August 21, 2012
Prospects Will Break Your Heart
Bring Me the Head of Gordon Beckham
Assigned to the full-season Sally League after inking his deal, Beckham didn’t waste anytime proving his mettle, stepping into professional ball with the approach of a seasoned veteran. After the small 14 game sample that saw Beckham show the offensive promise his collegiate campaign suggested was possible, the 21-year-old shortstop proceeded to the prospect-heavy Arizona Fall League, where his bat continued to turn heads; in 66 at-bats, Beckham hit close to .400 while showing patience and power. He was clearly on the fast track, and national prognosticators held him in high regard. He wasn’t considered an elite talent or a game changer, but his skill set and mature approach made him a safe major leaguer, one that could provide solid-average production (at least) for a very long time.
After pushing for a roster spot out of camp in 2009, Beckham started the year in the Southern League, where he was very good, but not so good that people were lighting torches and demanding his promotion after only 38 games. He hit for average and power, and he looked okay defensively, but the approach and the ability to adjust were the attributes that were turning heads in the industry, and after a brief seven game promotion to Triple-A, Beckham became the starting third baseman in the majors. He was 22 years old, playing a new position, taking his hacks under the brightest lights on the biggest stages, and he was more than holding his own. Beckham played in 103 games at the major league level in 2009, hitting a respectable .270/.347/.460, making a persuasive argument that this was just the start of a very fruitful career. After watching Beckham in camp early in 2009, and catching numerous games throughout the season, I was believer in the bat, and I thought he had a chance to be a ~.280 hitter with 25+ doubles a year for the next 10 years. He looked like a lock.
The story turned sour after his fantasy tale in 2009, and Beckham has fallen flat in each subsequent season. His bat is a wounded animal, slowly dying in plain view. His ability to make solid contact has all but disappeared from his game, and the noisy pop that once separated him from his middle-infield contemporaries is now an inaudible whimper. Everything in his game has taken a step back, and now the player once considered a lock to be a solid major leaguer is now considered a lock to be a solid major league bust.