Posts Tagged ‘Gordon Beckham’

by: Mauricio Rubio Jr.
email: mr@99sportsproblems.com
twitter: @MRubio52

The purpose of this article is to inform you, the Chicago baseball fan, about the draft as much as I can. If you want some hardcore draft analysis, check out Kevin Goldstein at Baseball Prospectus. I’ll reference that and other sites a lot, so it’s probably a good idea to get yourself acquainted with their work.

The MLB draft is gaining a lot of attention locally with Theo Epstein coming to town to run the baseball ops of the Chicago Cubs. I think this is the most attention the draft has ever received locally. What the draft means to White Sox fans should also be important for a few reasons. The Chicago White Sox have been in a weird “Win Now” mode since 2000. I can’t think of many developmental years since Kenny Williams became the GM. He’s earned a reputation as a gambler, someone who views prospects as suspects, and most importantly, a GM that isn’t afraid to empty the system to go after talent.

That’s why the White Sox farm system is panned so often. We can look it over and talk about the contributions that former farm hands are giving to the Sox, most impressively Chris Sale. However, it’s no big secret that Kenny’s impact guys usually come via trade or Latin American/Free Agent signing. Gordon Beckham, Brent Morel, and Tyler Flowers are the only position players that were drafted by the Sox and up with the big club. All three are failing to produce and all three are likely candidates to be replaced next year. The pitching side has done much better, pumping out Chris Sale, Addison Reed, and Nate Jones in an extremely small sample size.

It’s not fair to say that the White Sox don’t draft well, they clearly do as they are able to flip prospects for good talent with some regularity. They landed Peavy for Dexter Carter, Aaron Poreda, Clayton Richard and Adam Russell. All talent from their farm system, all turned into a solid contributor so far this year. They flipped Gio Gonzalez for twice. He was traded to the Phillies for Thome, sent back to the Sox for Freddy Garcia (the White Sox also landed Gavin Floyd in this trade), sent to Oakland for Nick Swisher and then he finally ended up in Washington where he is currently enjoying some success.

What does that say about the White Sox and the draft in general? It says to me that the White Sox don’t trust the draft much. You can’t really blame them for that either, the MLB draft is one of the biggest enigmas in all of sports. The talent is so raw yet so far away from the Major League level. The chasm between AAA ball and MLB ball is wide, and it’s illustrated by the MLB failures that proceed to tear up AAA ball for years. Bobby Scales currently has a .945 OPS at AAA Buffalo and he isn’t close to being a Major League player.

With all that in mind, here are some things to keep in mind when watching the draft:

  • Nobody drafts for need. Best Available player is always selected in the first 12-15 rounds. Sometimes teams will end up drafting 4-5 shortstops in the first 10 rounds because those are the best players on the board. You don’t know who will actually end up sticking at their positions either, especially shortstop.
  • High school players are still a bad bet. If you find the right guy, he could turn into Rickey Henderson, but more often than not they just end up being Billy Beane.
  • Speaking of Beane…It’s no coincidence that the best player that Beane took in the Moneyball draft was a guy that both the numbers guys and scouting guys loved, Nick Swisher. Keep that in mind. Both of these things must work in harmony. Numbers tell only one side of the story, ditto with a pretty swing.
  • This draft blows. Consensus is that there is no franchise changer in this draft. It’s also really thin and some are calling it the worst draft in 20+ years.
  • Don’t expect the kids to come up anytime soon. Or at all. The most important thing to watch during a draft, I think, is to look for a plan. What are they drafting? Are they going all athletes? Are they going after pitchers with raw arms? Are they targeting more groomed College pitchers? Are they taking risks on broken wings? What’s their plan is more important than who they draft in a lot of ways.

Let’s get to the names that are being projected for the White Sox. Like I said, check Prospectus for their big board, it should be coming out pretty soon and it’s a really great board.

There isn’t a consensus #1 in this draft, which makes the unenviable task of projecting picks even more difficult and impossible. A few different outlets have the Sox taking either an SP or a 3B, but let’s look at 5 guys I think they should take with the pick if they’re there.

Joey Gallo – 1B/3B Bishop Gorman HS

[youtube http://youtu.be/oXVr2gKr1Po]

He pitches too, but he projects much better as a corner infield prospect. Here are some of his scout videos. From what I gather about his defense, it’ll be a shocker if he sticks at third. He’s committed to LSU, but if he gets drafted and offered the money, I can’t see how he would turn it down.

What I like

The swing is nice and easy, it’s fluid, repeatable and generates power. It’s not a batting practice swing either, he shows it in the game. He hit .506 last year with 20 HR’s in high school. He’s got a big frame that projects to fill out nicely. Strong arm.

What I don’t like

He’s not quick on his feet, I can’t see him sticking at third at all. He’s a high school kid, so the risk factor is high with him there. Also, his speed is meh already and he won’t get any quicker. His bat would play better at third.

Synopsis

Good bat, has a lot of potential. If I was Kenny I would draft him if he were available.

Richie Shaffer – 3B/1B Clemson

[youtube http://youtu.be/899EWcexyGU]

Another 3b/1b guy, this isn’t to replace either Konerko or Morel, but I think these guys project to be the types of guys that can rake at the Cell.

What I like

Good swing, consistent approach from the cages to the game. Improved his OBP and SLG every year at Clemson. Athletic body, closer to being a finished product.

What I don’t like

Looks like he didn’t handle the transition to third too well, sporting a .935 FLDG%. Swing plane is a little flat. He strikes out too much. 48K’s in 218 AB’s at the collegiate level.

Synopsis

Interesting guy, better feet than Gallo, can learn to be adequate at third, but he’ll never be a good 3B. Decent enough arm.

Deven Marrero – SS Arizona State

[youtube http://youtu.be/TLQyIC9iWsI]

The Pirates are high on him, but he could slip.

What I like

The glove and the arm are nice. Feet are quick too. Bat has some life to it.

What I don’t like

His stance is weird and will probably be corrected in the minors. His hitting collapsed this year, even though the tools are still evident. He didn’t put together a solid year with the glove even though the word on him is that his glove is close to MLB ready. Plus arm, reads the ball well off the bat, and he can pick it. The high error rate is perplexing.

Synopsis

The bat will be a project. He does flash power, but that stance/weight transfer is just ugly. He has the tools to stick at short, but he’ll have to cut the mental errors.

Lucas Giolito – SP Harvard-Westlake School

[youtube http://youtu.be/WeqhrGzMjjM]

Ahh, the prototypical problem HS arm.

What I like

God that arm.

What I don’t like

God that arm is hurt.

Synopsis

He’s got an incredibly high ceiling, and if he stayed healthy, he could have creeped into the top 10. He was a fireballer with intriguing breaking stuff before the injury, now teams will be interested to see how he bounces back into form. I would risk it.

Andrew Heaney – SP Oklahoma State

[youtube http://youtu.be/JytqYmEbt9w]

Could go in the single digits, but he might be there for the Sox

What I like

He misses a lot of bats. 120 K’s in 102 IP. Good command too, only 19 BB’s. Decent fastball, sits around 93, drops to 88 late in games. Off-speed stuff is interesting.

What I don’t like

He throws a bit like Walter Johnson, which worked for The Big Train, but not so much this guy. The delivery is easy and repeatable, but I’m not a fan of it. His body is slight, and won’t get bigger in a good way. Fastball is what it is.

Synopsis

Potential to be a 3/4 starter, flashes good stuff, can obviously miss bats at the college level which is key.

 

Yeah I know, there’s a lot of HS talent there. That’s what’s up there in terms of talent in this draft though. College players didn’t wow this year. Those are the five I would target as the Sox. There isn’t much in this draft. The good intriguing talent should be gone by then. Cubs tomorrow.

by: Mauricio Rubio Jr.
email: mr@99sportsproblems.com
twitter: @MRubio52

Growing up is hard. There are expectations that must be met as you grow older, society expects X from you, and you must provide X. Everyone goes through growing pains, some go through them more harshly than others. There are a select few, however, that go through the maturation process in front of millions of people. We call them athletes.

Watching a player struggle through his early years is all part of the game. We saw Griffey and A-Rod grow up before our eyes on the national stage, ditto with Michael, LeBron, and currently Toews, Kane, and Rose. They all went through/are going through growing pains. What I’ve noticed around Chicago is that while we don’t expect much from other cities young kids, we place impossible expectations on the rookies that come up through Chicago. This is specifically true in baseball.

Beckham and Castro

Gordon Beckham had an .808 OPS as a 22 year old rookie. He was brought up as a reactionary move to an offensive black hole that occurred when Josh Fields failed to produce. White Sox fans were anxious to see the Georgia kid at the major league level as they expected the Sox to repeat the surprising year they had in 2008. Ozzie famously said that if the White Sox had to call up Beckham it showed that they were in trouble. Well, they got into some trouble during the season and Kenny made the call to the farm.

Beckham’s start was good enough to earn him the Sporting News’ Rookie of the Year award.

‘‘I wish that kid was a two- or three-year veteran in the big leagues because he has that attitude,’’ Guillen said. ‘‘He has that right frame of mind. He was a leader his whole life from when he was in high school, college. I think he wants to be the face of the franchise, and we need something like that. When a player thinks like that, doesn’t hide in the weeds, you don’t see many players come up from the minor leagues and think that way. It’s a big challenge. But I don’t have a doubt in my mind that he has the right tools to be one. Obviously, it has to come from help from myself, Ken Williams and the staff to make him a great leader.’’

-Ozzie Guillen

Expectations were pretty high from there on out. When his offense cratered over the next two years, fans were puzzled. His rookie year was so outstanding, how could he not build on that and improve?

Starlin Castro has been a hit machine since he debuted with 6 RBI’s. With the bat in his hand he has been stellar. The major knock on him is his defense. He goes through lapses of concentration that are as baffling as they are infuriating. There isn’t a player in the majors that makes me go “that’s a great play,” to “that was a dipshit play,” in the same game quite like Starlin. As of writing time, he has twice as many errors (8), as walks (4). This makes a lot of Cubs fans irate.

And gives some ammo to Sox trolls

I’m pretty sure this guy is a White Sox troll

This invariably leads to a lot of talk of moving Castro to 3B, 2B, a corner OF spot, or 1B. The “Castro isn’t a SS” movement is gaining a lot of traction locally, and while it has quieted down some over the past month (He hasn’t committed an error in 16 games), you can bet that discussion will start cooking again when he commits another error.

I think it’s obvious that both Beckham and Castro are going through growing pains, albeit in opposite aspects of their respective games. Beckham plays sublime defense at 2B, he’s smooth, has range, and can make all the throws. He has an ugly hitch in his swing right now though, and he just can’t hit consistently. His minor hot streak has his average up to .204 with a paltry .627 OPS. Castro is still prone to lapses in the field, he’s flashing better leather lately, but he’s going to have to continue to play solid defense to shed the “butcher” tag. His defense is still a violent game, with flashes of smoothness. Both players are trying to make adjustments in the glare of the public eye. Both had the savior tag applied to them when they were brought up. Both need to be given time to properly show you what they are before you pass judgement. Beckham’s time is shorter than Castro’s because he’s older, but Cubs fans need to relax on the “Move Starlin off SS,” movement too.

Which, you know, brings me to Anthony Rizzo and Brett Jackson.

Superkids

Anthony Rizzo is still destroying AAA.

Geez, settle down

Brett Jackson…not so much

Cubs fans are eagerly anticipating the arrival of both players at the Major League level. Rizzo has a cute little twitter dedicated to him, @FreeRizzo. There are a few things that Cubs fans need to keep in mind when it comes to both players, and the Cubs in general.

  • Neither Rizzo nor Jackson are going to save the Cubs in the short-term. This is a full on dedicated rebuilding that will look a lot like the Royals rebuild had a baby with the Nats rebuild. It’s going to take time. I hope the Cubs will be much better in 3 years, but much better is 80-85 wins. That could potentially be 20-25 wins better than the hypothetical 2012 record.
  • The Cubs are ridiculously devoid of talent at the Major and high Minor League level. This past draft was the first one the Cubs have had in a while that impressed people around the league. There is zero pitching help at AAA.
  • Trading Soriano is going to be really hard. He’s gimpy and people already know what kind of hitter he is. Why do I bring this up? Well, how else are you going to make room for Rizzo? LaHair to left, Rizzo at first is the aim.
  • Speaking of Rizzo, I haven’t heard any respected talent scouts call him the second coming of Albert Pujols. I think that his ceiling is Paul Konerko level production, and he’s likely to simply be an above average 1B. That’s awesome, trust me, but it’s not a franchise changer. He shortened his swing, and I do think he’s ready for MLB, but he’s not likely to turn into a perennial MVP candidate.
  • Jackson will be lucky to be Curtis Granderson pre-Yankees. Again, that’s awesome and I’ll take it, but we Cub fans need to stop pretending that he’s more than what he is. He’ll be solid, but I doubt he is ever considered an “impact” player.

Cub fans need to check our collective reality meter. We need to understand what this team is now, and what it will be in the future. This is a deep and real rebuild.

Speaking of reality checks

If the White Sox make the playoffs, and that’s a huge if, it’ll be because the other teams in the Central failed. Don’t start pretending like this team is good because they won 5 of 6 against the two worst teams in MLB. I would get pissed as a White Sox fan if Kenny Williams sees this squad and starts trading prospects for vets because he sees fools gold. Let’s look at a few things.

  • The White Sox pitching staff is the best component of this team, but it’s schizophrenic at best and average on the whole at worst. The White Sox have a slightly above average staff ERA that is buoyed by Jake Peavy and Chris Sale.The other three starters all have ERA’s over 4. The enigmatic John Danks keeps alternating between good start and bad start. Phil Humber is similarly quizzical, as it looked like he had figured some things out with the perfect game, only to regress to “inconsistent” status over his next 5 starts. His walk rate is close to double what it was last year, and I think that’s a symptom of nibbling that could lead to future trouble. Gavin still lives in Gavin world, where sublime stuff is permanently married to a low pitching IQ.
  • That offense is putrid, and Orlando Hudson will only help it so much. You can’t survive in the Cell with 3-4 offensive black holes. Eventually other teams will come into town and hit the HR’s that you aren’t. This is reflected in their 8-13 record at home.
  • Jake Peavy is a ticking time bomb and you need to trade him for value. Seriously, he’s not going to sustain a .249 opponents BABIP. He’s stranding 79% of baserunners, which is similarly unsustainable, and his GB rate is at 31.1%.That flyball rate is asking for trouble in the Cell. The xFIP number is also pointing at a big ole regression to the mean. You can’t pitch on the margins like that and survive in a homer haven. It’s damn near impossible.
  • Addison Reed is likely the only reliable reliever the Sox have in the pen. I have no idea what happened to Matt Thornton, but he’s been inconsistent the past two years. Will Ohman is still Will Ohman, and Hector Santiago is still trying to figure it out.

What the White Sox look like to me is a mediocre team in a mediocre division, it would be foolish to sell off parts of an already thin farm system when they declared this year to be a transitional year. White Sox fans have already spoken with their wallets what they think about this team so far, the empty seats are telling me that you don’t think they’re for real, so don’t be mad if they sell at the deadline.

At the end of the day

Both fanbases need to settle down. The Cubs shouldn’t rush Rizzo, the White Sox aren’t poised for greatness as currently constructed. The Cubs have awhile before they are true title contenders. The White Sox might seem closer, but be wary. Depending on the moves they make this year, their championship clock could be moved back by years.

I’ve been there before, down that path, feeling that same sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach. It’s the feeling you get deep within your being when you have so completely failed to live up to the expectations of people that support you. The sensation is truly nauseating. You begin to realize that people put their faith in your ability to perform a task, or to get a job, or to be special.

Yes, I’ve failed miserably before, odds are that I will again.

I’ve always had a soft spot for Adam Dunn. He is the type of slugger that I appreciate nowadays. Low average, walks a lot, hits monster home runs, strikes out quite a bit as well. I’ve drafted him to every fantasy team I’ve owned since 2006. There are three true outcomes when it comes to Adam Dunn, and I can appreciate that.

Last year was painful for me as well.

When you fail, when you fall down, it’s usually not in front of 20,000 people. To watch Adam Dunn last year was to watch the slow death of a confused animal. One who is not completely sure why it is dying, but one that is certain of it’s fate. Dunn knew he was going to fail towards the second half of last season. He looked lost in a mire of his own personal doubts and the pressures to perform a duty that used to come so easy to him before.

Perhaps that is the issue, it was easy before. There were little to no expectations for Dunn in his previous stops. Cincy was never in contention with him, Arizona had a brief stint as a contender when he was traded there, and the Nationals weren’t ready to contend when he landed there. His destiny as Sox DH was predestined, it’s a home run happy park, one where Dunn could exercise his prowess and become something more. He was traded to a team that was supposed to contend.

And then 2011 happened.

Historically, there has never been a full season collapse like this in baseball history. Think about that, baseball records have been reliably kept since 1885. Since then, no one has fallen on their face harder than Adam Dunn.

Dunn’s bat looked slower, and statistical evidence seems to back that claim up. From 2007 through 2010 Dun averaged 536 AB’s and struck out on a fastball 87 times pers season. In 2011, Dunn had 411 AB’s and struck out on a fastball 100 times. Pitchers threw fastballs to Dunn 62% of the time from 2007-2011, but in 2011 Dunn saw fastballs 69% of the time.

Pitchers aren’t afraid of Dunn, and that’s an issue. Adam Dunn needs to figure out if he truly loves baseball, because he didn’t just fail to live up to expectations, he set a record for failing.

There is one silver lining in his numbers.

Despite being historically bad, Dunn saw an uptick in his BB ratio. You can take this as a sign that his patience could help in 2012, or that he is too afraid to swing at anything and he lucked into a few walks. Either way, it’s something positive that he did.

Dunn wasn’t alone in failure on the south side. Rios and Beckham were supposed to be two very good hitters for the Sox. Rios was claimed off waivers by Kenny Williams in 2009 and had a respectable 2010 year. Beckham was a first round pick with a hitting pedigree from Georgia. He was a College World Series hero and many argued that he should have been the rookie of the year in 2009.

Both players were expected to have good years for a contending team in 2011, and both failed to meet expectations. Here is a graph of the trio’s wOBA

Or if you want more traditional stats:

Those three players had 1623 combined PA’s and severely under performed last year.

Rios looks like a gifted athlete. He patrols centerfield with grace and speed, he makes it all look so easy. His tools are apparent and that’s what makes his struggles so infuriating. He can be a good baseball player, but there is this odd mental block with him that is impossible to describe. He should be a 30 home run guy, but he isn’t. He should hit .300, but he doesn’t. He should be a gold glove centerfielder, but he never will be. Perhaps it is lapses in concentration that leads to his poor play, but he needs to play better.

Beckham looks like a lost cause. He was a stellar fielder at second base in the first half, but his fielding dipped as his bat never really got on track. He has regressed every year he’s been in the league, and that’s a terrible sign for a rookie phenom. Beckham collapsed in the second half last year, but the dip wasn’t as visible because he wasn’t exactly setting the world on fire in the first half. He struggled to hit .213 after the All-Star break as his K-rate shot through the roof.

Beckham will never be an OBP machine, he doesn’t walk enough and his swing looks lost, but he can be somewhat valuable since his glove could theoretically justify his bat. He needs to be around .270-.280 for that to happen.

The White Sox have an outside chance at competing in 2012. The Tigers IF defense will be awful and there is a slight chance the the Sox will pitch enough to stay in the race. The mitigating factor will be the bats. 3 of the 4 times the Sox have made the playoffs in New Comiskey the team has belted 200+ home runs. That’s the magic number, if the Sox can hit, the pitching might hold up enough to stay relevant into September. For that to happen, these three players will have to play well.

Dunn is the wild card, if he can return to form, the Sox will do well. The question with him will always be about his love for the game. Picking up a bat this offseason was a healthy start, but he’s going to have to mash for the Sox to compete.

Catchers are a funny beast. It’s rare to have the Carlton Fisk model of consistency. More common is the Roy Campanella model which truly displays the volatility of the position that is arguably the most physically demanding in baseball (perhaps starting pitcher is more taxing, but that’s really only one body part that gets damaged).

Victor Martinez is of course now a DH and the Tigers are not hurting behind the dish with Alex Avilla handling the catching duties. Yet even while playing a significantly less stressful position Martinez has managed to put most of his 2012 season in jeopardy, and that only means great things for the White Sox. Martinez was a cog in the Tiger lineup. He provided some gap power (40 doubles last year) and a tremendous control of the bat (.330 avg. in 2011). Replacing that production in the DH spot will be something the Tigers struggle with all year.

A torn ACL is no joke, athletes are never the same after an ACL injury. It robs your athleticism. It’s a good thing Martinez was already relegated to the DH role because his catching career is all but over at this point, and it’s questionable if he can take 1B duties anymore. His talent with the bat, however, was clear last year. He had an increase in his Line-Drive Ratio, he cut his strike out percentage, he had a slight uptick in his walk percentage, he had the highest batting average of his career, by many metrics it was his best year at the plate (largely thanks to no longer being behind it). He was an extremely productive player for the Tigers and one of the reasons they one the division.

The Tigers will struggle to replace that production. Their options on the bench are limited, you can theoretically slot Magglio Ordonez in the DH slot and play Ryan Raburn out in the outfield, but it’s still clear that there will be a dip in production next year.

Take a look at these graphs. It compares Martinez to the league average (where blue is league average and Martinez is green).

Mags is still a great hitter, but he’s not replacing that.

What does it mean for the White Sox? It means that they can pretend to contend for another year. We’ve seen this song and dance from Kenny Williams before. He pays the lip service to the fan, “All In” being a prime example of this. The teams he assembles, however, were always a potpourri of what he wanted and what Ozzie demanded. This year, however, it’s all on Kenny. The rebuilding word has been thrown around in the offseason, but I’m not one to believe that Kenny will remain patient, especially now that this little speck of blood hit the AL Central waters.

Kenny has balls, I’ll give him that much. A lot would have to go right for the White Sox for them to be serious contenders, Dunn and Rios would have to hit just a little bit, ditto with Beckham. Peavy would have to actually contribute something, Danks needs to replace the Golden Redneck, Floyd would have to find some consistency. It’s not impossible that the Sox are contenders for the AL Central crown early in the 2012 season. It wouldn’t fit into the rebuilding plan, however. Do you believe that Kenny would stick to the plan and let a gettable division pass him by?

I don’t. He’ll go for it if it’s there, and it might cost him his job.