As I mentioned a couple of pieces ago, my 1B in the Denslow Cup this season is Billy Butler. I currently am using the Towel’s account to watch MLB TV during afternoon and evening lab, so I have been watching a little bit of the middle of the Royals’ order, since Butler is hitting cleanup for KC currently with sparkling results. The Royals have been hitting Alex Gordon third, and he too has been crushing, starting the season with a 1.000+ OPS in his first 30 or so AB’s of 2011 after a torrential spring in which he slashed .343/.459/.729 in around 90 PA’s. I am a huge supporter of statistical analysis and its role within player evaluation in baseball, so obviously this month of success does little to help us forget the last few years of Gordon’s career. Still, something tells me that Gordon might be getting close to reminding us what it was about him, before he was drafted second overall in the 2005 MLB Draft, that made us believe that he was the messiah for which Kansas City had prayed for 20 years.
As a junior in 2005 at Nebraska, Alex Gordon posted a .372/.518/.715 slash line with 19 jacks, 23 SB’s, and 45 XBH’s and reached base by way of BB or HBP more times than games played. He was the best collegiate player in the draft and had one of the finest offensive seasons of the last decade of NCAA baseball. He posted terrific numbers during his brief stint in the Minors and debuted in the Bigs in 2007 where he has basically been a bust ever since, never posting an OPS above .783. So why do I think this is his year to change all of that?
In the small sample of at-bats I have seen from Gordon this season and during the spring, he looks much more like the player many remember from his days as a prospect. He is at least looking the part again in terms of confidence both at the plate and in the field. Kansas City has refused to stick with a plan as far as Gordon’s defensive development, and it seems like they are finally willing to let him grow comfortable in the grass at Kauffman.
Gordon’s at-bats are starting to exhibit the excellent understanding of the clock that scouts observed when he was at Nebraska, and it is translating into better bat speed, bat track, and pitch recognition. When we talk about the clock, we mean the sequence of steps that go into basic tasks within the game, such as fielding a grounder or taking a pitch, and the necessary temporal components therein. These tasks are regarded as routine, but when a player’s timing is off by much, they become exceedingly difficult and potentially impossible.
Gordon’s clock at the plate right now is allowing his weight to be fully loaded and ready to be transferred at the exact moment that prevents his momentum from reaching zero, so he effectively is gliding from his load into his transfer, and it is beautiful to watch because it is as though he is waking up a little bit more with each pitch.
Guys with Gordon’s talent are very rare, but harnessing it can be a great challenge for the organization and the player. Remember Josh Hamilton’s career as a Devil Ray? Gordon was that best hitter in his draft class, and the best hitter in the Big XII as well as all of NCAA baseball less than six years ago. He was one of the top hitting prospects in baseball less than five years ago. And then he plummeted physically and mentally.
At least from what the last month has shown me, he is all the way back mentally and looks like he is truly enjoying his time on the field with KC this season. This is the season that his performance will follow that positive mental outlook, and this recaptured perspective will allow him to begin realizing his enormous talent within the confines of Major League Baseball.
That is why he is the newest member of my Denslow Cup team.