Catching Up With Nick Gordon
Of course, it takes more than maturity to be drafted as high as Gordon was (5th overall) as a high school kid. It takes a ton of talent. Gordon is currently a four-tool talent though many believe that over time he will also add the ability to hit for power and become a five-tool player.
Twins Minor League Director Brad Steil pointed out in the Minnesota Twins Prospect Handbook 2015 why the Twins brass decided to have him skip the Gulf Coast League completely and spend his entire season at Elizabethton. “With the maturity and skill level we saw from him in high school, we thought he’d be able to compete at that level and handle any adversity. He was probably more prepared for pro ball than most high school players, having been around it most of his life because of his dad and brother.”
The Twins have not had a high school player jump straight to Elizabethton after the draft since 2004 when Trevor Plouffe did that. Before him, Joe Mauer hit .400 in Elizabethton after signing with the Twins after being the first overall pick in 2001.
Asked this weekend how having a father (Tom) and a brother (Dee) with big league experience has helped him out, Nick responded by saying he’s learned a lot from each of them. “It’s always great. You know, my dad played for 21 seasons. He knows the game. He’s been around it. My brother as well. Going to them, they know all the ropes. They know everything I’m going through because they’ve been through it all already. They’re always there for me.”
Gordon held his own against many players significantly older than he is. Many players in the Appalachian League have three or four years of college under their belt, or they have been in pro ball for one to three years already. In 57 games, he hit .294/.333/.364 (.699) with six doubles, four triples and a home run. He stole 11 bases. In 49 games at shortstop, he had just eight errors and posted a .964 fielding percentage. These numbers don’t jump out, but they are impressive when put in the context of his age and experience relative to the league.
Unfortunately, in the season’s final game, he was jammed by a pitch and broke a finger. Asked how his finger is now, Gordon said, “Finger was OK after a couple weeks. I got back after it. It kind of bothered me a little bit, but now it’s just baseball.”
So what was the biggest adjustment for him to professional baseball? One might think that adjusting to wood bats, especially coming out of high school could be difficult, but Gordon said that wasn’t the biggest adjustment for him.
“In the summer, all we used was wood bats in Florida. We played baseball all year around, so that’s the great thing about playing in Florida, we were constantly using wood bats.” He continued, “It’s just mainly playing every day. Coming from high school, you played every other day. That was the biggest adjustment for me. Once I got it, after about a month or two, it felt good. It felt like I was in the swing of things.”
He now has his first pro experience under his belt and says that his offseason has been very good. “I’ve just been working out, trying to put on some weight, and stay fast. Stay to my game. I’m loving the process.”
His goal for 2015 is pretty simple and yet his offseason work is an attempt to help him achieve his goal, to “stay healthy. That (added) weight is important. You have to be physically ready. Playing close to 100 games a year, you’ve got to be ready to go. I’m ready to get out there and I’ve been working on conditioning.”
In an interview with 1500 ESPN over the weekend, Gordon said that one of his favorite players (non-relative category) growing up was Derek Jeter. It wasn’t just for his great talent, but he admired his leadership. Gordon hopes that he can be a similar type of player.
“I know I can go out there, and I know I can play. It’s just about competing and making myself and my teammates better.”
The Twins selected Gordon in the first round. They did not draft another high school player until the 15th round when they drafted an outfielder named Roberto Gonzalez, another Orlando native. Gordon went to Olympia high school in Orlando while Gonzalez went to University high school.
“Yeah, I played against him in high school. We always played against each other. Mostly in the summer though.”
Gordon was asked to describe Gonzalez and said, “He’s a really good athlete.”
When I asked if Gonzalez could be a five-tool talent, without hesitation, Gordon said, “Oh yeah! Oh yeah!”
Twins Fest was not Gordon’s first trip to Target Field. After being drafted last summer, he came to Target Field to sign his contract.
His thoughts on the stadium? “It’s beautiful. Even with the snow on the field.”
He certainly seemed to enjoy his Twins Fest experience. “It’s amazing. It’s nice meeting the people. It’s nice coming out here where people are so excited about baseball. It’s great to get out here and meet the fans and have fun with the kids and interact.”
Asked if there were any players he was excited to meet last weekend, Gordon said, “I look up to pretty much all these guys. I talk to (Byron) Buxton a lot, and he’s a really good guy. I kind of look to him a lot. And Torii Hunter, I watched him when I was growing up.”
Next up for Gordon, he’ll head to Ft. Myers in early March to go to his first spring training.
“I’m ready for it. I can’t wait to get there.”
After seeing all the fans at Twins Fest and the atmosphere there, I think it’s fair to say that we all can’t wait. Nick Gordon is one player that fans will be watching and monitoring over the next several years. He’s got a world of talent and the potential to be an impact player for a long time. Those who spoke with him continue to speak of his great maturity, attitude and poise. It’s no wonder that the Twins scouts, and scouts from every team, liked him so much.
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