Fantasy Baseball 2011: Dee Gordon or Billy Hamilton?

Prior to the 2010 season, Dodgers shortstop prospect Dee Gordon was ranked as the Dodgers #1 prospect by many of the prospect experts in the industry, and was ranked #46 in the Baseball America Top 100, but after a two level jump to AA, where he held his own, but did not flourish, many of the experts are down on Gordon, and talking more about his deficiencies than what he brings to the table as a shortstop prospect. 

Gordon started the 2010 season at AA Chatanooga after finishing his first full season in the majors at Low-A Great Lakes. So Gordon took a two level jump in 2010, which is uncommon. Dodgers director of player development DeJon Watson has been quoted as saying that he views the jump from Low A to AA as a one level jump, especially since High A is known to be an excellent hitters environment.

Gordon assets are his 80 grade speed, a great glove and great range at shortstop. He has stolen 144 bases in 194 attempts in his minor league career. Not a great SB success rate (74%), but there is room for improvement for a guy who started playing baseball in his senior year in high school. And he will get that from Dodgers new first base coach Davey Lopes in spring training.

Here are his career minor league stats per Baseball-Reference:

Year Age Tm Lev G AB R 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
2008 20 Ogden Rk 60 251 45 13 3 2 27 18 16 29 .331 .371 .430 .802
2009 21 Great Lakes A 131 538 96 17 12 3 35 73 43 90 .301 .362 .394 .756
2010 22 Chattanooga AA 133 555 86 17 10 2 39 53 40 89 .277 .332 .355 .687
3 Seasons 324 1344 227 47 25 7 101 144 99 208 .297 .351 .385 .736

Gordon has a career K rate of just 15% and BB rate of around 7%, which is not great, but not bad either. As you can see from the BR table, his BA/OBP/SLG has dropped as he has moved up the minor league ladder. 

In the field, his error total has increased each year he has played in the minors, from 24 in rookie ball, to 34 in Low A, to 37 in AA last year. Could he do a better job in the field? Sure. Could he do a better job at the plate? Sure. But what his naysayers are not considering is that Gordon has a tremendous work ethic. He spent the winter playing in the Puerto Rican Winter League, working on his plate discipline and fielding. He knows where he needs to improve and is putting in the time to do so.

More on Billy Hamilton and Gordon after the jump:

Reds middle infield prospect Billy Hamilton is a very similar player as Dee Gordon. Last year, Hamilton hit .318-.383-.456 in the Pioneer rookie league. He has similar tools as Gordon, including an 80 speed tool, which helped him steal 48 bases in 57 attempts last year. 

Here are his career minor league stats per Baseball-Reference:

Year Age Tm Lev G AB R 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
2009 18 Reds Rk 43 166 19 6 3 0 11 14 11 47 .205 .253 .277 .530
2010 19 Billings Rk 69 283 61 13 10 2 24 48 28 56 .318 .383 .456 .839
2 Seasons 112 449 80 19 13 2 35 62 39 103 .276 .336 .390 .726

When comparing his power and speed stats, he looks like a Dee Gordon clone. But for some reason he is getting more love than Gordon is this year. 

Gordon, apparently is getting more negative press due to his performance at the plate and in the field at AA Chattanooga in 2010. Here is what ESPN's Keith Law had to say about him in his Top 100 rankings last month:

Gordon needs to get stronger, period. Almost everything else is there for him to be a plus shortstop who hits, gets on base, and wreaks havoc with his speed, but he doesn't have a big frame and has to do whatever he can to become strong enough to hit better fastballs with authority and to hold up for a 162-game season.

The speed, glove and arm are way too much to ignore, and if the Dodgers let his body catch up to his level in the minors he's got a good chance to become a leadoff hitter at a position of chronic need.

Law lowered his ranking of Gordon from 38 in 2010 to 70 in 2011. Meanwhile, he ranked Hamilton at #51 in his Top 100. Here is what he wrote about Hamilton:

Hamilton is a 70 or better runner with a plus arm who has good instincts on the bases and is showing aptitude for hitting even though he comes out of the raw high school baseball environment of Mississippi. He's going to end up a four-tool player, lacking only power, but understands that his game will be slap-and-run, putting the ball on the ground, working the count to get on base, bunting to hits and putting his great speed to use.

In the field, he can play shortstop but played some second in 2010 because of that arm issue. If the glove and bat develop as expected, he has a chance to be an All-Star at short, because players at that position who contribute on both sides of the ball are rare.

His report on Hamilton, while worded differently, sounds very similar to Gordon's report. They both have tremendous speed. They both lack power. And they both are solid in the field. Law mentions that Hamilton's game is a "slap and run" type hitter who will bunt for hits and use his speed on the basepaths. To me, and I like Law alot, he makes these skills a positive for Hamilton, but a negative for Gordon. And I am not sure why. Maybe it is because Gordon is older than Hamilton?

Here is what Jason Parks over at Baseball Prospectus responded when asked whether Gordon's limited experience means he can't be evaluated the same as other prospects his age:

They have a point. Gordon is difficult to project because of his limited experience. I tried to

keep that in mind when evaluating him, but his lack of physicality/strength isn't tied to his

baseball experience, and that concerns me more than the present state of his glove. Without

improved strength, Gordon will struggle to have offensive value at the major league level.

Parks wrote a negatively slanted article on Gordon back on February 17th, concluding that Gordon will not be an above average shortstop at the major league level.

Before I go any further, let me say, I like what I have read about Hamilton, and his stats tell me he can be a solid major leaguer who could lead the league in SBs, or at least challenge Gordon for the SB title annually.

But taking a closer look at Hamilton's 2010 season, he benefitted from a .388 BABIP, so as he moves up to better competition in Low A in 2011, his BA may take a hit. He did walk more than Gordon did in 2010, but he also struck out more. 

Yesterday, Baseball America published their Top 100 prospects and ranked Gordon at #26 and Hamilton at #50. BA's ranking of Gordon stirred alot of discussion in this fanpost here at Minor League Ball with readers on both sides of the argument. 

Based on what you know about each player, who would you rather have in a keeper/dynasty format?

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