southsider2k5 Posted March 4, 2009 Share Posted March 4, 2009 http://www.chicagotribune.com/sports/chi-0...,3746248.column White Sox's Gordon Beckham the real deal But to get to bigs quickly, shortstop may have to change positions Phil Rogers | On Baseball March 4, 2009 GLENDALE, Ariz. â€” Scouting and player development remains as much art as science. There are no sure things. But Gordon Beckham looks like the safest bet the White Sox have placed in the amateur draft in about 20 years. He can hit, and he's a born shortstop and competitor. That's why he started all 197 games he played at the University of Georgia, every one of them at the game's most important defensive position. He also batted .411 with an NCAA-leading 28 homers last season. "I do like shortstop," Beckham said. "It's always been the spot for me." The White Sox haven't played a season with a homegrown player as their primary shortstop since 1976, before Roland Hemond traded Bucky Dent to the Yankees. Beckham has the potential to end that drought. His timing could have been better, however. Beckham was selected with the eighth overall pick last Juneâ€”at about the same time general manager Ken Williams and manager Ozzie Guillen were concluding that Cuban Ã©migrÃ© Alexei Ramirez is a heck of a player, capable of moving from second base to shortstop. They no longer felt badly about not being able to sign Orlando Cabrera to a contract extension because they had a replacement in Ramirez, who had been happy to play second or center field but insisted that short was his natural position. Because of Ramirez, the 22-year-old Beckham played some second and third base in the Arizona Fall League, as well as short. This spring he has been at both sides of the bag during infield drills, working especially hard to learn the second-base pivot. It seems he hardly flinched the first time a potential position change was addressed. He's a team guy, after allâ€”the quarterback of his high school team, and the son of a University of South Carolina quarterback. "I'm going to play wherever they want me to play," Beckham said. "I enjoy shortstop. It always has been fun, challenging to me. I'm used to it. But they want me to play other positions, and if that can get me to the big leagues quicker, I have no problem. â€¦ Where they want me to play, I'll play." Because Beckham has shown an ability to get on base and drive in runs, it's natural to project him in a lineup alongside Ramirez. That could occur in 18 months, maybe even less. But should anyone discount Beckham's chance to fulfill his potential as a shortstop, just because his organization appears to have a more advanced one? Some people, including Guillen, who spent 13 years as the Sox's shortstop after being acquired in a trade, believe it would be a mistake to change Beckham's position this early in his career. "I was shocked that he said he will move to another position just to get to the big leagues quicker," Guillen said. "I don't think that's the way we're looking at him. I don't think this kid is a utility player." Beckham received $2.6 million to sign last August, more than the Sox have paid any amateur player outside of celebrated bust Joe Borchard. No one is talking about making him a utility player. But if he could hit like Jeff Kent or Dan Uggla at second base, while playing the position with the athleticism and instincts that have carried him at shortstop, that would be a very good thing. Still, finding a solid defensive shortstop who also can hit in the middle of your lineup is like finding the Holy Grail of baseball. It's why Cal Ripken was revered long before he broke Lou Gehrig's consecutive games record, and why Alex Rodriguez has been baseball's biggest earner for almost a decade now. Guillen makes another point about why the Sox should move slowly when considering a position change for their 2008 first-rounder. "The guy playing shortstop for us [Ramirez] can play everywhere," he said. Perhaps Ramirez will prove to be an especially skilled fielder at shortstop. But if he's only average, maybe he could move to center fieldâ€”at present a long-term question markâ€”while Beckham plays short. Beckham has some work to do at shortstop, in part because he played there so much in college. Hitters using aluminum bats force shortstops to play deep and charge routine grounders and they can get caught in between hops. The Sox want Beckham to relax a little and take longer to read the ball off the bat, getting himself in better position to use his arm, which is solid, not strong. Guillen makes an interesting point. "To me, it's easier to play short in the big leagues instead of college," he said. "In college you have aluminum bats, the fields are terrible, bad lights. Here everything is perfect. â€¦ To me I look at [beckham] like he's going to be an offensive player. But that's today. Maybe tomorrow he's Ozzie Smith." Guillen believes a good shortstop can adjust quickly to second or third base. That time may come for Beckham, but why rush it? email@example.com Quote Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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