What a strange career it has been for Alex Gordon, the Nebraska kid selected by his regional hometown team the Royals with high expectations after being named College Player of the Year. He excelled in the minors, but was considered a bust originally in the Majors until he was demoted to Omaha, learned to play left-field, and came back to become a two-time All-Star and four-time Gold Glove winner. It all culminated last October, when he came within 90 feet of what might have been the best World Series Game 7 moment ever.
Gordon had the finest season of his career last year, and it came at a good time as the Royals were in contention for the first time in his career. Gordon finished third among all Major League position players in fWAR last season, driven largely by his excellent defense. Gordon was eighth among all Major Leaguers in dWAR, with fellow teammate Lorenzo Cain the only American League outfielder outshining Gordon in that category.
Even more impressive than his glove however, is his arm. Alex Gordon has 62 assists over the last four seasons, by far the most by an outfielder in baseball. Perhaps just as valuable is the mere threat of his arm, which keeps runners from advancing.
At the plate, Gordon struggled initially, but went on a tear in the middle of the season. From June 1 to August 31, he hit .278/.355/.491 with 14 home runs in 75 games. Only a .190 slump in September would put a damper on Gordon's season, a slump that may have been caused by a wrist injury that Gordon initially suffered in July.
Gordon had wrist surgery over the winter to take care of the problem, but is just now getting into spring training action. Wrist injuries have been known to affect a hitter's power, so the Royals will be hoping that Gordon recovers fully. Gordon is also in a contract year as it is unlikely he picks up his affordable player option, so he will be motivated to show he is healthy and productive.
|Career per 162 games||.268||.345||.435||19||75||4.2|
Gordon bounced back from a disappointing walk rate in 2013 to a very respectable 10.1% in 2014. He cut his strikeout rate slightly, although he will always seem to strikeout about 20% of the time. Gordon flashed a bit more power earlier his his career, but he has settled into a 15-20 home run hitter with a .160 ISO and 30-35 doubles. The projection models all like him to be a very valuable player next year.
Alex is a sneaky good baserunner, finishing seventh in the league in Baserunning Runs Above Average. He has finished in double-digits in stolen bases in each of the last four season with an acceptable 72% success rate in stolen base attempts over that period. Ned Yost will likely hit Alex Gordon second in the lineup this year, and while its nice to think its because of Gordon's high on-base percentage, it very well likely could be due to Alex Gordon's career line of .338/.420/.549 in 81 career plate appearances in that spot in the lineup.
There is a possibility we could be seeing the last season with Alex Gordon in a Royals uniform. He is expected to command a salary around $80 million this off-season should he reach free agency, although that may depend a lot on how his wrist responds this summer. Alex Gordon is one of the players the Royals will be counting on this season to keep them in contention, and if healthy, there seems to be little doubt he will be the Royals most valuable player once again.
What do you expect out of Alex Gordon in 2015?