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Sox fill need with top pick Beckham

Sox fill need with top pick Beckham

CHICAGO -- During his first talk with the Chicago media after being selected eighth overall by the White Sox in the First-Year Player Draft, Gordon Beckham proved to be unique in a way other than the power produced from a middle infielder with a smaller frame.

Beckham might be one of the few people holding any sort of association with baseball who doesn't truly know the ins and outs of White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen.

"Obviously, I have no idea about Mr. Guillen, and I think he's the manager, but I've never met him," said Beckham with a laugh during his late Thursday afternoon conference call. "But I've heard nothing but good things about him and the White Sox."

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It might not take long for Beckham to gain up-close-and-personal knowledge of the colorful White Sox on-field leader. The junior shortstop from the University of Georgia is said to be not too far away from being Major League-ready, although his signing with the team will be slightly delayed as he continues to play postseason baseball with the Bulldogs.

The right-handed hitter currently has a .397 average with a school-record 24 home runs, to go with his 65 RBIs and 17 stolen bases. He stands out as "a line-drive hitter who consistently squares up on the ball and works the count to his advantage," according to the MiLB.com scouting report. As mentioned above, Beckham also has surprising power for his 6-foot, 185-pound frame.

His arm strength rates as a tick above average for a shortstop, according to the same MiLB.com scouting report. Beckham presently has his sights set on playing shortstop, but is willing to move to wherever is needed to quickly get to the Majors.

"In my mind, I'm capable of playing shortstop in the big leagues," said Beckham of his preferred position on defense. "Whether or not it's where I end up, it's not my call. I wouldn't be disappointed if I moved. My main goal is to get up to the big leagues and play for a long time and help the team."

"We feel confident he can play shortstop," said White Sox director of amateur scouting Doug Laumann of the team's top selection. "If it's not shortstop, then he can move in either direction to second or third. With his overall ability to play the game, and his intangibles with that grinder sort of makeup, we feel like we got a quality person and player."

Although he was one of the fastest-rising prospects in the Draft's first round over the past month or so, Beckham didn't always draw this sort of constant attention. He went undrafted out of high school, basically because he was more dedicated to football.

Schools such as Air Force wanted Beckham at quarterback, where he was All-State as a senior. Ohio University liked Beckham as a free safety, where he was All-State as a junior.

"But I was not big enough to commit to football, and I love baseball," Beckham said. "It's been a lot of working as hard as I can to get to this point."

White Sox top five selections
Pick
POS
Name
School
8.SSGordon BeckhamU of Georgia
86.3BBrent MorelCal Poly San Luis Obispo
120.RHPAndrew O'NeilPenn St U
150.RHPDaniel HudsonOld Dominion U
180.CFKenneth WilliamsWichita St U
Complete White Sox Draft results >
Laumann identified Beckham as one of 12-to-15 players for general manager Ken Williams and assistant general manager Rick Hahn to look at coming into this winter. Beckham also impressed the team with his strong showing during last summer's Cape Cod League, where wood bats are used.

When asked about the all-important signability factor, Beckham said it was a question he was not prepared to answer because he didn't want to give the wrong information. For now, he's just basking in the glow of being the eighth pick overall.

"I'm extremely excited," said Beckham, who listed his family advisor as SFX's Mike Milchen. "It's not every day you get drafted by a Major League club or you get drafted in the first 10 picks."

"You always have expectations of getting the top guy on your board, and he was very close to the top for us," added Laumann of Beckham, who will start at either Class A Winston-Salem or Class A Kannapolis once he signs.

Choosing collegiate over high school players or drafting for a specific position were not priorities for the White Sox going into their highest pick since taking Alex Fernandez fourth overall in 1990. Fernandez was one of the White Sox representatives on hand for the Draft in Florida, marking the end of a nearly two decade run without a top 10 pick for the organization.

By selecting Beckham, the team's sixth straight college first-round selection, the White Sox got their player, but also managed to strengthen a weaker area within their system. Simply put, the White Sox are not exactly loaded with middle infielders.

Alexei Ramirez has come on strong of late at second base for the White Sox, but he is projected as the team's shortstop for the next few years if Orlando Cabrera departs via free agency after the 2008 season. Chris Getz also has been impressive playing second base for Triple-A Charlotte.

Beckham, a junior for the Bulldogs, could be the shortstop of the future for the South Siders. As that development process brings him closer to the Majors, Beckham certainly will become better acquainted with Guillen -- a pretty fair shortstop in his own right.

"Well, I know about him the same thing he knows about me," said Guillen with a laugh. "I never thought they would be that excited to pick this kid, but hopefully we can sign him because they have big expectations.

"People say he looks like Derek Jeter, but the tapes I saw, he looks like [Michael] Young from Texas, who is a pretty good shortstop. He's going to play in a position that dictates a lot in baseball. The only thing I can say is a lot of guys in the room were excited to get this kid."

Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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