Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Gordon Commanding The Spotlight Among Twins Prospects

Selected 5th overall by the Minnesota Twins in the 2014 Major League Baseball draft, Nick Gordon was immediately among the organizations best prospects. With a strong family pedigree, and plenty of talent on his own, the expectations were sky high for the high school shortstop. Now, fast forward four seasons, and he's proving himself at Double-A with the Chattanooga Lookouts.

In 2016, Gordon got his first taste of High-A ball. Spending the whole season in Fort Myers, after making a compelling case to end 2015 there, Gordon slashed a solid .291/.335/.386. Power wasn't ever really expected to be a big part of his game, but his average hovered around .300 for the bulk of the summer, and his on base skills were solid. If there was a knock on him a year ago, it was the poor defensive showing, and a less than ideal baserunning ability.

While Gordon doesn't possess the straight-line speed of his brother Dee, he's a burner in his own right. However, he was caught stealing 13 times for the Miracle, swiping just 19 successful bases. Reading pitchers, getting jumps, and picking his spots was something he'd definitely need to hone in on.

Then, touted as a glove first prospect when drafted, Gordon took a pretty big step back in the field. Errors are far from the be-all-end-all when evaluating defensive prowess, but Gordon racked them up in bunches. After 18 in Cedar Rapids the year prior (all at SS), he tallied 26 in 2016 (24 at SS). They were split between throwing and fielding, but for a guy that was seen as so fluid at the position, it wasn't a welcomed addition to his game.

Coming into the 2017 season, Gordon had fans across the national landscape. He was ranked among the top 50 prospects in the country by both MLB Pipeline and Baseball Prospectus. A handful of publications tabbed him as the Twins top prospect, and now at 21, it was somewhat expected that the youngster was beginning to grow into his body.

Through the first 36 games at the Double-A level, Gordon has done nothing but impress. He's slashing a robust .322/.383/.507. While power likely won't ever show up in a considerable amount, the's tallied 16 extra base hits, three of which have left the yard. Gordon hasn't used much of his speed in the running game, as he's stolen just one base while being caught twice, but it's played to his favor in the form of doubles (8) and triples (5).

As a non-roster invitee to spring training, Gordon saw time with the Twins in a handful of big league games. Paul Molitor played him in both spots up the middle, giving him more time at second base than I would have preferred to see. Thus far in 2017, Gordon has started 20 games at short, and 14 at second for the lookouts. Right now, it seems the organization isn't sure where he'll stick, and they also have some decisions to make at the upper levels. He's fared ok defensively, chalking up eight errors across those 34 games (3 at 2B, 5 at SS).

Looking at a realistic timeline on Gordon, who again is just 21 years old, 2018 seems to be the year to circle. He's over three years younger than the competition at the current level, and while he could push for a late season promotion to Triple-A, the Twins could decide to keep the same path and have him spend the year in Tennessee. If that's the way they go, a mid-summer or early-fall callup could be in the cards a year from now.

Knowing where the Twins stand roster wise, that leaves some questions to be answered on the 25 man roster. Brian Dozier is signed through the 2018 season, at which point he will hit free agency (Minnesota only bought out his arbitration years). If he isn't traded, and that probably hinges on the direction of the team, the middle of the infield would appear occupied. Gordon isn't the sure-thing shortstop he was once touted as, but he's probably a better bet there than Jorge Polanco.

No matter how you cut it, Nick Gordon could force the Twins into a situation where they have three mouths to feed, and only two positions to hand out. As a rotational guy ending the 2018 season on the big league roster, Gordon could help to ease the transition for Minnesota if Brian Dozier is cast off prior to 2019. Figuring out how the pieces fit is getting ahead of ourselves for the most part at this point anyways however.

What's worth taking note of in the here and now, is that Nick Gordon is absolutely emerging as a strong two way talent for the Twins. His bat has become a weapon, and he's displaying offensive prowess beyond his years. As he continues to compete through the Double-A season this year, and sets his sights on whatever is next, the Twins seem to have a very solid player on the way.

Having gone from big name, to uncertain top 100 guy, to a prospect that could find himself in the top 25 a year from now, Gordon continues to battle. For all the picks that haven't worked out in recent years, it appears the son of Flash is absolutely cut from a different cloth.