White Sox to give Beckham lots of chances

June, 4, 2009

What's that old line about "best laid plans?"

Back on April 27, White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen told the Arlington (Ill.) Daily Herald, "This kid should play a full season down [in the minors.] If you see him in the big leagues, we are in trouble. I want this kid to be a real big-league player. I don't want him to come here and fill up a spot, and then go back to the minor leagues."

Gordon BeckhamRon Vesely/MLB Photos/Getty ImagesGordon Beckham probably will play a lot of second for the White Sox but he could get enough games at third to be eligible there in ESPN standard leagues.
Fast forward to just more than a month later, and the "kid," last year's eighth overall pick in the draft, infielder Gordon Beckham, has been summoned to the big leagues. Wilson Betemit was designated for assignment.

At the time he was selected out of the University of Georgia, Beckham was seen as a polished college hitter who would move quickly through the minors, and that's exactly what has happened. Beckham had been seeing time in the middle infield, but also added reps at third base recently, increasing the speculation that he was on the fast track. Chris Getz and Jayson Nix are struggling offensively at second, Josh Fields is slumping at third, and Alexei Ramirez has only just started to heat up. It seemed like only a matter of time.

The middle infield pool in ESPN leagues has been a relatively bare cupboard this season, so from that perspective, this promotion should not be treated lightly. The South Siders are not bringing Beckham up to sit, and the playing time alone should make him a strong consideration.

"He's going to play," Guillen told the team Web site. "Where [is] he going to play? We are going to find out how we are going to start him. We'll move him around, play a little bit of third, second and help [Ramirez] play a little shortstop. But I have to get him at-bats." This means that Beckham likely will gain eligibility at third eventually, providing fantasy owners additional flexibility later in the season.

There's little doubt Beckham will hit in the big leagues, but are we expecting too much, too soon? After all, we're talking about a player who has played just 59 games as a professional, not counting his stint in the Arizona Fall League.

Beckham hit .299 with a .366 on-base percentage and a .497 slugging percentage in 38 games at Double-A, and .464 with six doubles in seven Triple-A games before getting the call. He has impressive bat speed, a good understanding of the strike zone, and doesn't get fooled by off-speed stuff. His power is still in development, as he's more of a gap hitter who can take the ball to all fields at this stage of his career, but his home park will help in that department.

Beckham had initial difficulties adjusting to wood bats last season, but impressed scouts at the AFL with his ability to make adjustments in his swing quickly, a trait that could help him get off to a good start in the major leagues.

Is it too much to expect mixed league value right now? Well, value is relative. Given the available options I've seen in the middle infield in many mixed leagues, I'd certainly try to take a chance to see if I can hit on some of Beckham's upside. The other options will likely still be there later if it doesn't pan out. Some may question the wisdom of pursuing rookies in shallower mixed leagues, but sometimes you just try to put yourself in a position to get lucky if you're struggling with a particular lineup spot.



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