27 May 2008

Draft Preview -- Finding 1:4 (Gordon Beckham)

Introducing Gordon Beckham

Our draft coverage begins with one of the more exciting players in college baseball this year. Entering the 2008 season, Georgia shortstop Gordon Beckham was considered one of the top three draft-eligible college middle infielders – Miami’s Jemile Weeks and South Carolina’s Reese Havens being the other two. None of this triumvirate were considered to be a Top 15 pick. 57 games, 86 hits (23 HR, 17 2B, 1 3B) and 57 RBI later Beckham has lead his Georgia squad to a regular season SEC title as well as a national seed and regional host in the Field of 64, all the while staking his claim to the Golden Spikes Award (given to the best amateur baseball player -- awarded by USA Baseball and sponsored by the MLBPA) and Top 5 consideration in this year’s Rule 4 Amateur Draft. In determining whether Beckham is a good fit for Baltimore at the 1:4 spot, we will examine Beckham’s offensive numbers as well as Camden Depot’s scouting report on his offensive and defensive game.

The Numbers

Statistic (National Rank out of 500 Ranked)
Games/Games Started – 57/57
At Bats – 218
Hits – 86 (48)
Doubles – 17 (244)
Triples – 1 (not ranked)
Homeruns – 23 (2)
Runs Batted In – 57 (93)
Batting Average – .394 (53)
On-Base Percentage – .507 (21)
Slugging – .789 (6)
Total Bases – 174 (4)
Walks – 44 (42)
Strikeouts – 27 (350th toughest to strikeout)

Beckham has clearly put up an impressive offensive line through the SEC Tournament. What jumps out with this stat line, however, is his power. He ranks in the top 10 nationally in three categories -- HR, SLG and TB. He wasn't a particularly difficult player to strikeout, which may or may not be indicative of future struggles. Ultimately, Beckham's numbers are impressive, but the late surge by Smoak and consistency of Posey have made G-Bex's season impressive rather than singular (I believe Baseball America made this last statement, though I could not find the quote to link it -- credit where credit is due, and all).

The Frame
At 6'0" and 185 pounds, Beckham is solid without being awkward at shortstop. His frame has room to thicken, though he may be better off keeping under the 200 pound mark so as to make his stay at shortstop a little easier. His forearms, wrist and core are very strong, helping him to generate the power that has been demonstrated this season and this past summer when he won the homerun crown in the Cape.
Scouting: March 2, 2008 at Oregon State (Film)

Load – Beckham’s load is a bit problematic. His back elbow is elevated a bit to much, pointing the top of the bat towards the pitcher and extending the length his hands will eventually have to take to the ball. He maintains a solid 60/40 weight distribution and his hands are locked close to the shoulder, creating good power potential.

Stride – The weight transfer is successful in utilizing the power potential created in the load. Beckham is able to keep his hips closed during the stride, preventing any energy from escaping and helping to maximize his power. Not only does he not begin to drop his back elbow, it tends to elevate a little more, pushing the barrel forward and again lengthening the path his hands will have to take to the ball. Compounding this is the fact that while his body begins to stride forward, his hands stay in the same space (picture handcuffing your wrist to a chair and then slowly walking forward). This tends to create a long, somewhat loopy swing.

Swing – As anticipated, Beckham’s swing is a little long and a bit loopy, which could be problematic against more advanced pitching. For now, his incredible bat speed more than makes up for this deficiency. Beckham leads well with his hips, uncorking all of the potential power his mechanics have built up to this point. Quick hips and strong wrists help to get the bat through the zone quickly, despite the added length. It is possible the change to wooden bats and high-minors pitching will prove too much for even Beckham’s wrists to overcome.

Contact – He squares up on the ball very well, making consistent hard contact. The long swing sometimes leads to reduced bat control, however, and while Beckham is strong enough to muscle line-drives off the end of the bat when his control fails him, it is likely a fair number of his singles could turn into ground outs at the pro level. Beckham’s wrist and weight transfer provide the final piece to maximizing power on contact.

Follow-Through – Beckham maintains good balance, though at times he spins off a bit at the end of his swing and can be a little clunky in his one-armed finish. He does a fairly good job of maintaining his momentum through the ball.

Swing Grade – B – Beckham’s swing raises some serious questions as to his ceiling as a Major League hitter. At the college level, his approach is superior and he does a good job of utilizing his quick wrists and solid frame to generate plus power. There is a decent chance he hits a wall at AA/AAA if his hitch is not corrected, though it is possible his bat speed holds up. Baseball is littered with ugly swing mechanics that produce results (See Pence, Hunter).

Beckham ranges well up the middle and charges the ball with confidence. He possesses an adequate arm for shortstop and has the athleticism to stay there throughout his professional career. His hands, however, may force an eventual switch to third base. At times, Beckham is a bit herky-jerky, making it difficult to state with confidence that he can stay smooth enough to man the six at the Major League level.

Fielding Grade – B

Is Beckham Worthy of 1:4?

With the dearth of middle infield prospects in the Baltimore organization, nothing would please me more than to be able to state with confidence that Gordon Beckham would be a great selection for the Orioles. Unfortunately, there are too many questions surrounding G-Bex for him to warrant consideration this high in the draft. There is a chance he will ultimately need to switch to third base, and there is a likelihood that his superior bat speed will not be able to make-up for his hitch and loopy swing once he starts facing elite pro pitching with a wooden bat. His success in the Summer Cape Cod League is reason to be optimistic, but that was still against college pitching. Beckham should have no problem continuing to punish bad pitches – the question will be whether or not issues begin to arise when the bad pitches become fewer and farther between.

Prospect Grade – B
Suggested Draft Slot – 11 to 15
1:4 Recommendation – Pass

Next Up – Justin Smoak (1b) University of South Carolina

Please feel free to contact us with any thoughts our questions -- we'd love to hear from you.


Jon Shepherd said...

If anyone is interested in some video of Gordon Beckham . . . someone posted a recap of his game against Clemson on youtube:


crawdaddy said...

Another aside . . . his MLE, which is incredibly unreliable for a college player, is 189/237/395. Sadly, that is pretty competitive with our current SSs. His AAA LE shows him just above the league average mark, but most of that is due to his power numbers.