Stupid Domonic Brown. I was all set to write up that one of my favorite players is the exact epitome of the arrival of a post-hype sleeper this year, and then I remembered that you can't really even bring up that term without him. Not in 2013.
Anyway, the American League has a player who is the perfect embodiment of the post-hype sleeper here in 2013, and he's flying under the radar to a criminal extent. It's just an enormous coincidence that this year was the first year, after several in a row of buying in an hoping for greatness, that I completely avoided Gordon Beckham in fantasy.
Seriously, I wrote about him in preseason being my own personal fantasy addiction, I swore off him, and now he's hitting .300/.352/.412. So I've changed my tune just in time for Beckham to wake up and be decent at last. I guess that makes him more my...fantasy alcohol? You know, you grow up being told not to drink because it'll be bad for you, but you want nothing more as a 17-year-old than to go out drinking. And then, all of a sudden, you're in your mid-20s and people are telling you about the secret health benefits of that booze, in moderation.
Okay, that was the most tortured analogy ever. I'm embarrassed. I'll just try real analysis now.
The first thing I look at (and I doubt I'm special here) when someone is having an outlier half-season is his BABIP. Beckham's, at .333, is at a career high. While it's not crazily out of line, it would be easy to chalk up Beckham's improved production to that number and be done with my column for today.
That said, Beckham has changed his approach this year in a way that could go a long way toward explaining that BABIP. His O-Swing % (swings at pitches outside the zone) of 32.5 is roughly in line with his career percentage. Okay, not crazy. But his Z-Swing %, which, logically, reflects swings inside the zone, has shot up this year, from 65.7% in 2012 to a career-high of 72.8% this year. They call that selective aggression, and if Beckham has made a conscious effort to swing more at hittable pitches, that would really explain a higher BABIP and, consequently, a higher batting average.
It's only one incomplete season, and Beckham lost a chunk of even that to injury, so it is also possible this is a short-season fluke, and he'll be right back to hurting me next year. On the other hand, this is a guy who was supposed to be doing this. He was ranked 36th on Keith Law's prospect list entering his 2009 rookie season, with the biggest knock against him being the unlikelihood of him sticking at shortstop, which, you know, he hasn't, so that knock doesn't even exist anymore.
(Related: If you have ESPN Insider access, take a while and click through Law's old prospect Top-100 lists. It's fascinating to see perspective on some guys now that they're doing things; for example, did you know Jeff Locke appeared 97th on Law's 2009 list, then disappeared from knowledge until this year? He was traded for Nate McLouth, for crying out loud! I wonder what the odds were a year and a half ago of both of them having serious 2013 relevance.)
A non-prospect having a good couple months is easy to dismiss. (Hi, Bryan LaHair! How's Japan?) When a former top prospect finally seems to be putting it together at age 26, however, the equation changes. It's very possible that Beckham is finally starting to be the Beckham we (okay, I) thought he would be for years.
It is also possible, of course, that he is Bryan LaHair-ing his 2013, and I'll draft him for 2014 and be sad again. I can't dismiss that. But are the chances so high that Beckham is only worthy of ownership in 12% of Yahoo leagues? Surely he's a viable middle infield option in a high percentage of leagues.
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