Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Braves buy a lotto ticket with Gordon Beckham

I graduated from Georgia in 2003 and I watched Gordon Beckham play on the UGA Baseball Team that went to the College World Series in 2006. I remember heading back to Athens in the winter to watch those kids hit because they could crush the ball, and Beckham was one of the best.

But after he was drafted and made it to the show in 2009, Gordon's career as a hitter has been in steady decline. He started as a 22 year old slugger with an .808 OPS and a robust 14 homers in his rookie season. Last year he barely scratched out 237 plate appearances with an OPS of .607 and an average of .209. By comparison Melvin Upton had about as many appearances and hit .259 with a .757 OPS last year. And he sucks.

I have absolutely no idea what the Braves plan to do with Gordon because on paper he shouldn't be playing in the major leagues right now. Which means there's only one thing I think the Braves are thinking: he's a lottery ticket. Like many long-shot bets, you pay a little bit of money and you hope to get a big return. But you're not pissed off when it doesn't pan out 99% of the time because you didn't really invest much to begin with. That's Gordon Beckham at age 28, making $1.5M on a one-year show-me deal.

This could be a complete waste of time, other than the fact that Beckham can play 2B and 3B with average defensive ability. He's never going to WOW you at either position, but he's good enough to not spike himself out there, or have the ball go through his legs often. However, there is something to be said for a change of scenery. When Gordon had the chance to play in LA for a brief period in 2014, he hit much better than in Chicago. Granted, it's an extremely small sample size, but the Braves are signing him for a year. They WANT an extremely small sample size to pan out, or for him to be a bench player asset.

Either way, it's a dollar to win the Powerball. Sometimes that happens and you get a guy like AJ Pierzynski who hits 144 OPS points higher than his prior year average. And sometimes you get a guy who strikes out 50 times and carries a .180 average through the first half of the season. Most of the time it's closer to the latter than the former. But in today's market? It's a decent enough gamble to see a good player come back to Georgia and see if the home-cooking doesn't agree with him.

GO BRAVES!

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