To be one of the most highly touted prospects is certainly high praise for a player to try to live up to. Just ask the Royals’ Alex Gordon who entered 2007 considered the next hot item of major league baseball only to fall far short of expectations during his first two seasons. Before we get to deep into his deficiencies, let’s just take a look at his numbers from 2008:
493 At Bats
.260 Batting Average (128-493)
16 Home Runs
9 Stolen Bases
.432 Slugging Percentage
.351 On Base Percentage
Those are the numbers of the player who was supposed to be the next great third baseman? Since he was over promoted across the country, we’ve seen the likes of Ryan Braun and Evan Longoria come along and live up to that type of hype (though Braun has since shifted to the OF). The real question is if Gordon can still realize his potential or is he just the latest in a long line of players who just never quite get to the level expected of them.
You had a player who was promoted as the #2 prospect in all of baseball entering 2007, a year after he destroyed Double A pitching to the tune of a .325 average with 29 HR, 101 RBI and 22 SB. Owners were drooling over the potential of another 20/20 player at 3B, something that is so rare to come by.
While I fully believe that he will take the next step in his development in 2009, those Double A numbers are not quite attainable and a 20/20 season is probably not in reach. The speed just hasn’t been there in the major leagues and I can’t expect him to double his SB output from last season.
Still, the Royals are going to continue to give him a chance, and with opportunity should come success. You have to remember that the 2006 season was his only season in the minor leagues so he just doesn’t have the same type of seasoning that certain prospects do when they are called up.
Gordon showed the potential to be a 20 HR hitter in the first half, hitting 11 HR, but the only month he had more then 2 HR all season long was June (5). Still, with just 137 AB after the All-Star Break, his chances were limited yet he had 5 HR. If he can stay healthy for a full season, he showed the potential is there.
Part of his problem was his ridiculously low HR/FB rate of 8.9%. For a player expected to be a source of power, that just doesn’t get it done. For comparison purposes, Adam Dunn was third in the league with 24.2%, Jack Cust second at 29.7% and Ryan Howard led the way at 31.8%. Obviously, Gordon can’t be expected to reach that type of level, but as he enters the season at age 25, you have to expect an improvement there. That alone is going to help raise his HR total to levels that few are expecting from him entering the season.
I also like to see the batting average taking the step that it did from his rookie year to his sophomore season (.243 to .260). His strikeout rate took a small step forward as well (25.2% to 24.3%), but a further improvement there is necessary if he is going to take the next step forward in average. I think he could get it down to 22% or so, which certainly would help him improve the average to the .275 range, a number that is certainly usable.
I also expect him to produce better runs and RBI totals, as the Royals continue to improve their line-up and the young hitters grow together. They’ve already added Coco Crisp and Mike Jacobs (no matter what my thoughts are on him), which certainly is going to help dramatically. Crisp will provide a solid presence at the top of the order, providing the big bats a chance to pick up some RBI while Jacobs will help to alleviate the pressure on the youngsters in the middle of the line-up.
Is he going to suddenly drive in 100 runs? Of course not, as it is unknown where exactly he’ll hit in the newly formed line-up. Still, the improvements will do nothing but help.
With all that said, let’s take a look at what I’d expect from him this season:
.277 (151-545), 23 HR, 89 RBI, 82 R, 11 SB, .318 BABIP, .360 OBP, .477 SLG
Are those starting 3B numbers? It’s borderline, but considering where he will probably go in drafts I certainly would make sure you get someone higher in the rankings and use Gordon as a fallback option. There’s just no guarantee that he reaches the optimistic numbers I’ve projected for him, so you need to be safe rather then sorry. If you draft him as your starter and he disappoints, you will be sorely hurting.
Is he a player worth using as a corner infielder? Absolutely, because if he lives up to my projections he’s going to be an absolute steal when you can get him.
I did see him go in the fourteenth round in one mock draft, but in the twenty-first round in the other. If you can get him like in the latter draft, he’s a must draft and an absolute steal. He’s certainly a player I’d eye in your draft if you get the opportunity.