Beckham has renewed confidence heading into 2012

602268.png

Beckham has renewed confidence heading into 2012

By Jim Owczarski
CSNChicago.com

It started with a few flips the first week of December.

The ball would hang for a moment, be gone in blink.

Flip, blink, flip.

If you feel it, you know it.

Gordon Beckham felt it. More importantly, he knew it.

Its back.

The eighth overall pick of the 2008 Major League Baseball amateur draft made his debut 364 days later following a whirlwind minor league career that took him from Kannapolis to Charlotte in 52 games and from Charlotte to Chicago in just seven more. He hit .322 with 25 doubles and seven home runs in the minors, with an OPS of .894.

We just monitored him, said Jeff Manto, the White Sox minor league hitting coordinator at the time. He was in such a good place when we got him. He didnt need anything.

Beckham was sure, confident.

He had it.

The 22-year-old was fresh out of the University of Georgia where he finished up his junior season hitting over .400 with a school record for home runs and total bases. In three years with the Bulldogs, he had struck out just 120 times.

He burst onto the scene playing a new position with the White Sox -- third base -- and was a leading candidate for American League Rookie of the Year despite missing the first two months of the season. He finished his rookie campaign hitting .270 with 14 home runs and 28 doubles. The future was bright.

Somewhere along the line, however, he began to lose it.

The 2011 season ended with Beckham going hitless in eight of his final 12 games, finishing the last two months hitting .198 with 40 strikeouts.

He found himself behind in the count in 211 of his 499 at bats and struck out 111 times. He hit just .230 on the season with a .296 on base percentage and .633 OPS.

It was gone.

He packed up his things.

The Sox had missed the playoffs for the fifth time in six years, and it seemed as if the 24-year-old phenom, who was once deemed untouchable in trade talks, was now at a career crossroads.

I dont ever want to feel that way again, he said.

Fllp, blink, flip.

In December, Beckham rediscovered it.

He maintains his swing had never changed, that its too easy to just say hes going back to what worked for him at Georgia and in 2009. But somewhere between then and 2011, something broke down.

I had to be perfect, he said. Theres a million ways to describe that but I had to be perfect in my load and the way I hit and if it wasnt perfect, I didnt hit.

He placed no blame on former hitting coach Greg Walker. He put it all on his own shoulders, or more telling, his own head.

The reason I struggled last year was I swung at bad pitches, he said. What causes that? Well, thats caused from a little bit of uncertainty, a little bit of anxiety, trying to go up there and get a hit every time is not an easy thing to do.

Then the proverbial snowball began to roll.

I let it beat me down last year, Beckham said.

New Sox manager Robin Ventura could relate. He was a college star at Oklahoma State and spent just 129 games in the minor leagues before being called up in 1989. Only he collected just eight hits in his first 58 plate appearances. In 1990, he went 16 games without a hit at one point and didnt crack the Mendoza line for good until mid-June.

Kenny Williams knows where Beckham's coming from, too. The GM joked during Sox Fest his career was all downhill after his first major league plate appearance.

Hes a really talented kid, Ventura said of Beckham. I just want him to go play and not worry so much about whats expected of him and try to go to the plate and go 10-for-20 when all you can do is go to the plate, try and have a good at bat, and see what else happens.

Williams took it a step further, saying all he expected out of the now 25-year-old second baseman is to play to win, and to have fun. So much so he made the statement twice.

The success will be there at the end if he just lightens up a little bit on himself and it goes back to being a game, Williams said.

That positivity, along with Beckhams rediscovery taking mere flips in December, has helped him rediscover what was missing.

Legitimately, yes, he said. You dont usually think youre going to get something like that but yeah, absolutely (I found it). By the way the bat is coming through the zone, the way the bat is lagging. Obviously its just flips and were getting loose and stuff like that, its not 95 (miles per hour), but it will hold up. What Im doing now will hold up. It just feels like Im getting to the point where my bat is just flying through the zone in the right way.

Standing off stage following a seminar, Mantos eyes lit up when he heard of Beckhams renewed confidence, how he could just feel that it was right, that it was back.

Thats how I know Gordons minds right, said the new Sox hitting coach. Im a feel coach, Im a mental coach. Thats important to me and its important to the swing. I believe to get to the major league level, you have mechanics already. To hear Gordon think about the things we used to talk about in the minor leagues, its good that hes remembering those things.

Beckham exuded confidence at SoxFest, an air that reminded many but most importantly, himself of the player he was a few short years ago.

I lost a little confidence last year, but recently Ive really felt like myself, moreso than Ive ever felt like myself in the last two years, he said. I feel like Im back to being that confident guy that can really go out there and carry people sometimes when Im doing well. Im kind of back to that situation. I feel good about where Im at mentally. Physically I feel good. My swing is the thing its there.

You know it when you see it, and you can feel it and its there.

Beckham is confident again, mentally, and in his swing. Now, hes ready to show it.

Scouting reports on Yoan Moncada, Lucas Giolito and newly acquired White Sox prospects

Scouting reports on Yoan Moncada, Lucas Giolito and newly acquired White Sox prospects

The White Sox rebuild is in full effect.

Rick Hahn & Co. have traded Chris Sale and Adam Eaton in exchange for eight prospects in a span of two days.

Take a look at scouting reports for all eight players.

Yoan Moncada, 21, 2B — No. 1 prospect on MLB.com

(Acquired from Red Sox for Sale)

"Moncada brings a tantalizing blend of physicality, power, speed and athleticism as a switch-hitter with defensive versatility, making him one of the most dynamic prospects in the game. He projects as a plus offensive force, a plus defender at either second base or third base, and a plus runner capable of wreaking havoc on the basepaths. The one big area of his game that needs improvement is his plate discipline, which was exposed after he struck out 12 times in 20 plate appearances with the Red Sox. Despite that poor showing, he demonstrated patience throughout the minors and has shown a propensity for making quick adjustments before. He could start 2017 in Triple-A, but very well could break camp with the White Sox and solidify himself as a starter from day one in his new organization." — (Baseball America)

Lucas Giolito, 21, RHP — No. 3 prospect on MLB.com

(Acquired from Nationals for Eaton)

"The 2012 first-round pick and four-time BA Top 100 prospect made his long-awaited major league debut in 2016 but struggled, getting rocked for 26 hits and 16 earned runs in 21.1 innings, with more walks (12) than strikeouts (11). Giolito in the past sat in the upper 90s with his fastball and frequently reached triple-digits, but saw his stuff back up and sit in the 92-94 mph range and top out at 96 in 2016 with poor command. That fastball gave Giolito his biggest problems in 2016, with MLB opponents batting .349 against it with a .730 slugging percentage, per Statcast. While his fastball stalled, he still limited big league hitters to sub-.200 averages on his curveball (.167) and changeup (.143). The Tommy John survivor has seen his prospect stock fall in light of his recent struggles, but if he can rediscover his fastball velocity still projects as one of the most promising young righthanders in baseball. Scouts reported issues with his mechanics and pitchability this year, but both are correctable issues that should lead to improved command once they are solved." —​ (Baseball America)

Michael Kopech, 20, RHP — No. 30 prospect on MLB.com

(Acquired from Red Sox for Sale)

"Kopech is the latest in a long line of big, hard-throwing Texas righthanders, with a 98 mph fastball that routinely gets up to triple-digits and recently hit 102 in the Arizona Fall League. The 33rd overall pick in 2014 is more than just a thrower though, with an 87 mph power slider and 91 mph changeup that both made significant progress throughout the 2016 season and give him two quality offerings to confound batters even further. Taken on the surface, his raw stuff draws comparisons to Noah Syndergaard. Kopech does come with red flags, however. In 2015 he was suspended 50 games for amphetamine use and in spring training 2016 he broke his hand in an altercation with a teammate. If he can harness his talent without any more incidents, Kopech profiles as a possible No. 1 starter." —​ (Baseball America)

Reynaldo Lopez, 22, RHP — No. 38 prospect on MLB.com

(Acquired from Nationals for Eaton)

"Lopez entered 2016 as the Nationals’ second-best pitching prospect behind Giolito, but by the end of the year had surpassed him in the eyes of most evaluators. Lopez is just 6-foot, 185-pounds but possesses an electric 95-97 mph fastball that touched 100 in his major league debut in 2016, and backs it up with a low 80s curveball that grades plus, as well as an upper-80s changeup. Lopez’s biggest bugaboo is his command, which wavers at times and resulted in 4.5 walks per nine innings once he got to the majors. Still, the quality of his stuff allowed him to survive in both a relief and starting role once he got to Washington, and he gives the White Sox a young, major-league ready, power righthander to pair with lefties Jose Quintana—assuming he’s not traded—and Carlos Rodon." —​ (Baseball America)

Dane Dunning, 21, RHP

(Acquired from Nationals for Eaton)

"The Nationals drafted Dunning 29th overall this past June and signed him for $2 million after he was a core piece of Florida’s dominant pitching staff. Dunning bounced between starting and relieving in college but has the stuff to be a starter, with a low-90s fastball that gets up to 95 mph and a changeup and slider that both have a chance to be average. He demonstrated impeccable control at Florida and continued it with a 32-to-7 strikeout to walk mark over 33.2 innings in his pro debut. With strikeout stuff, plus control and a prime pedigree, Dunning has a chance to move quickly up the White Sox system and help sooner than later in Chicago." —​ (Baseball America)

Luis Alexander Basabe, 20, OF 

(Acquired from Red Sox for Sale)

"Basabe signed with the Red Sox along with his twin brother Luis Alejandro out of Venezuela when they were 16. They climbed the system together until this year, when Luis Alejandro was traded to the Diamondbacks midseason for Brad Ziegler. Now, Luis Alexander is on the move too after reaching high Class A as a 19-year old and solidifying himself as one of Boston’s top 10 prospects. He is a switch-hitter with the speed and athleticism to stick in center field, and his 25 stolen bases in 30 attempts last season are a testament to how his speed plays on the basepaths. Basabe is still very raw and refining his game, particularly his plate discipline and strike-zone judgement, but has shown the skill set to become a top of the order center fielder down the road." —​ (Baseball America)

Victor Diaz, 22, RHP

(Acquired from Red Sox for Sale)

"Diaz has a power fastball in the 96-100 mph range, an 87-90 mph slider that is his main secondary pitch, a riding two-seamer and a splitter in its nascent stages. He is still learning how to harness his arsenal after issuing 41 walks in his first 90 career innings. If he does that, he becomes a bona fide closer prospect down the road." —​ (Baseball America)

Yoan Moncada 'thrilled' to reunite with Jose Abreu on White Sox

Yoan Moncada 'thrilled' to reunite with Jose Abreu on White Sox

Yoan Moncada and Jose Abreu are back together.

The two Cuban natives were teammates in 2012 when they played for Cienfuegos in Cuba, and now they'll be in the same dugout once again — this time in Chicago.

"To get the opportunity to play with him right now in the United States, it's an honor for me," Moncada said through a translator on a conference call Wednesday. "I'm thrilled with that."

Moncada said Abreu sent him a congratulatory text following the blockbuster trade, welcoming him to Chicago.

"He welcomed me to the White Sox organization," Moncada said. "We were talking a little bit about this opportunity for both of us to play again."

As the White Sox enter full rebuild mode, no player is considered untouchable. But the White Sox may decide to hang on to Abreu, who could serve as a mentor for Moncada.

It also helps that the White Sox have a Latino manager in Rick Renteria, making it easier to communicate.

"I think it is very good for me and for everybody," Moncada said. "I can reconnect with Abreu again and he's a person who is going to give me some advice. He will be like a tutor for me.

"To have a Latino manager is something I think will be very good, too, because we can communicate in the same language. I feel good that I'm going to play with Abreu and have a Latino manager. But that doesn't change anything for me. My biggest thing is to play and be the best player I can be."

Moncada got his first taste of big league action at the end of the 2016 season. He made his MLB debut on Sept. 3 to help the Boston Red Sox with their playoff push.

Despite only playing in eight major-league games — going 4-for-19 with an RBI and three runs — Moncada understands what it takes to play in The Show.

"I learned that you have to be open to making adjustments because this is the best baseball in the world and you're going to face the best of the best," Moncada said. "You have to be open to get some advice and to apply it. That was the most important thing that I learned in my time in the majors."

[SHOP: Gear up, White Sox fans!]

White Sox general manager Rick Hahn said that the 21-year-old will begin his White Sox tenure in the minors at second base.

But Moncada, who has experience at third base and outfield, said he's willing to play any position the team needs him to.

"Everybody knows that I played at second with Boston and third base, too," Moncada said. "But like I said, any position the team needs to play I am willing to play that position, of course. I have to practice and feel comfortable at that position first. My priority is to help the team."

The future is looking quite bright for the White Sox. And after Wednesday's trade, it looks even brighter.