- AJ Mass, Fantasy
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Is it time to give up on Alex Gordon?
I've been patient with Alex Gordon.
In his rookie year (2007), he didn't exactly have the bust-out campaign we thought he'd have. But give the kid some time, I thought. He was only 23. He was being asked to perform up to George Brett's Hall of Fame standards. Cut him a little slack and give him a few seasons to grow into the player everyone expects him to become.
Well, I've given him time. But now I have to move on.
Gordon won almost every trophy imaginable following his junior year at the University of Nebraska. After he hit .372 with 19 home runs, 66 RBIs and 23 stolen bases, the Kansas City Royals didn't think twice about selecting Gordon with the No. 2 overall pick in the 2005 MLB draft. From the moment they took him, the Royals have been waiting for him to live up to the promise.
In 2007, his rookie year, Gordon hit .185 for the first two months of the season. Although he did turn things around enough to hit .296 the rest of the year, his season ended with an injury. In the last inning of the season, a bad hop grounder struck the third baseman in the face, breaking his nose. A fluke play? Perhaps. But history has shown that some people seem to be snakebitten -- and this was just the first of many Gordon injuries to come.
Moving on to 2008, Gordon flipped the script a bit, coming out strong in April with a .301 batting average. However, a so-so .262 average in May preceded a dismal .214 June, and was followed by an equally futile .226 July. His glove, though not important for fantasy purposes, was also a huge liability; Gordon committed 16 errors and had the lowest fielding percentage among all qualified AL third basemen. As for his annual injury, a torn muscle in his right quadriceps put him on the disabled list in late August.
So what happened last season? It was a return to 2007 for Alex. He started off cold as ice, going just 2-for-21 before getting hurt sliding into second base. The resulting right hip injury required surgery, and Gordon missed more than two months. While one can certainly understand why Gordon's production upon his return (.252, 5 HR,19 RBIs in 42 games) was well below expectations going into the 2009 season, it nevertheless marked the third straight season that Royals fans and fantasy owners were greatly disappointed.
Certainly not every player drafted in the first round becomes a superstar, but clearly enough time has passed for some of the cream to have risen to the top. So far, Gordon remains closer to the bottom of the barrel.
Here's a look at 10 first-round draft picks from 2005, and where they presently stand in terms of fantasy value:
Ten first-round picks from the '05 draft, and where they are being selected in ESPN standard mixed leagues:
With one more season from Gordon similar to the previous three, next year's ADP list might even see other 2005 alumni such as Jeff Clement, Cliff Pennington, Tyler Greene, Cameron Maybin, Chris Volstad, Mike Pelfrey and Ricky Romero be drafted before Gordon -- if he is even selected at all.
We're still a few weeks away from the start of the season, and already the "curse of Alex Gordon" has struck again. On March 7, he broke his thumb, again on a slide into second base. He hasn't been able to throw or bat while it heals, so odds are he won't be ready for the start of the season. And when he is finally ready to return, there might not be a spot for him in the lineup.
Alberto Callaspo is far more relaxed playing third base than second, and after the offseason acquisition of Chris Getz, there's no need for the Royals to rely on their second-best hitter to play a position at which he's not comfortable.
Callaspo is a switch-hitter with a .302 batting average over the past two seasons. The Royals want his bat in the lineup on an every-day basis, and manager Trey Hillman has reportedly gone on record as saying he has always liked Callaspo at third base.
You know, that move would make sense. Given his thumb injury, Gordon will likely start the season either at extended spring training or rehabbing at Triple-A. With Jose Guillen in the final year of his overpriced $12 million-per-season contract, now would be the perfect time for the team to slide Gordon over to first base, which in turn would free up Billy Butler to become the every-day designated hitter.
Even though Gordon has some experience at first base already -- he played 32 games there as a rookie -- he has minor league options left. If the Royals are truly looking toward the future, it would make far more sense to give Gordon at least a few months of getting used to the position in Omaha while the team gets the last bit of its money's worth out of Guillen.
The outfield is pretty locked into place with the projected starting trio of Scott Podsednik, Rick Ankiel and David DeJesus, while Josh Fields provides a potential infield power option should either Getz or Callaspo not come through at the plate. Add to the mix multi-positional players such as Willie Bloomquist and Mitch Maier, and it all potentially leaves no room at the inn for Gordon at the present time. Not saying this will happen, but it's at least a possibility.
I understand why the Royals aren't ready to cut bait yet, but I'm not getting hooked on Gordon again. His fractured thumb is unfortunate for him, but in essence, it's a lucky "break" for fantasy owners. Now you can feel free to avoid drafting him in 2010 altogether, and when he fails to live up to the George Brett-level expectations for yet another season, only Gordon and the Royals will feel the pain.
2dKevin Van Valkenburg