Great Lakes Royals

July 24, 2010 6:24 PM

Alex Gordon's Future in Kansas City

July 14, 2010 - Allentown, Pennsylvania, United States of America - 14 July 2010: Pacific Coast League outfielder Alex Gordon.
With David DeJesus scheduled to miss the rest of the regular season with a torn ligament in his thumb, Alex Gordon's spot on the roster in Kansas City is more or less ensured for the rest of the season.  Gordon's greatest need from the organization is clearly to play regularly, and perhaps at the expense of Mitch Maier, he's going to get that opportunity.

It's become increasingly apparent, to me at least, that while Gordon's batting eye and power ability have never really come in question, there are a lot of Royals fans hoping to see some consistent power game out of his bat are wishfully thinking.  The Kansas City Royals are guilty of mismanagement here as well.  There is nothing underdeveloped about Alex Gordon.  There is nothing that a lengthy confidence building stint in the minor leagues is going to help him reach some lofty projections for.  Gordon was a very polished hitter at age 24.  Since then, if there's been a small decline in his ability, it's been exclusively due to injuries suffered and desperate attempts to rush Gordon back.

Alex Gordon is not a valueless player.  There's plenty of evidence that the Royals have little idea how to reconcile plate discipline ability with more tangible "tools" such as power and throwing arm strength, and pitchers with a power fastball, but the Royals realize that Gordon has a skill that most of his teammates do not, and thats why he should be a major league ballplayer.  His defense at third has rated well below average since a strong showing his rookie season, and so the Royals made the right decision to move him off third base.  Of course, they completely wasted an offseason by not making that move earlier, like, right after Mark Teahen was traded, and before Scott Podsednik and Rick Ankiel were signed.

But moving a guy from third base to the outfield is a minor move compared to making him spend two and a half months in the minors trying to "find his stroke."  Gordon is currently in the worst 50 PA stretch of his career as a pro, he's not putting great swings on the ball, etc.  Either way, when the problem is that the talent is too polished/mechanical to drive big league pitching, especially when the count is in the favor of the hitter, AAA pitching is not the answer to the problem.

Gordon's career batting line of .248/.330/.411 is probably close to his true talent level.  On the New York Yankees, that's a four corner bench player.  On the Kansas City Royals, that's the fourth best hitter.

That's the big point here.  Gordon's bat is below average for a corner outfielder, but a lot closer to average than the Royals are as a complete baseball team.  What that means is that the Royals need more 600 PA seasons out of Gordon, not fewer.  In fact, I want to go a step further: the Royals should give Gordon more plate appearances than anyone else on their team.  He should be their leadoff man.  Sure, you probably want to move Scott Podsednik off the team rather than to the bench, and that could take time.  That's fine.  He's got a considerable amount of value to a playoff team who is clearly an outfielder short, certainly more value than Jose Guillen to an NL team such as the Padres.

The Royals have been guilty of always expecting more of Alex Gordon, probably more than he is capable of.  This has caused some fans to to accuse the team of "giving up on" it's former prospect, but I find that to be the furthest accusation from reality.  The Royals are badly stressing his development over what they need to be stressing, which is his ability to get on base and drive the baseball in the air.  The Royals are a group of hacktastic wormkillers.  Gordon offers something different: a patient player who puts the ball in the air a lot.

Even in his worst hour, Gordon's walk rate is obscenely high this year, 8 in just 46 plate appearances.  He's not striking out any less this year, already 9 times, which is consistent with his career rate of 25%.  That walk rate (and Gordon's baserunning skills, perhaps best on the team) would fit nicely at the top of the lineup, and Gordon needs MORE faith put in him on gamedays, not less.

.330 is not a great on-base percentage for a leadoff hitter -- it's about 15 points lower than Scott Podsednik's OBP -- but by continually placing Gordon in traditional "power" spots in the lineup, the Royals continue to foster a mentality of relying on Gordon to provide the power missing in the lineup.  Two and three years ago, that was probably a realistic expectation.  Now, it's more sad than anything.

It's time to try something different with Alex Gordon than waiting for the big HR numbers to come.  Moving him to the top of the lineup would do more for raw HR totals (more PAs) than a 2.5 month stint in the minors ever could.

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