By David Heck, Special to CBS Local Sports
CBS Local Sports will be profiling one young player from each Major League Baseball team every day for the next 30 days as part of our "30 Players 30 Days" spring training feature.
Dee Gordon, Shortstop, Los Angeles Dodgers
2011 season: 56 G, 224 AB, .304 AVG, 34 R, 0 HR, 24 SB, .686 OPS
The son of Tom "Flash" Gordon, a reliever who once held the record for most consecutive games converted, Dee could earn the same nickname as his father – but not because their games are similar. Whereas his dad was a hard-throwing closer, Dee is a light-hitting shortstop who relies almost exclusively on his speed to provide value. But despite the specialty nature of his game, Dee nonetheless has tremendous upside.
The first thing to realize about Gordon is that he's never going to be a home-run hitter. At 5-foot-11, 150 pounds, he might be the most slender player in the Major Leagues, and playing in Dodger Stadium isn't going to help the chances of him powering balls out. The over/under on the number of longballs he hits this year would probably be 0.5, and it would only be that high because of the chance of an inside-the-parker. Gordon also has extremely poor patience. He walked in only three percent of his plate appearances last year, and while that figure should go up a tick this year, it will still remain one of the worst rates in baseball.
So with these considerable shortcomings, how does Gordon have a job in the big leagues? He is incredibly fast. He stole 24 bases in 56 games last year, which is impressive for anyone, let alone a rookie. If you prorated his stats out to a full season, that would mean 69 steals. Gordon was also caught just seven times, giving him a decent 77.4 percent success rate that only figures to go up once he sees more pitchers and gets used to their moves to first.
Moreover, while Gordon won't go deep, he can use his speed to beat out balls in the infield and take the extra base on ones in the outfield. He showed that during his superb September last year: In 26 games, he batted .372 with seven doubles, one triple, 12 steals and an .850 OPS. That's a valuable player at any position, let alone one who plays shortstop.
Gordon turns 24 on April 22, so he's still maturing, but he proved last year that he can already be a vital offensive cog for the Dodgers. It wouldn't be reasonable to perform like he did in September for an entire year, but an average over .300 and an MLB-leading number of steals are very much in play. Considering those numbers and the lack of depth at his position, Gordon could find himself in the All-Star Game very soon.
Next up on March 29: San Francisco Giants
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