After a solid sophomore year at Georgia Southern and a stellar turn in the Cape Cod League, Chris Beck was considered a near lock for the first round in the 2012 Draft. Then, his numbers took a dip his junior year -- ERA jumped from 3.23 to 3.91, opponents batting average sat at .288 -- and the the 6-foot-3 right-hander fell out of favor with scouts. The White Sox eventually took him with the 75th overall pick in the second round last June.
"Personally, it was the best and worst day of my life," Beck said. "You have your expectations on where you think you'll go, and I know I hadn't performed as well as I could have, but I still had pretty high hopes after the fall I had and the previous summer at the Cape.
"But you know, I fell to the second round, and I just have to thank the White Sox for taking me there. I consider myself blessed for them taking me when they did because at that point, there's no telling just how far I'd fall."
Beck has certainly justified the pick thus far.
The No. 11 White Sox prospect allowed four hits and a walk in eight innings Thursday night in Class A Advanced Winston-Salem's 4-0 win over MLB.com's No. 34 prospect Kyle Zimmer and Wilmington. The outing -- his first that extended beyond the sixth inning -- gives him 18 2/3 innings without an earned run allowed to start the 22-year-old's full-season career.
Beck (2-1) relied on a diet of fastballs and curveballs with the occasional changeup and slider to hold down a Blue Rocks offense that consisted of seven right-handed hitters, including the first five in the batting order. The result was 12 groundouts, thanks to a heavy dose of early-count outs, for a pitcher who prides himself on that stat.
"I consider myself more a ground-ball pitcher," he said. "All I want to do every night is eat innings as best I can and get deep into the game. I actually think I get better as the game goes on too, so I want to give myself a chance to prove that. Plus, you're saving the bullpen, and the more fresh arms you have, the better chance you have to save the series. When you consider that, it's all about being aggressive and forcing them to swing early."
The Georgia native ran into trouble in the third inning when he began the frame by allowing singles to Parker Morin and Tim Ferguson and then a sacrifice bunt by Justin Trapp that put two men in scoring position with one out. Beck responded by fanning Jack Lopez and getting Jorge Bonifacio to ground out to second base. Including those two, the Dash starter retired 10 in a row following the jam. He allowed only two hits over the remaining five innings.
Although Beck has found success in his start to the 2013 season, it took some work to get to that point. He went 4-3 with a 4.69 ERA and .319 opponents average in his pro debut for Rookie-level Great Falls in 2012.
To remedy the struggles he saw there and at Georgia Southern, the right-hander went to work with Chicago conditioning coach and former WCW and TNA pro wrestler Dale "The Demon" Torborg, who he credited for having helped him "get this thing turned around."
The early returns have been nothing but positive. But after last year's Draft Day fall, Beck hesitated to call it his redemption tour.
"I wouldn't say redemption, maybe more like redirection back in the right direction," he said. "I've been doing a lot of work to get to this point, and I know it's been a great start, but all I can do is build off it. There are still things I can continue to work on if I want to continue succeeding here."
The Dash offense chased Zimmer (0-1) after he allowed four earned runs on five hits in three innings Both of Thursday night's starters played for Cotuit and worked out almost every day together on the Cape in 2011. The pair didn't exchange pregame words except for a pat on the back and a "What's up, man," according to Beck, but he added that's just part of their competitive nature.
"I obviously hate to see that happen to a buddy like that," Beck said. "But he's one of the best pitchers in the Minor Leagues, and he's got absolutely electric stuff. He'll be great for them this year."