Gordon Beckham (ESPN: 7 percent owned; Yahoo!: 8 percent owned)
T.S. Eliot warned us. “April is the cruelest month,” he wrote in The Wasteland, and Gordon Beckham spent the first month of the 2012 season proving him right. Beckham hit .153/.231/.203 with a pair of RBI and without a single home run. A .209 BABIP certainly didn’t help his cause, but bad luck was really only part of his problem. Plus, his start fit so cleanly into the narrative of “Gordon Beckham is irreparably broken” that it became easier to write him off than to figure out if there was any life left in the husk of the White Sox former first round draft pick.
As it turns out, Beckham was only mostly dead. His May hasn’t been without its ups and downs, but his line so far this month, .241/.293/.470 with 12 RBI and 5 HR, is a fair sight better than anything he’s done since, well, May of last year. While his one-month dead-cat bounce last year does serve as something of a cautionary tale, given the way the rest of his year went, there’s a big difference between that brief peak in a down season and what Beckham is doing so far this month.
His 2011 swoon was built largely on a BABIP that jumped from .221 in April to .404 in May. He had fewer extra base hits, albeit in fewer plate appearances as well, but when the singles stopped falling in, he stopped producing. A .232 BABIP in June meant his OPS fell back to .652 and the rest of his season followed in kind. This year, his BABIP rose again, from .209 to .224, but Beckham’s rebound is predominantly coming on the back of a 300-point rise in his slugging percentage. His five home runs so far in May make it his best month for homers since September, 2009, and while his HR/FB rate this month is on the high side at 19.2 percent, it’s not so unbelievably high that it cease to be useful.
I’m not sold on Beckham being back — which is a weird concept for a player who has yet to actually have a full, successful season in the majors — but things look like they’re starting to click for him again. AL-only players may want to grab him if second base is an area of need, mixed players can probably afford to wait a little longer to see if he manages to have a full month of success, but if you have a particularly deep bench and want to make the upside play, Beckham isn’t the worst option out there.
Tony Campana (ESPN: 27 percent owned; Yahoo!: 15 percent owned)
If you’re looking at picking up Campana it should be for one reason and one reason alone: Stolen bases. As impressed as I am that Campana has been able to keep his batting average at or above .300 for his first 100 PAs this season, I have doubts about his ability to keep it above .300 for another 100 PAs.
His BABIP is nearly .400 and it’s not going to remain that high, that much we know. However, his speed is always going to give him a chance to beat out a decent number of infield singles, which will limit the extent to which he’ll bottom out on regression. This season, Campana has added a solid line drive rate to his arsenal, which is another reason the coming regression might not be quite as steep as it otherwise would have been. His translated minor league line would yield about a .260 MLB average and a .305 OBP — coincidentally, that was almost exactly his average and OBP in his 95 games in 2011 — if he has really made a change to produce more line drives, I could see him going as high as .275 for the rest of the season, but anything much above that is wishcasting.
Campana has 12 steals in 48 opportunities — a time when he was on first or second with the next base open — which is a strong rate. There’s no reason to believe the Cubs are going throw the leash on him any time soon, especially when he’s been caught stealing just twice and picked off twice. If they aren’t going to give him the green light, there’s virtually no reason to have him in the lineup. His defense isn’t good enough for that to be about the only thing he brings to the table.
The only reason that Campana won’t continue to rack up steals like they’re collectables that going to be discontinued is if he gets caught up in the wash of Anthony Rizzo’s call-up. The Cubs have hinted Rizzo could be up sooner rather than later, which moves Bryan LaHair off of first base, likely into an outfield corner. Assuming Alfonso Soriano isn’t traded, LaHair moves into right field and David DeJesus takes over in center field, leaving Campana without a spot to call home.
If Campana fits a need, I wouldn’t worry too much about what happens when Rizzo arrives. Realistically, the Cubs could trade any of the three — LaHair, Soriano, or DeJesus — before they call up Rizzo, which would keep Campana safe in center. Whatever they decide, it’s not particularly useful to speculate on who loses playing time when there are almost no constraints on who has to stay and who would potentially leave.
Campana will run as long as he has the chances to do it. Yes, he would be a better pick up if he could hit above .270 or so long term or if he drew a walk more than once a week, but the updated ZiPS projections have him stealing 44 bases this year, which is a decent amount of value in and of itself.