Alex Gordon enters 2016 with the fifth highest fWAR in Royals history among position players. Where will he be come 2019?
As the Kansas City Royals enter Spring Training, Kings of Kauffman will release a series of articles on the 25-man roster. We will be going through each individual player, including the locks, bubble players, and a few prospects. We will progress through the roster from the top down, continuing with the projected starting lineup.
So far, we have looked at Yordano Ventura, Edinson Volquez, Ian Kennedy, Chris Young, Danny Duffy, Kris Medlen, Luke Hochevar, Kelvin Herrera, Joakim Soria, Wade Davis, Salvador Perez, Eric Hosmer, Omar Infante, Christian Colon, Mike Moustakas, and Alcides Escobar.
Today, we will be looking at Alex Gordon
"2015 stats – .271/.377/.432, 13 HR, 48 RBI, 104 G, 122 wRC+, 2.8 fWAR2016 Steamer – .271/.355/.432, 17 HR, 68 RBI, 140 G, 115 wRC+, 3.8 fWAR"
Projected Role – Starting Left Fielder
Well, there was this.
That’s what people will remember about Alex Gordon in 2015, and rightfully so. That was the biggest hit of his career and, arguably, the biggest hit in Royals history. Probably not, but it’s in the conversation.
However, 2015 was Gordon’s most tumultuous season in Kansas City in nearly five years.
He was arguably on track for his best offensive season since 2011, with an OBP hovering around .400, when he injured his groin on July 8.
The grade two sprained groin sidelined Gordon for nearly two months, before he limped to the finish line, hitting just .233 with five extra-base hits in September.
He rebounded in the postseason, OPSing at a .775 clip, including his game-tying home run off of Jeurys Familia.
Although the injury sucked the momentum out of another All-Star campaign for Gordon, the World Series victory, and specifically his home run in game one, was the exclamation point of his ascension to Royals lore.
Every time I re-watch that home run, I think back to his debut on April 2, 2007, and how far the organization has come since then, spearheaded by Gordon’s resurgence.
The fact that Gordon had endured six years of losing made that moment even sweeter.
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However, that sentiment wasn’t why so many Royals fans pushed the franchise to re-sign him, even if it meant overpaying.
Yes, there is sentiment. The idea of Gordon wearing another uniform left a bad taste in our mouths, and his re-signing makes the chances of him having his number on the Royals Hall of Fame someday even greater.
But he is still a dang good player, a player the Royals were not able to replace.
Just two seasons ago, Gordon 6.6 fWAR trailed only Mike Trout in the American League.
It’s easy to get caught up in the sentiment and the lack of a single dominant tool, but Gordon has been as valuable as any player in baseball to his respective team since 2011.
The Royals saw that and rewarded him with the richest contract in Royals history, at 4-years, $72 million.
One of the reasons why Gordon’s contract was favorable, despite entering his age-32 season, is because his skill set is so dependable.
Best case scenario, he comes into 2016 healthy and continues what he started in 2015. He will enter the season with as much lineup protection as he’s ever had, something that we saw in 2015.
In 2014, Gordon only saw 51% fastballs. Keep in mind that this was the same season in which only three full-time players had wRC+ above 100 and only two, including Gordon, had a wRC+ above 110.
Fast forward to 2015, and that number jumps to five Royals with a wRC+ above 110, and six if you include Zobrist. In fact, of those six Royals, the lowest number was 122.
With the Royals lineup producing at a much higher level than in 2014, Gordon saw 57% fastballs. I would expect that number to remain the same, especially if he is eventually moved up in the lineup (which I anticipate will happen at some point).
And for his career, Gordon absolutely pounds fastballs, with a career 98.4 fastball runs above average. His next highest pitch is the slider, at 4.9.
So if Gordon’s healthy and seeing a decent number of fastballs, paired with his advanced plate discipline, it’s not unreasonable to believe that he will produce at a level that is similar or better than his 2012-2015 self.
The best case scenario, however, would be that he produces like his 2011 self.
The worst case scenario would be that he doesn’t stay healthy. If he doesn’t stay healthy, he’s not going to produce.
However, the worst case scenario for a healthy Alex Gordon really isn’t that bad. I see it as being similar to a guy like Zobrist.
Gordon is going to get on base and he is going to play elite defense. That alone has value. We also know that Gordon is an excellent base runner, even though it’s not shown in the typical fashion with stolen bases.
For his career, Gordon averages 3.8 base running runs above average per full season, despite not ever stealing a ton of bases.
In fact, Gordon’s career high in this area (7.1) came in 2013, when he only stole 11 bases.
Do you see where I’m going with this?
Alex Gordon is a fantastic, all-around player, straight from the Zobrist-mold. He’s not going to impress us by winning a batting title or hitting 30 homers.
He’s just going to do everything well.
It doesn’t hurt that he plays for an organization that emphasizes this approach.