2018 Royals Season Preview – Alex Gordon

Everyone knows who Alex Gordon is. Despite the immense struggles he went through early in his career, he’s grown into one of the Royals’ all-time best players. Ahead of the 2016 season, he was signed to a four-year, $72 million contract. To be brief, he hasn’t lived up to even half of his price tag. With father time working against him, can Gordon get back to his old self in 2018? 

If you haven’t read my Kings of Kauffman season preview for Jorge Bonifacio, I highly recommend it. Each article will have a link to a previous season preview in the first main body paragraph: just click on the player’s name. We’ve finally reached the final season preview! Bonifacio is looking to follow up his solid rookie campaign with an even better sophomore season. Another outfielder looking to improve upon his 2017 is Alex Gordon. Not only did Gordon struggle last season but, by OPS standards, he was literally the worst hitter in all of baseball. Let’s take a trip back in time to when Gordon was one of the best outfielders in the game.

The first four years of Gordon’s career were a struggle. He spent time in the minor leagues in both the 2009 and 2010 seasons as a result of his poor performance in the MLB. The years 2011-2015 were magical, though. On average, Gordon hit .281 with 18 home runs and 72 RBIs during that five-year span. He also added a trio of All-Star appearances and four Gold Gloves in the process. This was undoubtedly the prime of Gordon’s career. A wrist injury contributed to the second-worst full season he’s had. The worst? 2017.

What did he offer last season?

That statement made by Gordon sums up his 2017 season. In 148 games, Gordon hit .208 and failed to hit double-digit home runs for the first time since 2010. He also posted the lowest on-base percentage and slugging percentage of his career. His OPS (on-base + slugging) was the lowest in the entire MLB. It’s not an exaggeration to say Gordon was the worst hitter in baseball last year. Although he did have his best defensive season since 2014 by Fangraphs’ standards, Gordon still experienced a horrible 2017 season overall.

A silver lining from Gordon’s 2017 was his final month of the season. Yes, a .250 batting average is nothing to be proud of. When considering how dreadful Gordon was, though, it’s something you have to appreciate. Adding four home runs is icing on the cake. There was even a 17-game stretch in which Gordon hit .327 with an OPS of 1.004. It would be foolish to expect Gordon to hit like that in 2018, but it was promising nonetheless.

What can we expect in 2018?

Steamer doesn’t project a return to dominance for Gordon in 2018, but at least something better than last year’s catastrophe:

  • 132 games played (down from 148)
  • Slash line of .237/.326/.389 (up from .208/.293/.315)
  • 15 HR (up from 9)
  • 55 RBIs (up from 45)
  • 9.9% walk rate (up from 8.3%)

I can get on board with these projections. Will Gordon ever return to his .270+, 20 home run, 75 RBI form? It’s highly unlikely. His projected OPS of .715 would have made him the 17th-worst hitter in baseball last year instead of the worst. Is that acceptable? No. Is it more acceptable? Yes. As much as I’d love to see Alex Gordon be great again, it’s not going to happen. I hope he proves all of my (and Steamer’s) projections wrong.

I’ll take over on games played. Gordon played 148 games last year and I can see him doing so again this year. A 16-game drop off is a few too many for me to take. I’m also going to take slightly over on his entire slash line, but to even numbers. I can see something like .240/.330/.395. I’ll take a couple under 15 home runs and the even on RBIs. I’ll take even on the walk rate. I think Steamer nailed these projections in general.

The verdict

Alex Gordon will always have a special place in my heart. He’ll always be loved by fans, coaches and GMs alike. Although his glory days are in the rearview mirror, Gordon hasn’t reached the end of his road quite yet. There are surely going to be potholes and bumps along the way but overall, the road to success in 2018 should be a bit smoother. Is another Gold Glove on the horizon? It’s possible. Could Gordon bounce back and hit .250? Also possible. I hope he proves every one of his doubters wrong and rebounds this season.

What do you think, Royals fans? Is Alex Gordon washed up? Can he put the pieces together one more time? Is vintage Gordo making a comeback? Let us know what you have to say!