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Royals Place DeJesus on DL; Recall Alex Gordon

Kansas City Royals placed OF David DeJesus (thumb) on the 15-day DL; Recalled OF Alex Gordon from Triple-A Omaha.

DeJesus sprained his right thumb trying to make a catch in center field on what ended up being an inside-the-park homer for Derek Jeter. DeJesus, subject to countless trade rumors due to his solid bat, rangy defense and bargain contract (he has a $6 million club option for 2011), is supposed to meet with a hand specialist in Cleveland sometime today. The 30-year-old hits the shelf with a .318/.384/.443 line in 394 plate appearances, with a career-best .364 wOBA. He’s walking 8.6% of the time and has a .125 ISO, marks that are right in line with his career averages (8.3% and .137, respectively). However, a .355 BABIP that’s 33 points higher than his career figure has boosted his triple-slash.

For the time being, former organizational golden child Alex Gordon will replace DeJesus. The second overall pick in the 2005 draft shifted from third base to the corner outfield this past spring, in deference to top prospect Mike Moustakas. Gordon, a Golden Spikes Award winner ranked by Baseball America as the second-best minor league talent in the game prior to 2007, has yet to rake in the majors and has been beset by injuries. But the 26-year-old Cornhusker has punished the Pacific Coast League since an early-May demotion.

The 6-2, 220 pound lefty batter throttled Double-A pitching in 2006 — Gordon batted .325/.427/.588 in 576 Texas League PA. Walks (12.5 BB%), power (.263 ISO), speed (22 SB in 25 attempts) — you name a skill, and Gordon displayed it. He even rated as a plus defender at third, according to Sean Smith‘s Total Zone system (+13 runs). That tour de force performance translated to a .253/.331/.440 major league line, per Minor League Splits.

Gordon made the Royals out of spring training the following year and went on to hit .247/.314/.411 in 601 PA (.317 wOBA). He showed decent power (.164 ISO) and stole 14 bases in 18 tries but struggled with his strike zone control at times (6.8 BB%, 25.2 K%). Gordon appeared to scuffle against secondary stuff, with a positive run value versus fastballs (+0.15 runs per 100 pitches) but red marks against changeups (-0.16), sliders (-1.42) and curveballs (-1.92). All things considered, it wasn’t a bad debut for a 23-year-old with minimal minor league experience.

In 2008, Gordon’s bat improved — he posted a .260/.351/.432 line in 571 PA, with a .344 wOBA. His rate of free passes taken jumped to 11.6%, as his outside swing percentage fell from 25.8% in ’07 to 24.1% (the MLB average was around 25% during both seasons). He hit for a similar amount of power (.172 ISO) and cut his K rate a bit to 24.3%. While continuing to hit fastballs well (+0.81 runs/100), Gordon also had positive runs values against changeups (+1.13) and curves (+1.22). His run value against sliders remained below-average (-0.92).

And then, just when it looked as though Gordon was about to make good on his prospect pedigree, the injuries began. He served a DL stint for a right quad strain in August of ’08, but a right hip ailment in 2009 would prove to be devastating. Gordon got off to a wretched start in 2009 before undergoing surgery to repair a torn labrum in his hip. He rehabbed and returned to Kansas City in July, but was back in the minors by late August (denying him the service time to achieve Super Two status) before being recalled in September. Overall, Gordon hit .327/.451/.558 in 133 minor league PA spread over Rookie Ball, Double-A and Triple-A but just .232/.324/.378 (.321 wOBA) in 189 big league PA.

This past spring, Gordon fractured his right thumb while sliding headfirst into second base during a spring training game. He was activated from the DL in mid-April, but was banished to Omaha after putting up a .298 wOBA in 38 PA. Since then, he has mashed to the tune of .315/.442/.577 in 321 PCL PA. Gordon has walked 16.2%, whiffed 27.7% and has a .262 ISO. According to Minor League Splits, his major league equivalent line is .258/.361/.444.

While he hasn’t been a disaster at the hot corner in the majors (career -2 UZR/150 in 2,805 innings), Gordon’s future in Kansas City, if he has one, figures to come in the outfield. That’s a hit in positional value, both for fantasy owners and for the Royals. For now, though, Gordon will retain eligibility at third. His rest-of-season CHONE projection calls for a .263/.358/.430, and his ZiPS projection is .242/.329/.406.

The chances of Gordon becoming a star-caliber player are very slim at this point, but he’s worth an add in AL-only leagues and could be someone to watch in mixed leagues if he gets penciled into the lineup like he should. There’s nothing left for Gordon to prove in the minors. Hopefully, he gets an extended shot (either in K.C. or elsewhere) to jump-start his career.

UPDATE: According to Bob Dutton of the Kansas City Star (via Twitter), DeJesus is out for the year with a fully torn thumb ligament. He’s scheduled for surgery Monday. With that unfortunate news, it looks like Gordon will get a chance to sink or swim in the majors.