March 27, 2009
For deep mixed and "only" leaguers, the monotony of bland performances can incite apoplectic rage. Play in an NL-only league with a $13 Luis Castillo as your starting middle infielder and you too would turn into the Hulk.
The South Side's Gordon Beckham could soon ease the pain caused by middle infield mundanity.
Selected as the eighth overall pick in last year's draft, Baseball America's top infield prospect is a hard-working line-drive hitter with the swagger of a prizefighter. Last year with Georgia, he cranked an NCAA-best 28 homers and tallied a .411 batting average. His almost flawless transition to professional ball was equally impressive, as he posted a .310 BA with three homers at Low-A, and a heart-racing .394 BA with the Peoria Saguaros in Arizona Fall League action.
If you've yet to feast your eyes on the future of fantasy's most depleted position, here is the former Bulldog's MLB scouting video.
His aptitude, disciplined approach and supreme confidence – last summer he said he wanted to be the White Sox' version of Derek Jeter – will eventually make the 22-year-old a superstar, but because fantasy is a game of instant return, profitable dividends may not be yielded until at least the season's second-half, if not later. Patience needs to be exercised.
Beckham entered spring training determined to impress Ozzie Guillen by experimenting with a switch from short to second. Considering Chris Getz's limited offensive abilities, the proposed move was sensible. However, after logging a respectable .270 BA with two homers, six RBIs and two steals in 37 at-bats, the precocious youngster was reassigned to minor league camp on Tuesday. He is expected to start the season playing short at Double-A Birmingham. Because he profiles as a middle-of-the-order producer and quality defensive shortstop, the trial at second may have been exactly that.
Still, Beckham's late-spring demotion proves how quickly the kid gained the admiration of Guillen. Just last week Chicago's gum-flapper told the Sun-Times how difficult the decision was going to be:
"I worry that this kid has played just one month of [professional] baseball. He was playing with kids in Single-A. From college to Single-A to the big leagues, can he handle it? I don't doubt that. His makeup is good enough to be in the big leagues. But to me, this kid has to play every day no matter where he plays...We have to be patient. We have to be careful. And we cannot overreact about what is happening right now. We have to be careful not to make any mistakes when we make a move... Is he going to be in the big leagues? Of course, there is no doubt about it. I think he needs to work a little bit more. I'm not saying he won't be in the big leagues this year, but wherever he plays -- big leagues, Single-A, Double-A, Triple-A -- he has to play every day."
If he pulverizes pitches at Double-A, a midseason promotion to Charlotte is likely. To earn a late-season taste of the bigs, he would have to continue to perform admirably. Of course, a major injury to Alexei Ramirez or Getz would accelerate his track to the majors, but, at this point, it's safe to assume Beckham will advance his skills in the minors for much, if not all, of the season.
Still for those of us who are not optimistic Ben Zobrist will carry our AL-only team to the promised land, Beckham could provide a middle infield spark in September. Down the road expect seasonal lines around .280-20-90-90-10.
Fearless Forecast: 75 at-bats, .268 BA, 3 HR, 12 RBI, 15 R, 4 SB
Image courtesy of the Associated Press