Analyzing 5 Kansas City Royals due for progression or regression in 2018
The Kansas City Royals gave Gordon the richest contract in team history after winning the World Series in 2015. Since signing that contract, Gordon has been arguably the worst offensive player in all of baseball. He has saved face only by winning another Gold Glove award in left field this season.
Perhaps, the most ironic thing ever happened during the 2017 MLB season. During the year the MLB single-season home run record was broken, Gordon hit nine home runs. In the era of fly balls and juiced baseballs, Gordon managed to hit a career-low home run total. He also hit the home run that broke the record for most in an MLB season.
He has been abysmal at the plate ever since his groin injury in 2015. The Royals rewarded him financially for his play before and during the 2015 World Series. And they desperately need Alex Gordon to return to form if they have any chance of competing before 2020.
The good news for the Kansas City Royals is that he can’t physically get any worse. (OK, so he can but, really?) Gordon has proved that he is still capable of playing defense at an elite level. If the Royals do in fact move him to center field in 2018, as it has been rumored, his value will increase even further by playing a more premium defensive position.
Move to center field?
According to FanGraphs, Gordon’s defensive metrics in 2017 were among the best of his career in left field, and his metrics in center field weren’t too far behind. In 61 innings in center last season, Gordon registered a UZR/150 rating of 8.0. Lorenzo Cain’s season UZR/150 was 2.4, the lowest of his career. Now, this is a ridiculously small sample size that doesn’t fairly grade Gordon and Cain as center fielders. But the point is that Gordon can play center at a more than adequate level, which should increase his overall value.
Even if Gordon doesn’t make the move to center, there is no way that his bat can get any worse. I mean, there’s just no way. He had a career-low walk rate in 2017. This has more to do with pitchers’ willingness to give him fastballs than Gordon’s chase rate, which was actually lower than his career average (30.4 percent compared to 31.6 percent). Assuming his bat improves, even in the slightest, he should return to a walk rate closer to 10 percent in 2018.
His ISO was also a career worst .107, which suggests that he wasn’t driving the ball with any regularity. I wondered early in the season if his previously broken wrist was still bothering him. But you would think the Royals would’ve given him some time on the disabled list if it was that big of an issue. Assuming Gordon can drive the ball into the gaps with even some regularity in 2018, his offensive production should return to “bad” instead of “worst in all of baseball.”