham had a short, quick, simple swing that generated tons of opposite field power. In the back of your head you were thinking, "This is a guy who will hit 50 doubles and could play shortstop." Then everything went wrong.
It's hard to know what happened. There were injuries - those of the hand and wrist variety, which maybe contribute to his problems at the plate. Beckham was a guy who seemed to rely on hand and wrist strength to generate power in his simple swing. Over time we've seen his swing develop hitches, we've seen him change his stance over and over again...it just doesn't matter.
I'm not going to go through it year-by-year. Every year there was a new excuse - he's coming off an injury, Hawk promises he'll hit 20 home runs next year, he's pressing too much, blah blah blah. It's quite simple. Since Beckham's rookie year, coming into Friday night, he has had 2,464 PAs. He is now 27-years old, and will be 28 in less than a month. He has hit .240/.299/.359 over that time.
This is not small sample size. There's no age excuse. Given the park he plays half his games in, that's just...below average. For reference, this year major league 2B are hitting .251/.309/.364.
So, Gordon Beckham is clearly major league caliber. He would be an upgrade on major league roster spots for a lot of teams. But if you're running him out there every single day, you have to accept that he's going to be the worst or second worst hitter on your team if you want to be a good team.
The White Sox haven't had to make hard decisions with him before. He didn't cost very much, there was still the hope he would recapture his old magic, and there really weren't any other choices. But now Beckham is approaching his third and final arbitration year heading into 2015. He's making $4.18 million this year, which means he is probably due for something like $5.5 or $6 million in 2015. That's a lot to spend on a guy who is basically bringing an okay glove and a meh bat at second base.
The other factor working against him is that there is finally competition for him. Carlos Sanchez is getting his second look at AAA despite having turned 22 only six weeks ago. The second look is going better than the first, hitting .296/.354/.410. His defense has never been a question at second, and he has no power. But if he hits .280-.300 with a .340-.350 OBP...well, he's got 40-50 points of OBP on Gordon Beckham then.
Micah Johnson looks like he needs a little more time in AAA, as he hasn't mastered it yet. Since his promotion to Charlotte, Johnson is hitting .275/.314/.370. He's surviving, but he has the highest ceiling of the Charlotte infield contingent, and should have every chance to win the job in spring training next year.
Lower ceiling options also include the familiar Marcus Semien as well as Tyler Saladino - unfortunately for Saladino, he had played his way into being a sure September call-up, but then he needed Tommy John Surgery. It's not as common for position players as pitchers, although fortunately the recovery time isn't nearly as bad either. He should be ready for Spring Training to compete to replace Leury Garcia as the 25th man on the bench.
However it happens, the options have run out for Beckham. It's not like they didn't give him chances to succeed. He just didn't. What's more, Conor Gillaspie has cut off his final escape route of bouncing back to 3B and I find it hard to imagine them bringing Beckham back as a $6 million bench player. I suppose they could, but it seems suboptimal, and it might have a negative impact on the development of whoever takes his job next year.
Against Toronto you could really feel it. He tried to ground out, but Reyes muffed it. So, then Beckham immediately went and got caught stealing. And as you look at his .222/.264/.339 line on the season you think...this guy is a glove and that's it. What's more, his glove is not special enough to justify that bat or the money he will make. Not to mention the fact that Ventura keeps hitting him second in the lineup anyway.
Everybody wanted it to work out, and everyone was disappointed. That's not to say Beckham can't hang around the majors as a guy who can play every position on the infield and hit enough to stay on a roster. But it's time for the White Sox to move on.
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