The fourth player from the 2008 Amateur Draft to reach the Major Leagues, Gordon Beckham has taken the early lead as the most successful pick in that draft. Beckham’s success is no surprise to scouts: his amateur pedigree was among the draft’s best. The infielder started every game the Georgia Bulldogs played from 2006 to 2008, including two seasons with runs to the College World Series. I ranked him as the ninth-best prospect from the 2007 Cape Cod League, acknowledging that a move off the shortstop position was likely. After that summer, Beckham truly broke out as a junior, hitting a D1-leading 28 home runs, with a .411/.519/.804 batting line. The rest is history.
In this year’s 2010 draft, one of the most pitcher-heavy in recent memory, there is a player that matches a lot of the points on Beckham’s resume: power hitter, dubious shortstop skills, junior season breakout, started every game in a tough conference over three seasons. And yet, Georgia Tech SS Derek Dietrich is not getting the first round play that Beckham received just two seasons ago. Considering that Dietrich was a high draft pick out of high school (third round Astros pick), where Beckham was not, the discrepancy in prospect status hasn’t always been the case.
Today, I want to investigate if we can see the divide from a statistical perspective, by comparing the performances of each during their three college seasons, as well as the Cape Cod League between their sophomore and junior years. First, we have the freshman campaigns for each player:
Name AVG/OBP/SLG AB BB SO SB-AT DD 332/410/592 238 26 50 3-4 GB 280/348/490 286 27 58 5-6
Since we established that Dietrich was considered the better high school prospect, it’s not real surprising that he had a better freshman season. The two had equal strikeout rates, so Dietrich’s advantage in average is the case of a better BABIP. Considering the respective conferences, both players were huge assets to their schools. Now, as sophomores:
Name AVG/OBP/SLG AB BB SO SB-AT DD 311/426/511 225 30 48 5-5 GB 307/399/570 228 31 33 6-12
If there is a divide in these players, it starts in Year Two. In this season, we see that Gordon takes a huge step in decreasing strikeouts, while simultaneously adding power. Dietrich, on the other hand, went from 32 XBH as a freshman to 21 as a sophomore, so there was a case of a little second-year slump. His advantage over Beckham in on-base percentage is due to 16 hits by pitch, and there is no reason to think he won’t continue to get plunked at a high rate. Let’s move onto the Cape Cod League summers:
Name AVG/OBP/SLG AB BB SO SB-AT DD 211/348/329 152 27 46 4-9 GB 284/370/529 155 17 40 6-7
Where I ranked Beckham highly his season, Keith Law didn’t rank Dietrich as one of the top 30 Cape prospects last summer. The two both had problems striking out against heightened competition with wood bats, but Beckham showed power (19 XBH) where Dietrich’s was more average (11 XBH). The latter was more patient, so he does show one skill over Beckham. Finally, let’s jump to the junior years:
Name AVG/OBP/SLG AB BB SO SB-AT DD 347/453/708 144 14 19 7-8 GB 411/519/804 275 54 30 17-21
Dietrich’s advantage in patience disappears, although their Isolated Disciplines are equal because the Tech shortstop has 14 HBP through 36 games. Dietrich has cut down on the strikeouts, but not to the degree that Beckham did in his final season with Georgia. Dietrich has already passed his XBH total from last season, and is plugging along at a power pace just below Beckham’s 2008 dominance.
Part of the reason that Dietrich doesn’t get the prospect love that Beckham received in 2008 is due to a perceived difference in athleticism. Where Beckham slowly convinced some scouts he could stick at shortstop, Dietrich never has done the same. Offensively, Dietrich has shown the unfortunate combination of a little less power with a little more strikeouts, but his patience skills are right up there. I think the discrepancy between the two is a little overdone, and that Dietrich deserves more first round consideration than he has received. But despite their similarities in pedigree, these are not the same players, and Dietrich achieving Beckham’s quick success is unlikely.