Mandatory Credit: Rob Grabowski-USA TODAY Sports
When the White Sox called up Gordon Beckham during his rookie season of 2009, everyone on the south side of Chicago thought that Beckham would be one of baseball’s premier infielders for years to come. In 103 games during the 2009 season, Beckham hit .270 with 14 HR and 63 RBI. While those numbers are not staggering, they are still very impressive for a rookie. In his next four seasons, however, Beckham struggled to find success at the plate. Beckham has posted season batting averages of .252, .230, .234, and .267, respectively, since his rookie campaign. Granted, Beckham has adapted into one of the game’s best defensive 2nd basemen in his career with the White Sox; but in terms of his success as a hitter, he has not lived up to expectations.
Beckham figures to be the team’s everyday starter at 2nd base this season as the White Sox just avoided contract arbitration with him by agreeing to a $4.175 million deal for 2014. But a very intriguing question may begin to swirl as the head into Spring Training next month. Will manager Robin Ventura and the rest of the organization settle for another mediocre offensive season from the former Georgia Bulldog?
White Sox General Manager Rick Hahn has made it clear that the team needs more offensive production overall in 2014. After seeing his team finish second-to-last in runs scored in all of baseball last year, Hahn made attempts this off-season to improve the squad’s offensive attack. Most notably, Hahn inked Cuban slugger Jose Abreu to a massive contract and shipped away one of the team’s best pitchers (Addison Reed) to acquire infield prospect Matt Davidson from the Diamondbacks.
With the White Sox organization placing more emphasis on offensive production this year, Beckham could be facing a season that either makes or breaks his career on the south side of Chicago. With fellow young infielders such as Leury Garcia and Marcus Semien also potentially in the mix for playing time in 2014, Beckham could be beginning to feel some pressure for his job. Both Garcia and Semien showed some flashes of potential in their brief stints at the Major League level with the White Sox last season.
The 2014 season will be Beckham’s first campaign spent with newly-signed Hitting Coach Todd Steverson. Beckham spent his first five seasons under the hitting tutelage of Greg Walker and Jeff Manto. While Beckham’s batting average regressed in three seasons with Walker from 2009-2011, his average actually increased in 2012 and 2013 under Manto although the improvement was hardly anything to write home about.
After one of the franchise’s most unsuccessful and frustrating seasons a year ago, it will be interesting to see how much longer the White Sox will put up with Beckham’s lack of offensive production.