by Will Overton
What an odd career it’s been so far for the Royals 28 year old left fielder Alex Gordon. Six seasons ago he came to the major leagues as a much hyped, much talked about future star of the game. A couple of long struggling seasons later everyone is ready to throw in the towel on the future of Kansas City baseball.
In his fifth season in the bigs Gordon finally breaks loose at a new position on the field, left field. Five seasons into his career and he’s finally the .300 hitter we all imagined him to be with 101 R, 23 HR, 87 RBI and 17 SB. It took a little longer than we all thought, but it looked like Gordon’s talent had finally blossomed and we were ready to see a top 20 fantasy outfield emerge.
This year was the highly anticipated follow-up performance. Let’s just take a look at the stats Gordon put up in the 2012 season before we go into depth reflecting on them:
.294 Batting Average
.368 On-Base Percentage
14 Home Runs
72 Runs Batted In
10 Stolen Bases
.356 Batting Average on Balls in Play
The overall numbers look good, but Gordon took an odd approach to getting there. Through the first two months of the season Gordon hit just .237 and it looked like a regression was in order more than a step forward. The average started to rise in June, and continued to rise throughout the remainder of the season. But going into the all-star break Gordon still only had 5 HR’s (4 of which were hit in April) and only 27 RBI.
Gordon went all of July without a HR either, giving him just 1 HR in all of May – July, half of a baseball season worth of AB’s. Thankfully August rolled around the power returned a bit as Gordon finished the last two months of the season with 8 HR’s and 33 RBI.
There are a few concerns about Gordon’s season. One of them is the consistency factor. However, it looked more like a cold start than inconsistency. Once Gordon got his bat going there weren’t many ups and downs, it was pretty much all good at that point. It just took a little time to get the bat going.
Another concern is that he was somewhat like a man without a lineup spot for the Royals last season, being shuffled all-around. Gordon saw considerable time in the first two spots in the lineup, and he excelled in those spots as well. However being there limits his RBI potential a bit as you can see from the spike he took in that category. The last month of the season the Royals settled Gordon into the third spot in the order and that’s really the ideal spot for him to be if you own him on a fantasy team. Especially if other young guys like Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas can get it going behind him as well as Billy Butler.
So the biggest question seems to be the power that tailed off drastically last season. Gordon still showed extra-base power with a very impressive doubles total of 51. So he was clearly still hitting the ball hard at times, just not hard enough to get it over the fence.
Gordon saw his HR/FB rate drop from a career high 12.6% in 2011 to a career low 8.5% in 2012. And his overall FB% dropped 6% as well, so he was hitting fewer fly balls, and was seeing fewer of the ones he did hit go over the fence.
The average distance of his fly balls also was reduced this last season which is another red flag for fantasy owners about Gordon’s HR potential. However, Gordon has shown the ability to hit HR’s through his career, even when he was struggling early on. The power seemed to drop out for part of last season, but it came back a bit at the end which is a very positive sign.
I think what last season showed me is that Gordon probably won’t be the 30 HR per season guy he was projected as back in the day. But I still expect his numbers to jump back up closer to what they were in 2011. Gordon’s career stats backup the fact that he’s capable of averaging 20 HR’s per season for his career.
And ultimately if he’s hitting .300 and stealing a hand full of bases as well, you can live with 20 HR’s. Some people might downgrade him in 2013 based on the power drop, but I would still be more than willing to draft him in the same range I did last season, right around the 20th outfielder off the board.