Today’s spring training spotlight for the Dodgers is on shortstop Dee Gordon. There has been plenty of public opinion surrounding Gordon. Some people like him, and some people hate him. Some people think he is going to be an all-star, and some people tend to think he’s a flop.
Whatever your opinion of Gordon is, he is turning some heads in spring training, or at least in my eyes. His hitting seems to be developing well this spring. Gordon was drafted by the Dodgers in the fourth round of the 2008 amateur draft. Since then he has been highly touted. Gordon bats left handed, and is 5’11 and about 150 pounds. He may be small, but he can run really really fast. His speed can be a dangerous weapon.
After a few years in the minors, the Dodgers called up Gordon on June 6, 2011. The Dodgers had just traded Hit Machine Rafael Furcal, and were languishing in last place. They decided since Furcal was a free agent that winter, they needed to give Gordon a chance. The plan was for Gordon to be the starting shortstop and lead-off hitter. Unfortunately things haven’t quite worked out that way for Gordon and the Dodgers.
Gordon played In 56 games that year getting 233 plate appearances, and batted .304 with a .325 OBP. Gordon stole 24 bases in 31 attempts, but whiffed 27 times and drew only seven walks. Gordon’s lack of plate discipline was concerning, but more concerning was his atrocious defense. Gordon committed ten errors in 2011, and posted a fielding percentage of .954, and a total zone runs above average, or should I say below average of -4 respectively.
However Gordon showed a lot of improvement during September of 2011 if you all remember. Gordon posted an average of .372 (42 for 133) in the month of September. Gordon had 42 hits that month, and an OBP of .398. How did he do that with only five walks that month? He got a lot of hits, and utilized his speed. He also hit lefties at a .275 clip. Not bad at all right?
The following year in 2012, Gordon was expected to be the Dodgers everyday shortstop, but he struggled to find his consistency. Gordon played in 87 games in 2012, before being demoted back to AAA. Gordon posted a .228 batting average, (69 for 303) with a .280 OBP, one home run, 17 RBI, and 32 stolen bases, in 42 attempts. Again, Gordon struggled with his ability to get on base, and work counts. He whiffed 62 times, while walking only 20 times in 2012.
Once the Dodgers traded for Hanley Ramirez last July, Gordon lost his starting job. This spring the Dodgers feel that Gordon needs to work on his defense. They also feel he would benefit more from getting paying time every day. The plan is to put Gordon back in the minors, so he can work on his game this year while Ramirez plays shortstop for the big club.
Regardless of your opinion of Gordon, you have to admit, that he has amazing speed. His speed can be game changing, and it flusters opposing team’s defenses. In an ideal world for the Dodgers, Gordon would have taken the lead-off spot in the lineup and ran with it. But sometimes things just don’t work out that way. I have read online that some people have the opinion that Gordon will never make it in the majors. They’ve given up on him. First of all you should never give up on a player after only one poor season. I never give up on a guy that quickly. Second, some players take a few years to develop, it happens. Look at Sandy Koufax. He took a few years to develop too. Baseball is a hard game.
This year I have seen a huge improvement from Gordon in his plate discipline, hitting, and base running. This spring Gordon is batting .286 (4 for 14), with six walks and only three whiffs. Gordon is 5 for 5 in steals, and has an OBP of around .500 in Cactus league play.
Now Gordon still needs a lot of work on his defense, but his improved hitting, base running, and eye at the plate has given me hope that he can overcome his struggled and soon take back the starting shortstop job. It won’t be easy for Gordon, the son of former major league pitcher Tom “flash” Gordon. However, Gordon is a hard worker, he always has been. He won’t stop working until he is back with the big club. It’s going to take a lot of hard work to bump Hanley back to third base.
Some people think that Gordon doesn’t have the focus to play shortstop. The Dodgers thought about moving him to the outfield, or second base, but decided against that idea. It’s not that Gordon doesn’t have the focus, what he lacks is steady hands, and Baseball instinct. Hey not everyone is Derek Jeter. But those skills can be learned with time, and practice. Gordon also struggled like many other players have struggled before him. He failed to make adjustments. The league adjusted to him in 2012, and Gordon never re-adjusted. Baseball is all about adjustments. If you’re not making them, then you are not improving.
We need to be patient with Gordon. I’m not sure why people gave up so quickly on him, yet refused to give up on players like Jerry Sands, or Trayvon Robinson who are clearly not nearly as talented as Gordon is. Now look at where those players are now. Robinson traded, Sands, traded twice, while Gordon remains with the Dodgers.
Gordon’s speed is so fast, that the Dodgers can build a game around it. We’ve seen Gordon win a few games single-handily for the Dodgers, by using just that. It’s a unique weapon that can drive opposing teams into fits. It’s a game changing skill that is valuable. I think it’s only a matter of time before Gordon is back up in the majors. Once that happens the Dodgers will have a choice to make, but until then, Gordon will continue to work towards his goal of returning to the Dodger lineup.
Gordon is starting to adjust now. With that I believe he will be able to re-capture his dynamic style of play that has enticed us for so long now. Gordon is a natural athlete, he just needs to learn how to adjust. Most young players can have problems with doing that. Once Gordon does, he will be a force to be reckoned with. Just make sure you don’t blink while he is hitting or on base, because you may miss him.