Since climbing up the baseball ladder and making his MLB in 2009, just one year after being taken in the first round of the 2008 draft, Chicago White Sox second baseman Gordon Beckham stands at a career crossroads in 2014. Look for him to try and rebound from a disappointing and difficult 2013 campaign and continue to mature as he assumes more of a leadership role on and off the field.
A slew of injuries marred Beckham’s 2013 season, including repeated setbacks related to a mamate bone injury that kept him off the field for most of the first half of the season, and a quad injury that nagged him in the second half. Despite several stints on the disabled list, Beckham’s .267 batting average was the second highest of his career, behind the .270 he hit his rookie season. However, with a higher average came lower productivity numbers, including only five home runs and 24 RBI.
This spring has not been quite so kind to Beckham in terms of relocating that hitting stroke. His .167 batting average is one of the lowest on the team among players with more than 20 at bats, and he has just one home run and one double. Tweaks in his batting stance, along with manager Robin Ventura hitting him second in the lineup instead of his usual eighth or ninth, all play parts in the mental/physical balance that Beckham and the White Sox need him to achieve to contribute to the club’s success.
As he works on his on-field production, Beckham also has the chance to assert himself off the field, because the impending retirement of Paul Konerko means that someone needs to take the lead of the young team. The main candidates for that spot, be it team leader and perhaps even later team captain, include a mix of players with different leadership styles and experience levels. Beckham is one of the longest-tenured White Sox after Konerko, while Chris Sale has thus far proven to be a new type of staff ace for the South Siders, a la Esteban Loaiza in the early 2000’s.
To me, 27-year-old Beckham seems the most logical choice to fill in the oversized leadership shoes that Konerko will inevitably leave behind, partly because when Beckham was a rookie, Konerko took him under his wing. It is no secret that the two of them have a close relationship on the field and off the field, and 2014 presents Beckham with the perfect opportunity to take on leadership of the nest.