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Alex Gordon: Royal MVP Candidate

Jeff Francoeur has done an amazing job mentoring Alex Gordon this season. An amazing job. Lost in the endless discussion of how awesome Francoeur and Cabrera have been, has been Gordon's 2011 season, which has been more valuable than Cabrera and Francoeur's combined. But hey, he was Baird draft pick, so he's an unperson.

2011 - Alex Gordon 130 524 87 160 40 4 19 72 56 120 14 7 .305 .378 .506


That strong offensive line, coupled with good baserunning and defense has made Gordon one of the most valuable players in the American League. Not surprisingly, as Matt Hays wrote at SB Nation KC recently, Gordon has been the most valuable player on the Royals by a wide margin.

  • Fangraphs WAR - 6.0 (6th in the AL, between Zobrist and Gonzalez)
  • B-RWar - 5.1 (6th in the AL, between Curtis Granderson and Alex Avila)

While there are some areas of Gordon's game that might fluctuate back down next season (his batting average and advanced defensive metrics especially) that doesn't mean this is a fluke season or that we shouldn't appreciate what is happening. Good things tend to go good during career seasons, and if that's a truism it's because I'm trying to write one.

Alex Gordon's career has always been misunderstood. His 2008 campaign, of which there were no champions and innumerable critics, generated a 3.1 WAR (bWAR), thanks to solid OBP skills and a well-rounded game. By way of comparison, Jeff Francoeur has never posted a 3 win season. From a distance Gordon's career looks hard to figure out, but really it is fairly simple: in 2007-08 he got off to a slow start but was establishing himself as a valuable player, in 2009-10 he got hurt, had some ill-timed slumps, and got in the doghouse of a generally stupid organization. Coming into 2011, the Royals simply needed to get out of their own way and give Gordon as full season of playing time. It was, perhaps, his last chance with the organization, as drastic as that now sounds. Gordon has a broad base of skills -- he always has in fact -- which is why he's often been underrated.

Although I'm not sure it was fully necessary, the Royals' plan to move Alex to the outfield looks inspired now. And in a smaller move, Yost has shown some creativity in hitting Gordon leadoff during the second half of the season. A huge part of Gordon's game is getting on base, and despite not getting as many game played as St. Francoeur, the added time atop the lineup has given him more PAs.

Gordon's salary for 2011 is $1.4 million, and while he won't hit free agency until after 2013, he's suddenly looking at some sizeable raises. One of the downsides of the mostly pointless Francoeur deal is that the Royals are already cutting into their budget. Yes, a lot of money is coming off the books, but Butler and Soria and now Francoeur are set to get big raises. As will Melky should he return. There are still plenty of ways the Royals can screw this up.

However, that's a worry for another time. For now, we should simply appreciate Gordon's comeback season and enjoy this welcome development. I doubt he gets any down-ballot MVP votes, but in a real stunner from where we were a year ago, he should.