The hype that surrounds Royals’ prospects Mike Moustakas and Eric Hosmer is similar to hype Alex Gordon received a few years ago after Kansas City took him second overall in the 2005 Major League Baseball Amateur Draft.
Gordon won the Golden Spikes award as the best player in college baseball during his junior year at Nebraska when he led the Cornhuskers to the College World Series. The third baseman hit .372 with 19 home runs and 23 steals. After the Arizona Diamondbacks took Justin Upton with the first pick, the Royals nabbed Gordon ahead of such players as Ryan Zimmerman, Ryan Braun and Troy Tulowitski in one of the deepest drafts of the past decade.
Gordon didn’t disappoint in his first minor league season in 2006, hitting .325 with 29 home runs, 111 RBI, 101 runs scored and 22 stolen bases. He was ranked the No. 2 prospect in baseball by Baseball America heading into the start of the 2007 season.
But that’s when things went downhill for Gordon. Gordon started the 2007 season on the Royals’ Opening Day Roster, but would hit just .254 in 275 games over the next two seasons.
Injuries and ineffectiveness would plague the former top prospect in 2009-2010. He spent time in the minor leagues, and when he played for the Royals last season, he hit just .215 in 74 games.
But flashforward to this season. Gordon, who is now playing left field, is off to a monster start, hitting .339 with a .940 OPS after Sunday’s game against Minnesota. He leads the team in average, OPS and runs scored.
So here’s the question: Has Gordon finally figured it out, or is his start just a fluke?
It would seem to be a little of both.
One of Gordon’s major problems in his first few seasons in the big leagues was his strikeout rate. According to FanGraphs.com, Gordon struck out at least 24.3 percent of the time in each of his four seasons in the big leagues.
But so far this year, that number is below 20 percent. It is a small sample size, but if Gordon can keep that up, it would figure that his average would be higher than it has been in the past.
However, Gordon also has been lucky through the first month of the season. According to FanGraphs, Gordon had a .407 batting average on balls in play (BABIP) heading into Sunday’s contest. The average BABIP for hitters is somewhere between .290 and .310 and Gordon himself has never had a BABIP higher than .309 in the big leagues. So it would seem as if a lot of his contact is luckily finding holes and the .407 number will likely regress towards the mean, lowering his overall average.
So it’s unlikely Gordon will finish the season with an above .300 average. But if he can keep his strikeouts down, the former top prospect may be able be a key piece in the Royals’ bright future.
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Written by Ryan Riordan