When the Kansas City Royals signed Derek Gordon to a minor league contract this offseason, it was an interesting story. Here was Alex Gordon‘s younger brother, who had gone undrafted after his college career and played for the Kansas City T-Bones in the independent American Association. He had posted a 6.49 ERA and a 1.937 WHiP in 26.1 innings, hardly the type of statistics that would make one think he would produce on an affiliated minor league squad.
This season, pitching for the Idaho Falls Chukars of the Pioneer League, Gordon exceeded those minimal expectations. Overall, in his 70 innings, Gordon posted a 3.47 ERA and a 1.300 WHiP, striking out 65 batters against 18 walks. His performance was good enough where Gordon was named the Chukars Pitcher of the Year on Thursday, as the Royals announced their minor league awards.
Gordon’s season, once he settled in for the Chukars, was better than his statistics would indicate. In his final ten starts of the year, he allowed more than two runs only twice, and more than two earned runs once. Opponents produced a .252/.306/.376 batting line against Gordon over those final 55.2 innings of work, showing that he may truly belong in a major league system, and for reasons aside from being Alex’s kid brother.
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For as positive of a year as Derek Gordon had, there were still concerns. First, the Kansas City Royals prospect was 24 years old, almost three years older than the average age of the Pioneer League. Second, in his 70 innings, Gordon gave up eight home runs, just over one per nine innings. While the home run is a risk for a fly ball pitcher, that rate is still a bit concerning.
These issues can certainly would appear to be minor in nature. There were quite a few signs that he belonged, such as the solid control Gordon displayed last season, walking only 18 batters and posting a strikeout to walk rate of 3.61. Gordon finished third in the Pioneer League in strikeouts and ERA, and was fifth in WHiP, showing that this is a bit of a hitter’s league.
For a player that, in all likelihood, not much was expected from, Derek Gordon certainly turned a few heads last year. Now, instead of being known as Alex Gordon’s younger brother, he could, in time, become a part of the Kansas City Royals future on his own merit.