Following a standout rookie season in 2009 that featured a .270/.347/.460 batting line with 14 homers and 63 runs driven in, expectations were understandably high for Gordon Beckham last year. Instead of continuing on the path to stardom, Beckham struggled out of the gate and was staring at a .182/.285/.234 batting line with just five extra base hits (four doubles and a homer) on the morning of May 22nd. Many fantasy owners jumped ship, but those that stuck with him were rewarded.
Starting with the game played on May 22nd, Beckham hit a much more respectable .283/.332/.443 the rest of the way. Move our arbitrary endpoint up a month to June 28th, and Beckham hit .313/.377/.502 with seven homers in the final 225 plate appearances of his season. That’s the guy everyone was expecting, and that’s the guy we’re all hoping to get in 2011.
When looking at Beckham’s 2010 season, one this really stands out: his ground ball rate. Check out the day-to-day progression…
As you can see, the kid was beating the ball into the ground roughly 50% of the time during the first two or three months of the season. Once he made an adjustment and started getting more loft on the ball, the production increased considerably. This shouldn’t be a surprise, The Cell is a hitter friendly park especially for right-handed hitters (137 HR, 104 wOBA park factor for RHB according to StatCorner). Park dimensions won’t matter too much when when you’re hitting the ball into the ground, just how long the groundskeeper keeps the grass.
Beckham’s ground ball rate in 2009 (40.4%) was right in line with his rate from the last three months of 2010 (~40.3%), and the production was similar as well. It sounds too simple to be true, but a player won’t be much of a threat with the bat if he’s hitting ground ball after ground ball, unless he’s a speedy guy that can beat out some infield singles. Beckham’s not that kind of player, his calling card is right-handed thump, and he needs to put the ball in the air and let his ballpark work for him. If he’s doing that on a regular basis, he’s going to be productive.
The various projection systems mostly have Beckham bouncing back to his 2009 level of production, but I’m a believer and think he can do better than that his third year in the league and one year closer to his prime. He’ll have 2B and SS eligibility, maybe even 3B in some, but the middle infield is where you’re going to use him anyway. Most mock drafts have Beckham going in the 9th or 10th round, alongside players like Chone Figgins and Aaron Hill. Like I said, I’m a believer and I’m willing to gamble on Beckham taking a step forward at that draft position.
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