Dee Gordon of the Los Angeles Dodgers during a spring training game against the San Francisco Giants at Scottsdale Stadium on February 26, 2011 in Scottsdale, Arizona. (Photo by Rob Tringali/Getty Images)
Dee Gordon, SS, Los Angeles Dodgers
Manning shortstop for Triple-A Albuquerque in the Pacific Coast League this year is Dee Gordon, considered one of the top infield prospects in the game. Baseball America ranked him at Number 26 on their pre-season Top 100 list, while I had him ranked at Number 32 on my pre-season Top 50 Hitters list. Steal-hungry fantasy owners have had their eye on Gordon for some time. When can we expect him in the majors?
Gordon was drafted in the fourth round in 2008 from Seminole Community College in Florida. Although his father Tom was a major league pitcher, Gordon was fairly raw when drafted. Speed is his best attribute, rating at a strong 70 on the traditional 20-80 scouting scale. He hit .277/.332/.355 with 53 swipes last year for Double-A Chattanooga. He doesn't have much power, but scouts see him as a top-of-the-order player, assuming he maximizes his on-base percentage.
Gordon is hitting .300/.356/.356 in 21 games for Albuquerque this year, picking up 11 steals in 13 attempts already. His .712 OPS is well below the current league average of .788. This is due to the lack of power: his .356 OBP is exactly league average. However, a league average OBP in Triple-A projects as a below average OBP in the majors, especially when the difference between hitting in Los Angeles and hitting in New Mexico is factored in.
Gordon still has work to do. He isn't overmatched in terms of making contact, which is a good marker, but the lack of pop has become a significant handicap, given that he doesn't draw a lot of walks to goose his OBP. Right now his OBP is very dependent on his batting average. That's one thing if you're hitting .300, but .300 in Albuquerque could easily become .230 in LA. His defense is flashy but he still makes too many errors, another aspect of his game that needs to be sharpened.
Jamey Carroll is a useful stopgap in the major league lineup, so there is no immediate pressure to promote Gordon barring an injury. He should be a September promotion, and we'll track his development this summer. Some sabermetrically-oriented analysts are souring on Gordon. I think that's premature given his athleticism, but it isn't crazy to worry that Gordon might not live up to his full potential..