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FANTASY BASEBALL: White Sox’s Beckham A Born-Again MI Option

There’s a Gordon Beckham sighting on most waiver wires, one which merits a closer glance when you consider the lack of quality that presides with most available middle infielders.

Oh, come on and own up: when Beckham was selected with the eighth overall pick in the 2008 draft, visions of a .280-25-90-15 hitting middle infielder left us geeked out to grab him in most Fantasy drafts/auctions the following spring. When he came up and delivered a .270-14-63-7 line as a rookie in 2009, we — like the White Sox — were all convinced the best was yet to come.

As it turns out, Beckham’s rookie season was the apex of his career, one which has been marred by disappointing numbers. Although he has shown flashes of power (a career-best 16 HRs in 2012, albeit with a .234 average and .296 OBP), Beckham has floated away from elite prospect to one who barely registered a blip in most standard AL-only drafts and auctions.

Yet, here he is, something of a prodigal son who spent much of last month reminding us why we loved him in the first place. After batting .160 in 25 ABs in April, Beckham hit .306-4-10 with a respectable .342 OBP and .810 OPS in May.

Beckham is owned in just 12 percent of polled leagues, yet that number will find a steady uptick if he continues to show that his May production is more than the proverbial “a broken clock is right twice” scenario. At 27, Beckham is entering his peak years and is also showing signs of being a player who is finally getting a clue at the plate following all the hype that surrounded him early in his career.

There are some underlying concerns about Beckham, who entered Thursday hitting .289-4-11-1. For starters, his .325 OBP hovers just below average, and his 17.4 percent strikeout rate leaves a nervous pit in your stomach. However, his Ground ball (44.4 percent) and Line Drive (23.4 percent) numbers are up, which is indication he has learned to stop swinging for the fences while also developing a more cautious approach at the plate.

We all got burned by Beckham years ago, yet his numbers may show him to be exactly the type of hitter he truly is. If you’re looking for more production from your middle infield slot, Beckham is worth a flier, one with some upside. He may never live up to the lofty expectations his potential once promised, but there’s just enough here to like.

Others to ponder:

Cameron Maybin, OF, Padres: Like Beckham, Maybin is a first round pick (10th overall in 2005) that has been a seemingly infinite Fantasy tease, as injuries have plagued his ability to tap into what was once immense potential. After missing much of the first six weeks of the season, Maybin has returned to hit .295-1-1-11 in 95 ABs. Owned in one percent of polled leagues, Maybin is more an NL-only type of play at this point. His power-speed possibilities are still intriguing, although a calf injury (seriously, did you not think we’d get through a Maybin take without mentioning that “I” word again?) may lessen any renewed enthusiasm around him.

Scooter Gennett, 2B, Brewers: Owned in just five percent of polled leagues, Gennett is doing a pretty good Dustin Pedroia impersonation in Milwaukee, hitting .282-3-15. At the very least, Gennett will help boost your batting average while also providing a steady stream of runs scored. If Beckham is too much of a risk for you, Gennett offers a more consistent alternative.

Chris Young, SP, Mariners: Young has quietly become an anchor at the back of the Seattle rotation. He entered Thursday at 5-2 with a 3.27 ERA while holding opponents to a .202 batting average. He’s not busting radar guns with his fastball, yet the fact that he pitches the majority of his games in the pitcher-friendly parks of Seattle, Anaheim and Oakland makes Young (owned in nine percent of polled leagues) a good play in mixed leagues. After missing all of 2013 with injuries, Young is working his way towards being a solid candidate for Comeback Player of the Year.

Kevin Gausman, SP, Orioles: I’m going against the grain (shocking, I know) and suggesting Gausman for his start against the Athletics on Saturday. Yes, he has been extended batting practice in his only other start (6 H, 5 ER, 2 BB in four innings of a May 7 loss to the Tigers) this season, yet I’m a fan of his upside. Hey, not everyone can come out of the gate like a Jose Fernandez. Others take time, and with only 51.2 innings under his big league belt, time remains on Gausman’s side. Depending on what happens with the contusion on Bud Norris’ arm, a strong start on Saturday (coupled with a possible missed start or two by Norris) could buy some time for Gausman.

Josh Harrison, 2B/3B/OF, Pirates: Look, a Pittsburgh player not named McCutchen that can hit! Harrison has five multi-hit games in his last 10 starts, including a trio of three-hit outings which has boosted his average to .317. Owned in 10 percent of polled leagues, Harrison has already eclipsed the three HRs he hit last season, and his .349 OBP, just above average, makes him look like the second coming of Honus Wagner considering how weak the Pirates have hit as a team for much of the season. His multi-position status makes him appealing in deeper mixed leagues, although the arrival (finally!) of Gregory Polanco will reduce his time in the outfield. Still, look for manager Clint Hurdle to keep finding ways to get Harrison’s bat in the lineup.

Photo via Keith Allison

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