Many fantasy analysts will tell you middle infield is the shallowest position in fantasy baseball. If you can’t get one of the top guys at shortstop or second base, you’re likely going to take a chance on a young prospect or a bounce back candidate. Gordon Beckham is one player that fits that mold perfectly. After being one of the most highly touted rookies following his 2009 campaign, Beckham has collapsed the past two seasons. With the future of his playing career potentially in the balance, is Beckham worth betting on next year?
Thought to be one of the most “pro-ready” prospects in the 2008 draft, Beckham did not disappoint initially. Called up early in 2009, Beckham showed promise in the majors as a power hitting second baseman. In his rookie season, he also added seven steals, leading to some lofty projections for 2010.
Since that breakout year, virtually nothing has gone right for Beckham. Pretty much all of his rate stats have gone in the wrong direction since his rookie year. His walk rate has dropped, his strikeout rate has risen and his slash line has dropped every season. For a guy who was supposed to be prepared for the big leagues, Beckham has really regressed.
In some of his scouting reports, Beckham was recognized for having above average pitch recognition. Oddly enough, he still seems to have retained that skill despite his decline. Looking at his pitch type values, Beckham struggled against the curve ball last season, but was able to hold his own against other pitches. He was particularly strong against fastballs and sliders. Beckham was even able to improve against change-ups, signaling the first time in his career that he posted a positive pitch type value against the pitch.
Beckham may be able to recognize pitches, but he’s making poor decisions at the plate. With each passing season, Beckham has been more aggressive. This isn’t only reflected in his poor 6.3% walk rate either. Beckham’s O-Swing% has increased each season, meaning he’s chasing more pitches out of the zone. Opposing pitchers took notice, throwing Beckham fewer pitches in the zone last season. While he’s also swinging at more pitches in the zone, he’s struggling to make contact with those pitches.
One of the other majors reasons for Beckham’s struggles last season was his extremely high infield fly ball rate. Beckham’s rate soared to 21% last season. A player that hits such a high number of infield flies isn’t making great contact, and won’t post strong averages. If Beckham can’t correct this problem, he’s going to have a hard time posting batting averages in the .270s.
Because second base is so shallow, Beckham is going to be a late round “sleeper” at the position heading into most drafts. Based on his poor stats from the last two seasons, it’s unclear whether he really deserves a spot on your team. Beckham may have experienced success in his initial run, but it’s clear he has regressed the past two seasons. There’s always a chance that he rediscovers the magic of 2009, but let someone else deal with the headache next season.