Just two years ago, Dee Gordon was enjoying the fanfare of being listed amongst Baseball America’s Top 50 Prospects. The son of major league reliever Tom Gordon, the young shortstop was receiving rave reviews for his defensive play and, most importantly, his speed. He had cruised through the Dodgers system relatively quickly, got called up mid-season in 2011 and earned the starting nod to open the 2012 season. Not everything had gone according to plan as injuries derailed a lot of the past two seasons, but Gordon had some memorable moments that indicated he could be an impact player at the big league level. Well, with Hanley Ramirez hitting the disabled list for already the second time in this young season, Gordon is finally getting his chance to show what he can do.
Maybe he was just implementing what he learned over the last two seasons or maybe he was driven more by being passed over for a call-up the first time Hanley got hurt. Maybe it was both. Whatever the case may be, Gordon’s first 100-plus at-bats at Triple-A Albuquerque said, “I’m done with this level, can I come back up now?” He posted a .314/.391/.431 slash line, almost doubled his walk rate, and was 14-for-16 in stolen base attempts. His improved plate discipline was something we saw flashes of during spring training, but now, it looked like he was perfecting it. With a strong on-base percentage, perhaps we could finally stop hearing the annoying naysayers with their “can’t steal first base” commentary. He was ready for the show and just needed the opportunity to present itself again.
Now that he’s up, Gordon has made a nice splash in just his first two games. He went 2-for-4 with two RBI, a walk and a pair of stolen bases during his season debut and in the second game he went 1-for-3 with an RBI and another walk. Nine trips to the plate, five times on base, three steals and, most importantly, no strikeouts. A small sample size? Obviously. But if you’re looking for a place to start your season, this is definitely the right one, and fantasy owners should be tripping over themselves running to the waiver wire should he be available in your league.
While theses are just two games, a minute drop in the bucket, there is still enough to get excited about should you acquire Gordon’s services. First and foremost, his game-breaking speed should make an immediate impact in your fantasy standings. As Dave Cameron wrote just a few weeks ago, there is a serious decline in stolen bases this season which means that a player of Gordon’s ability becomes even more valuable in the grand scheme of things. The stolen base category is, traditionally, very movable in rotisserie standings, so adding a player who can immediately boost your totals is going to be huge. The added bonus of a decent average/OBP and runs scored only makes his addition even tastier.
But what could be even better is the fact that, while he may be considered an injury replacement right now, should all of this improved plate work be for real (which I think it is), he’ll stick as the Dodgers shortstop all year long and likely find himself atop the batting order in due time. Outplaying a guy like Justin Sellers isn’t going to be a tough feat for Gordon to accomplish. That, to me, is a virtual no-brainer. But what I suspect will happen is that over the next month, Gordon’s play will have such a positive effect on the Dodgers that once Hanley does return, the team will be more inclined to move him back of to third and keep Gordon right where he is. It’s not like they’ll be getting All Star-caliber play from Juan Uribe, will they? Probably not.
So the way I see it — Hanley moves over to third, Gordon stays at short, he then moves up to the leadoff spot, Carl Crawford bats second and the Mark Ellis/Nick Punto show gets bumped down to the eight-hole where it likely belongs anyway. With the tandem of Gordon and Crawford setting the table, the RBI opportunities for Hanley, Matt Kemp and Adrian Gonzalez improve dramatically. It’s a win-win situation for everyone involved, unless of course you’re relying on Ellis/Punto which, if you are, is probably the least of your concerns anyway.
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