Future Jock: Alex Gordon
While one of my fantasy baseball teams is preparing for the playoffs, my other keeper league entry is deep into a rebuilding year.
The squad had a good run, posting a 165-101 record from 2003-05, making the playoffs each year from 2001-05, and falling just 4-points shy of the 2004 championship. But age and injury caught up to the core of keepers (managers can designate 7 keepers each year prior to the draft to fill the 30-man roster, with no limit on length of service).
This season was meant to blend rebuilding with continued success, but fell far short of the goal thanks mainly to a pitching collapse. By mid-year the team was out of the playoff hunt; it was time to start over.
Trade talks began in earnest. Anyone outside the untouchable core of Jose Reyes, Travis Hafner, and Scott Kazmir was dangled for draft picks. Seven deals were made involving 12 players, with the Miners saying good-bye to Chipper Jones, Brian Roberts, Juan Pierre, Jorge Posada, Kevin Youkilis, Frank Thomas, Mark DeRosa, Huston Street, Greg Maddux, Cory Lidle, Takashi Saito and Scott Olsen. In return, the team gained a cumulative 192 places in the '07 draft, including 4 third-round selections, and ten picks in the top-112 (it's a 14-team league).
The Miners also gained Brandon Webb, whose numbers in three of the past four seasons put him in elite territory, although the reputation has yet to follow. Webb's credentials include being one of only eight pitchers since 1972 to lead his league in groundball/flyball rate and finish in the top ten for strikouts per plate appearance (credit to BP for that one).
Meanwhile, marginal players were dumped overboard and a raft of promising 21 and 22-year-old talent was signed from free agency. Most hadn't made the majors yet, but looked to be promising candidates to keep going into the spring '07 draft. Joining keeper-candidates Nick Swisher (25), Chad Billingsley (21) and John Lester (22) were outfielders Lastings Milledge (21), Chris B. Young (22), and Billy Butler (20), third-baseman Alex Gordon (22) and second-baseman/shortstop Dustin Pedroia (22).
Which three or four players named in the last paragraph should be kept heading into 2007? It's too early to know. Pedroia is considered by most to have the greatest peak-potential, but Gordon is the most useful of the youngsters in the near term should the Royals decide to bring him up. Based only on his college record BP put him among their pre-season top-ten prospects, and at mid-season Baseball America ranked him second only to Delmon Young. Gordon's OPS of 1.009 led all AA leagues this year, and was backed-up by a park-adjusted OPS of 1.029. The numbers come with one asterisk -- a BABIP of .367. However, his fellow Wichita Wranglers also have high BABIPs, which makes me suspect the defensive adeptness of their rivals.
Is Alex Gordon the future of my franchise? I sure hope so. He'd mature nicely alongside the 23-year-old Reyes as they move into their peak production years. And it's not just the numbers experts who've been seduced. The Wichita Eagle reported this April that none other than George Brett couldn't take his eyes off the youngster during spring training:
“One day I'm in the shower with Alex and kind of looked over, and he had his back to me, and he was washing his hair,” Brett said. “So I went over and put shampoo in my hand, started washing my hair right next to him. About eight other guys were in the shower, and I said, ‘Who's got a better body, me or Alex?’ It was the funniest thing said all spring. He's got a body. I don't have a body.”The Springfield News Leader corroborates:
“How interesting, then, to spot a recent spring training photo in the Wichita newspaper of Royals Hall of Famer George Brett rubbing Gordon's shoulders as if the organization is pinning all of its hopes on its new 6-foot-1, 220-pound talent.”That's good enough for me. Time to pencil Gordon into the 2007 lineup card.