Friday March 16th, 2012
Bryan Sheehan (MLB Reports Intern): There hasn’t been much for fans of the Kansas City Royals to be excited about recently. A 71-91 record in 2011, combined with a playoff drought that dates back to 1986 (they’ve only had six winning seasons since), tells the story of a team playing without much inspiration or value. Last year had few bright spots for the club, but perhaps the best beacon of hope came in the form of outfielder Alex Gordon. The 28-year-old had a breakout season last year, hitting .303 with 87 RBIs and a Gold Glove in left field. This raises the question: was 2011 a fluke or is Gordon quickly becoming a superstar outfielder?
The premise seems simple enough: KC hasn’t had an All-Star outfielder since Jermaine Dye in 2000, so any outfielder doing well is a nice surprise. Alex Gordon came into the organization as a third baseman when he was drafted #2 overall in the 2005 draft, and after three sub-par seasons defensively at third he moved to the outfield. His career three-slash-line coming into 2011 was .244/.328/.405, but something clicked and after the year was over Gordon emerged with a .303/.376/.502 line and career high RBI, home run and stolen base numbers. It may seem like a fluke amplified by the hype amongst fans, but in reality his stats are where they should be. Drafted ahead of all-stars like Ryan Braun, Troy Tulowitzki, Andrew McCutchen and Jacoby Ellsbury (to name a few), Gordon was ranked as Baseball America’s 13th best prospect before he even played a professional game in 2006. A career .321 hitter in the minors, his MLB performance was hampered by thumb, hip and quadriceps injuries.
Now healthy, Gordon is a five-tool talent. His ISO was .56 points over the league average at .200, proving sabermetrically what 23 home runs and 87 RBIs show statistically. His contact ability is shown by his batting average, and a Gold Glove in left speaks for itself in terms of fielding ability. While they might not be plus tools, his arm strength and speed shouldn’t be overlooked. Coming into 2012, I expect to see a lot from him; a .295 average, 90 RBIs and 20 stolen bases may seem too optimistic, but barring injury I believe Gordon can do it.
If you’re looking for a comparison, try thinking of Gordon as a faster version of 28-year-old David DeJesus. In his 2008 campaign, DeJesus hit .307 with 73 RBIs and swiped 11 bags. 133 games in the outfield resulted in just one error for DeJesus, who found his place in left field while young Alex Gordon played third base on the same team. Just a side note: the next year DeJesus hit .281/.347/.434, regressing a tiny bit, but keeping fairly similar numbers.
Today’s feature was prepared by our Intern, Bryan Sheehan. You can follow Bryan on Twitter (@BaseballHipster), read his interviews with Phillies’ minor league prospects at PhightingOn.com, and catch him writing the occasional article for BleacherReport.com (search his name) and ThroughTheFenceBaseball.com (check the Phillies tab). Tweet him about this article and give him a follow, and he will follow you back!
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