Devil’s Advocate: Why I Won’t Be Drafting Dee Gordon

By Simon Jones

Happy New Year to you all. Now that 2012 is here, my fantasy thoughts have turned to the drafts coming around in two or three month’s time. My Trade Counsel columns will return once the season comes around, but in the meantime I will be focussing on a new set of articles under the title “Devil’s Advocate”.

When I look around the fantasy baseball world, one word comes up again and again – upside. Upside is treated like gold dust. Writers and commentators fall over themselves talking about upside and players who exhibit this magical word. The way that it is talked about, you would think upside is a bankable asset. I am half expecting to see upside as a new Roto category within the next couple of years.

Looking at the multitude of early 2012 fantasy rankings around the internet I can already see the “upside” madness in full effect. Already I’ve seen Dee Gordon ranked in certain shortstop lists just outside the top 10. One writer ranks him above Derek Jeter and Erick Aybar whilst another has him above guys like Hardy and Peralta.

Now just to clarify, I’m not down on Dee Gordon. He does have a load of potential and there is a real chance he could end up as a Top 10 shortstop by the end of 2012. However that potential seems to be blinding people to the facts.

Dee Gordon only has 233 big league plate appearances. In that time he hit for a .304 average and swiped 24 bags. In isolation this looks great. However this headline obscures some warning signs. Firstly, the average was supported by .345 BABIP. Also, although the average looks good, his inability to draw a walk meant he still only posted a .325 OBP. However the biggest worry for me is that he posted pretty much all his good numbers in one stellar month and that was September – a month where some teams are resting guys for the playoffs, trying out untested rookie call-ups or having fatigued pitchers going through the motions when their team is out of the running. Gordon’s September line is crazy, 119 PAs resulting in a .372 average and 12 stolen bases. However this was on the back of an unrepeatable .404 BABIP. If you look earlier in the year, he couldn’t even muster a .260 OBP and was quickly demoted back to the minors.

At best, Gordon is only going to contribute in three categories as his power is non-existent. Many people are ranking him as if a .300 average, 40+ stolen bases and 500+ at bats are pretty much guaranteed. This definitely might happen, but there is also a very real possibility that he struggles in April and May and doesn’t even get 300 ABs in 2012.

If anyone needs a reminder of when upside doesn’t translate into results, you only need to look back to the 2010 season and another young shortstop full of potential. Everth Cabrera had stolen 73 bases in the minors in 2008 and he stole 25 for the Padres in 2009 with an average of .255 and OBP of .342. He was drafted by many in 2010 anticipating a great source of speed at a low price. In reality, Cabrera struggled mightily and only stole 10 bases in 212 ABs and posted a less than impressive .279 OBP. He then only played two games in the majors in 2011.

Now Gordon may not suffer the same fate as Cabrera, but come draft day I’m likely to choose a safer shortstop option at the point where I would need to spend a pick on Gordon.

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23 comments

  1. ray says:

    Nice piece, but you questioning his September stats fails to mention he did some of that against 3 teams vying for a wildcard spot.
    Actually, 15 of the 26 games he played came against the division winning DBacks, Giants and Braves.
    I don’t think they were playing 4th and 5th OFers or backup infielders, or starting some pitching prospects to see if they can get people out.

    • SimonJ says:

      Yes, I agree that some of those games came against contenders, but Gordon also put up 11 hits in 5 games against the Pirates and 7 hits in 3 games against the Nats.

      A key point about September was that Gordon could play without fear, knowing that the Dodgers games were pretty much meaningless and that there was no way that he was going to get demoted again. He and the Dodgers could afford to be as aggresive as they liked on the basepaths and that getting caught didn’t really matter.

      I’m not saying that those September stats are meaningless but it’s a small sample size of 113 ABs where he posted competitive numbers. If he manages to put together a decent average and stick in the majors through the first half then I’ll be more convinced. Right now the downside is too great for me.

  2. Milo says:

    I like his 50-60 sb potential at a week position.

    • SimonJ says:

      Who doesn’t?

      However I don’t like the potential that he bats with a sub .300 OBP and ends up back in the minors by June.

      Taking a risk at SS that doesn’t pay off might mean that you are trawling the FA pool and playing half a season with Alcides Escobar as your starting shortstop!

  3. Risk Management says:

    Great piece. Gives alot to think about. For various reasons, one may not agree on your position, but at least you take one.

  4. Art Vandelay says:

    I’m with simon jones!

    I’m tired of these no power, .300 hitting, 50 stolen base POTENTIAL short stops.

    For every one thats hyped and pans out there’s 15 that don’t.

    Not just SS’s, OF’s, etc…

    I haven’t done a MOCK yet this year. I use to start back in December, but found it foolish now since all the ADP’s are outta whack, but just outta curiosity where’s this guy going?

    Thanks. I like the devils advocate post, right up my alley…

  5. GAHHH says:

    Good call on Everth Cabrera. A lot of similarities. Eric Young Jr. is another bust of this mold. Joey Gathright anyone?

  6. Pochucker says:

    My plan is to draft Aybar and draft Gordon as my MI and draft back up MI for bench. Dont usually like to draft MI for bench but will this time.

    Oh and in compilations of all MDC and Couch Managers mocks he is going 15th rd at prhttps://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/ccc?key=0AjW3GnrGtehvcGNEWnFJV3RqN21wd1Y5WVgySGI5SkE&hl=en#gid=0esent.

    • SimonJ says:

      I think that’s a good play. I have no problem drafting upside for the bench, though most of my leagues are too deep for Gordon to be drafted there.

      My guess is that once more people are drafting and the ADP sample size gets bigger, then Gordon’s ADP may get higher. My guess he will get drafted about 150 which is just too soon for my liking.

    • SimonJ says:

      I love the MDC spreadsheet. It is one of the absolute best fantasy resources on the internet (after RotoProfessor of course!) and I’d recommend it to anyone.

      • Marky Mark says:

        I love the MDC sheet too.

        Especially since 10 of my most-likely keepers land in the top 45 on that list. It makes me somewhat optimistic about repeating as league champion.

  7. ray says:

    but, ECab and EYJr have never made as much contact as Gordon does. Gordon made contact at an 88% clip, while these two were never higher than 83%. Plus Gordon rarely strikes out.
    I agree he could walk more. And Gordon is much better defensively than ECab and EYJr can’t stick anywhere in the field. Of course, defense is not a fantasy stat, his defense will keep him in the lineup.

    • SimonJ says:

      Defence didn’t keep Gordon in the lineup in 2011. I agree that it shouldn’t hinder him, but if he hits a sub .250 OBP again (as he did pre September) then he’ll be gone.

      • jmax says:

        Good discussion! Hey anyone interested in joining my keeper league? It’s a 12 team point system. The team in need of an owner has Pujols, Youkalis, Chase Utley, Jeter, Melky Cabrera, Hunter Pence, Kershaw, Cahill, Elvis Andrus and Carlos Beltran.5 keepers needed out of these players. This league doesn’t use contracts

      • ray says:

        it didn’t? he went back to AAA when Furcal came off the DL and then he got hurt.

        • SimonJ says:

          Agreed, but if Gordon had been hitting .300+ then I get the feeling the Dodgers would have found a way to accomodate him and Furcal.

          He should have a longer leash this year with Furcal out of the picture, but I would expect the Dodgers to protect him if he’s hitting really poorly again by the ASB.

          • Turk99 says:

            When you are filling in for a veteran and you have options there are no accommodations. Rookies are best served getting at-bats in the minors.

  8. Art Vandelay says:

    wow who knew dee gordon would generate this many posts. LOL

  9. Rotoprofessor says:

    I feel like it’s my turn to share my thoughts on Gordon, since I do disagree with Simon a little bit. Is he a risk? Absolutely! Is he one I am willing to take? Absolutely!

    I do feel like the dodgers are going to give him an extremely long leash this season, because where else are they going to go for a SS or a leadoff hitter? Do we think they are going to play Jerry Hairston Jr. every day? Maybe Mark Ellis or Juan Uribe at the top of the order?

    The fact is that they have few options to replace him and the potentially dynamic element he brings to the table so I am not worried about him and his playing time.

    As for the performance, it may not matter how much he gets on base because he is going to be running when he gets there. You want to compare him to Everth Cabrera, but what about Jose Reyes in 2005? That year Reyes posted a .300 OBP thanks to a 3.7% walk rate yet stole 60 bases and scored 99 runs thanks to a 10.6% strikeout rate and .298 BABIP.

    Dee Gordon proved that he can make consistent contact against Major League pitching and, with Matt Kemp behind him, even if he posted a .300 BABIP (which he certainly should be better than due to his speed), there is no reason to think that he can’t reach 50 SB and 90 R. That’s more than enough for me.

  10. SimonJ says:

    I think this discussion demonstrates how guys like Gordon divide the fantasy community. Will he be the next coming of Jose Reyes or Elvis Andrus, or flop like Everth Cabrera or Julio Borbon over recent years? I think the jury is still out.

    In a slight backtrack, I would actually consider drafting Gordon in a heavy trading league. That’s not to say that I’d want to draft him to own him, but if he has a hot April then his perceived value will go through the roof and all those guys drooling over the potential 50-60+ SBs will be falling over themselves to trade for him. It might be worth drafting him for sheer mischief value!

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