With the Royals needing to get more out of their offense next season, a lot has been made of how players such as Mike Moustakas and Eric Hosmer need to improve in 2014. Hosmer appeared to get himself back on track after working with George Brett during his stint as the Royals batting coach, while Moustakas’s struggles against left handed pitching may be mitigated due to the presence of Danny Valencia. However, the performance of Alex Gordon in 2014 may be just as important of a factor.
The struggles that Moustakas and Hosmer have gone through have been well documented, yet Gordon’s problems have somewhat flown under the radar. Since his All-Star season in 2011 when Gordon hit at a .303/.376/.502 rate, his production has declined. In 2012, Gordon produced at a solid .294/.368/.455 rate before his batting line plummeted last season. While his batting line did not drop to the dismal rates he had produced prior to 2011, his .265/.327/.422 slash line was still disappointing. Gordon did lead the team in home runs with twenty last season, but as the Royals leadoff hitter, he simply did not get on base nearly enough.
Now, with the arrivals of Norichika Aoki and Omar Infante, Alex Gordon is expected to slot in the middle of the lineup, possibly hitting behind Hosmer as the Royals cleanup hitter. While the 57 home runs he has hit over the past three seasons out of the leadoff spot would appear to indicate that Gordon could perform well as a middle of the order hitter, his power numbers have actually declined since 2011. In 2013, Gordon had a total of 53 extra base hits, which was just two more than the amount of doubles that he had hit in 2012.
For the Royals offense to get to the level that they will likely need in order to compete in 2014, Gordon must get back to being the hitter that he was in either 2011 or 2012. While he may not need to lead the Royals in home runs for the third time in four years, Gordon’s ability to hit doubles and get on base can help lead to a sustained offensive attack. Should Hosmer continue to improve at the rate he did towards the second half of last season and Moustakas can finally tap into his potential, the Royals may have the type of offense that they envision.
The Kansas City Royals are expected to contend for the playoffs next season, and in order to do so, will need improvements from most of the middle of their lineup. As the projected cleanup hitter, how Alex Gordon performs may be the key to the Royals offense next season.