We’re all familiar with the Gordon Beckham story. He was the highest White Sox draft pick in a long time, and tore his way through the minor leagues after mashing at University of Georgia and in the Cape Cod League. In 2009, Beckham hit .270/.347/.460 with a quick bat that he used to flick pitches deep to right center for doubles. Then hopes failed and he decided hitting was for losers and that all the cool kids swing their bats really slowly with a big hitch in it. Beckham would hit .238/.303/.362 over the course of three years, over a sample large enough that it rewrites the type of player he is from Aaron Hill to something like Clint Barmes.
Gordon Beckham is a nice enough defensive second baseman, but he’s not as good as all of Hawk Harrelson’s hyperventilating either. So if he’s going to have an OBP in the low .300s, he’s really not worth much at all. This is Gordon Beckham’s first arbitration year, and he’s going to get more expensive as time goes on. It was one thing to have a glove only 2B on a rookie contract, but when you start having to pay $3-5 million for him instead of $500,000 it becomes less and less pleasant.
With all of this in mind, the fact that Carlos Sanchez was blitzing through the minors behind him, and the arrival of a semi-competent 2B in Jeff Keppinger, this was a huge year for Beckham. After an okay start, Beckham went on the DL for 7 weeks with a hand injury. During that absence, he was ludicrously touted as some sort of savior – the big bat and glove that was going to come back and turn the White Sox into a competitor. And hey, at a glance he’s hitting .301! That’s pretty good – it’s pretty much what his OBP has been for the past three years.
But there’s nothing in that .301 average. It’s completely empty. Step back and the whole line is .301/.337/.361. He has the lowest IsoP of his career so far by a wide margin, meaning his power has vanished completely – these are pretty much all singles. And he hasn’t traded his power for any real increase in contact skills – his K% is up at 19.1, the second highest of his career. Further, this is the worst BB% of his career as well.
It’s only been 90 plate appearances, but don’t let the batting average fool you. Beckham will be 27 in September, and evidence keeps piling up that the guy is a bench bat. As the losses pile up and rumbling for a rebuild grows (it’s not just me hysterically shrieking for one now), one has to wonder where he fits with the team moving forward. Carlos Sanchez has certainly stalled out hard in AAA, but they’re paying Jeff Keppinger $4 million AAV for two more seasons after this, and Conor Gillaspie is looking like a more interesting piece in the infield than Beckham at this point. Do you trade him? Is there anybody who even WOULD trade for Beckham at this point?
If Beckham is going to prove that he’s actually figured it out, he’s going to have to do a lot more than luck into some singles for a month.