With Rafael Furcal (oblique) back on the DL for the Dodgers and Oakland’s Mark Ellis leaving Monday night’s game with a right hamstring injury, a pair of top middle infield prospects are primed to get plenty of big league playing time over the next few weeks, and possibly much longer.
Shortstop Dee Gordon made his debut for L.A. last night as a pinch-runner. Manager Don Mattingly intends to start him most nights as the increasingly fragile Furcal heals, according to a Tweet by Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times. Second baseman Jemile Weeks hasn’t officially gotten the call to the majors yet, but the move is expected with Ellis possibly landing on the DL. Here’s a quick look at what to expect from Weeks and Gordon.
Pre-season prospect rankings: #26 Baseball America, #70 ESPN’s Keith Law, #84 Baseball Prospectus’ Kevin Goldstein, Grade B from John Sickels
2010 line: .315/.361/.370 in 220 plate appearances at Triple-A Albuquerque (Pacific Coast League averages in 2011: .283/.359/.445)
The name of the game for Flash Gordon’s son is speed: Dee Gordon swiped 73 bags in the Low-A Midwest League in 2009, 53 in the Double-A Southern League last season and he already has 22 SBs in the Triple-A Pacific Coast League in 2011. The 23-year-old has also become more efficient with his base-nabbing. His stolen base percentage is 88% this year, compared to about 73% in 2010 and 75% in 2009.
Gordon’s other skills are much less refined, however. The lefty-hitting shortstop didn’t play baseball until his senior year of high school and spent one year at NAIA school Southeastern (Florida) before the Dodgers popped him in the fourth round of the 2008 draft. He’s an aggressive hitter, drawing walks in 6.5% of his plate appearances in the Southern and Pacific Coast leagues.
Baseball America graded his future power at 35 on the 20-to-80 scouting scale, and that may be kind. The 5-foot-11 Gordon is so skinny that Jonathan Broxton could floss with him. Gordon’s ISO was .077 in AA and sits as .055 this season. Maybe some late-night In-N-Out-Burger runs could help him bulk up a bit, but don’t expect to see much in the way of secondary skills from Gordon during his first foray in the majors. Even so, he’s worth a pick-up in NL-only formats for his stolen base ability.
Pre-season prospect rankings: Unranked in top 100 by Baseball America (#5 in Oakland’s system), Unranked in top 100 by BP’s Kevin Goldstein (#6 in Oakland’s system), Unranked in top 100 by ESPN’s Keith Law (#8 in Oakland’s system), Grade C+ from John Sickels
2011 line: .321/.417/.446 in 217 plate appearances at Triple-A Sacramento (Weeks is also playing in the PCL)
Weeks is a good example of why prospect rankings, while useful in gauging potential impact in fantasy leagues, need to be taken as a snapshot in time of a player’s value. The switch-hitting Weeks, taken with the 12th overall pick in the ’08 draft, placed higher on prospect lists in the past. But continued hip and leg injuries caused talent evaluators to question whether he’d ever be able to stay on the field long enough to make use of his strong strike-zone discipline and doubles power.
While a few healthy months don’t erase long-term concerns about Weeks’ durability, he hasn’t been slowed by injuries in 2011 while working the count well and becoming slightly more of a factor on the base paths. Weeks, 24, has walked 13.4% of the time this season and has 10 SB in 14 attempts. He doesn’t have big brother Rickie’s power (Jemile’s .125 ISO is under the .162 PCL average this year), and his .320+ average has been boosted by a batting average on balls in play north of .370. But Weeks’ strong plate approach and modest speed make him roster-worthy in AL-only leagues if he does indeed get the big league call.
Plus, with the way Ellis is hitting this season (.211/.245/.287), Oakland’s general offensive malaise (11th in the American League in Park-Adjusted Batting Runs) and fast-fading playoff hopes (the club has lost seven straight), Weeks might be in for more than just a trial run with the A’s. We’re past the point at which Super Two status could be a deterring factor, and whether the goal is to get back in the AL West race or give a young player the chance to get acclimated to the big leagues, Weeks is Oakland’s best option at second base.