By The Common Man
We're doing a few of these little "X Factor" posts in conjunction with ESPN's season previews, which will run on the big site tomorrow. Keep an eye out.
Batting order doesn't matter all that much, but it would surely be a slight boon to the White Sox to have a resurgent Gordon Beckham hitting in front of Adam Dunn and Paul Konerko. Beckham lost the #2 slot in the lineup last year thanks to a disasterous first half that saw him hit just .206/.271/.280, but much of that was due to a .246 BABIP. His second half (.316/.380/.513), fueled by a .371 BABIP, was much better before a hand contusion curtailed his playing time in September. The true Gordon Beckham lies somewhere between these two extremes, but probably closer to the second-half Beckham that we saw last year given his history and that he's still only 24.
Aside from Konerko and Dunn, the rest of the Sox lineup is very OBP-challenged, but has good power. No other player with more than 100 plate appearances had an OBP of over .342 last year. And new 3B Brent Morel is a slick-fielding 24 year old with absolutely no plate discipline. And Beckham isn't exactly a walk-machine himself. But by evening out his luck and developing his skills a little more, he can improve that OBP back into the .340-.350 range. If he can't, the Sox are going to have to win with a lot of solo homers.
The White Sox are slight favorites to win the AL Central as they are currently constructed. But they'll improve those odds significantly if they can just get Beckham on track.