Since breaking into the league with a .808 OPS, 2.6 fWAR season as a rookie, Gordon Beckham has required a fair bit of patience from the Chicago White Sox as to his development.
That’s if you can call it development, anyway. After three straight seasons of disappointment, the former Rookie of the Year finalist may quickly find himself running out of what leash he has left.
Beckham, who will enter his fifth season at age-26 in 2013, is quickly entering into the post-hype stage that emphasizes the former in “former top prospect”, and the team will be demanding more from their second baseman. That’s what two straight sub-.240/.300 BA/OBP seasons will do, even if he did set a career-high with 16 homers and 62 runs last year.
That may not suffice in 2013. Not if the White Sox want to contend for the division.
But, it’s not like the team has a lot of options – at least, not internally. If Gordon gets off to another disastrous start, the team could potentially slot backup Angel Sanchez at short, and move Alexei Ramirez to second, where he hasn’t played since 2008. Incoming utility man Jeff Keppinger could also play there, but that would leave a Brent Morel-sized hole at third base, and the team doesn’t want to go there, not after the .201/.286/.314 triple-slash they got at the hot corner in 2012.
The team may once again be forced to seek outside help should Beckham stumbles, but they would probably rather that doesn’t happen, and for their talented-but-frustrating second baseman to play like he deserves a spot in 2013.
Even though that’s much easier said to be done, there are signs of hope. There were the two straight .744 OPS months in May and June of last season that were sandwiched by rock-bottom numbers, for one. And, for a good month or so, Beckham was even back to the form that endeared him to the franchise: from September to the end of the season, Beckham showed a batting eye that hadn’t surfaced in any other months of his career, drawing walks (11.6%) at the same rate as he struck out, and posting a .250/.355/.438 triple slash with four homers in 95 PA.
It’s a small sample, but it’s better than what the White Sox have seen over the last few years.
Those are the kind of numbers Beckham will need to show next season to really establish his place in the future of this franchise. The White Sox have waited a very long time to see him get back there; if he fails to do so again, the team may not wait much longer.