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Did Nick Gordon’s Second Half Turn Him From Prospect to Suspect?

Baseball America released its Top 10 Minnesota Twins Prospects for 2018, and there was a familiar face who slid down the rankings. One year after being named by the publication as the team’s top prospect, Nick Gordon slotted in at No. 8. Did his poor second half cause Gordon’s prospect stock to slip?
Image courtesy of Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports
Here’s a link to the Baseball America’s article on the list and the chat that Mike Berardino participated in. Just a heads up, most of this content is behind a paywall, but BA is outstanding and you should consider signing up for a subscription.

The list itself is available to anyone. If you haven’t seen it yet, here it is:
  • Royce Lewis
  • Wander Javier
  • Alex Kirilloff
  • Stephen Gonsalves
  • Brusdar Graterol
  • Fernando Romero
  • Brent Rooker
  • Nick Gordon
  • Blayne Enlow
  • Tyler Jay
This is a fun list, and I’m sure Berardino put a ton of thought and legwork into putting it together. There are a few surprises, but Gordon was certainly the biggest. Berardino was quick to point out in the chat that he did not compile last year’s list, so it's not really his job to rationalize the big dip from last year.

Still, it’s a bit jarring to see Gordon so low, especially after he had his best offensive season.

Gordon was also just 21-years-old throughout the entire season, three years younger than the average player in the Southern League. To put that into some perspective, when Brian Dozier was that age, he was still only a junior in college. Then again, Jorge Polanco made his major league debut at 20. Apples to oranges, I guess, but the point is Gordon is still quite young. Let's check out some of the numbers ...

The Good
-Gordon got off to an amazing start, hitting .315/.376/.504 (.880 OPS) in the first half.
-He hit a career-high nine home runs in 122 games played. Coming into 2017, Gordon had just five homers in 293 career games.
-He also posted a career best 9.2 BB%. Prior to 2017, Gordon had a career walk rate of 5.7 percent.
-He hit the most line drives in the Southern League, registering a 28.0 LD%.
-He stayed healthy, racking up 578 plate appearances. That was tied for the third most among all Double-A hitters.
-He was ranked 19th on Baseball America’s Midseason Top 100 and 33rd on Baseball Prospectus’ Midesason Top 50.
-Gordon also represented the Twins at the Futures Game, serving as the leadoff hitter and shortstop for the U.S. team.

The Bad
-Gordon had a terrible second half at the plate, hitting .221/.304/.305 (.609 OPS).
-He was helpless against lefties, posting a .174/.273/.240 line (.513 OPS)
-He had the worst strikeout rate of his career, 23.2 percent. Coming into the year, he had a 17.1 K%.
-He was still only successful in 65 percent of his stolen base attempts (13-for-20), which is also roughly his career rate.
-He committed 22 errors in the field, 19 at shortstop and three at second base (to be fair, Polanco made 30 errors in his age 21 season). Unfortunately, advanced defensive stats aren’t really a thing in the minor leagues yet.

My Take
Gordon probably isn’t as good as his crazy first half, but he’s definitely not as bad as his terrible second half. There are questions about his ability to stick at shortstop, but at this time a year ago I was basically having a panic attack thinking about Polanco being the Twins everyday guy there. Coaching can go a long way toward helping an infielder refine his defense.

I have Gordon as my No. 3 prospect in the system, one spot ahead of Wander Javier, due in large part to the advances he made as a hitter. His power doesn’t stand out, but he took a huge step forward. He makes a lot of hard contact and is learning to draw more walks. With all that in mind, I didn’t see any reason to drop him in my rankings (though he slid down a spot from 2017 thanks to the arrival of Royce Lewis).

It’s a lot easier to pin dreams on guys who haven’t even made it to full-season ball than it is on someone who’s played an entire season in Double-A. The closer a prospect gets to the majors, the more likely his flaws are going to be exposed.

Gordon has some red flags, and I can see why someone would drop him down to the eighth spot. I don’t look at Berardino’s list and interpret it as a slam on Gordon, I see it as him being really high on the other six guys who follow Lewis. And there are plenty of good reasons to get excited about those players.

What do you think? Is Nick Gordon’s glass half full, or half empty?

The Twins Prospect Handbook has more prospect lists than you can shake a stick at, including every one of Seth Stohs’ rankings going back to 2006. Here is a link to the paperback, which is $15.99, and here is a link to the PDF, which is $10.99.

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49 Comments

Berardino's list was heavily weighted for highest ceiling. With that in mind, I can't disagree with the list and think its great to have a guy like Gordon at #8.
    • glunn, Twins33, beckmt and 6 others like this
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Ted Schwerzler
Jan 11 2018 09:02 AM

Gordon at 8 does show the Twins have retooled their depth at the top, which is a good thing. I don't know if he's necessarily that low, but there's definitely reason for him to slide. I don't believe he's a shortstop, and don't think he'll hit like a second basemen. The All Star ceiling is still probably there, but I'd bank on him being an average regular more than likely.

    • glunn, kab21, mikelink45 and 1 other like this

It might be that 3-9 are fairly interchangeable. It's not that big of a deal. The story would be if he wasn't listed in the top ten. I'm not as high on Gonsalves as others, yet I can see where they're coming from, for instance. 

    • caninatl04 likes this

Sickels has him rated #2 FWIW. 

 

https://www.minorlea...spects-for-2018

    • glunn and caninatl04 like this
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clutterheart
Jan 11 2018 09:36 AM

 

I have Gordon as my No. 3 prospect in the system, one spot ahead of Wander Javier, due in large part to the advances he made as a hitter

 

Really?I am not sure how "advances he made" would put him ahead of Javier.From all reports, Javier looks to have a better bat and a better glove than Gordon.

 

The only reason to have Gordon higher than Javier is due to MiLB level.AA vs Rookie level.Gordon's floor is much higher.  

 

    • beckmt, Vanimal46 and caninatl04 like this

 

Berardino's list was heavily weighted for highest ceiling. With that in mind, I can't disagree with the list and think its great to have a guy like Gordon at #8.

 

Graterol is the one that I would move down - not out of the list, but below Gordon.Sample size is so miniscule that it's still all tool based assumption.

    • glunn and Sconnie like this

Ratings like this are almost completely arbitrary, invested to spur discussion rather than "prospect value."

 

I agree with most of the other commenters. I think it reflects that the Twins have a stronger system than they did a year ago more than any other symptom.

 

Every #1 pick has to learn to overcome struggles at some point. Hopefully Gordon is getting that out of the way now, so he can hit MLB and not look back.

    • glunn and Doctor Wu like this
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Tom Froemming
Jan 11 2018 10:14 AM

 

Really?I am not sure how "advances he made" would put him ahead of Javier.From all reports, Javier looks to have a better bat and a better glove than Gordon.

 

The only reason to have Gordon higher than Javier is due to MiLB level.AA vs Rookie level.Gordon's floor is much higher.  

I love Javier, I believe I had him highest of anyone in the Twins Prospect Handbook, but he did have a 27.2 K% and committed 16 errors (.893 fielding percentage). In comparison, Nick Gordon had a 17.7 K% and .964 fielding percentage when he was in the Appy League.

 

Javier has definitely shown a lot more power potential and errors/fielding percentage should be taken with a grain of salt. He has the tools to be a good defensive shortstop. He could be a five-tool player, but his warts aren't going to really appear until he starts facing some more advanced pitching. What if that K rate keeps increasing? What if he can't smooth things out in the field? What if he gets bigger and is forced off shortstop?

    • glunn and markos like this

I wonder about Alex Kirilloff. Will he recover well/quickly from injury and pickup right where he left off?

 

With the extra uncertainty there, I'd bump him to 8, Graterol to 7 slide the rest of the list up accordingly and slot Gordon in at 6....

 

It does make me happy to see so much talent brought in to the pipeline in the last 1-2 years.

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FlauerPauer
Jan 11 2018 10:21 AM

Bernadino is a pretty poor reporter, in my opinion.His articles are mostly rehash of what others have said either nationally or in other local publications.He rarely breaks Twins news and I highly doubt he has the pedigree to be judging prospects and compiling a ranking. I tend to take what he says with a grain of salt.With that said, the BA rankings clearly stated that they were based on ceiling.Gordon is probably a major league player with the ability to show flashes, but won't be THE guy in a lineup or team.Hopefully he turns into a solid second baseman and helps the Twins win baseball games, but he was never a guy that I was hanging my hat on that he'd be a major contributor the way I looked at Sano, Buxton, Kepler, and Rosario.At the end of the day, the rankings are just that; they don't really mean anything until the players begin to produce.

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HitInAPinch
Jan 11 2018 10:28 AM

I begin and end with this:He's 22 yrs. old......

    • Seth Stohs, slash129, Vanimal46 and 1 other like this
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nicksaviking
Jan 11 2018 10:37 AM

 

Bernadino is a pretty poor reporter, in my opinion.  His articles are mostly rehash of what others have said either nationally or in other local publications.He rarely breaks Twins news and I highly doubt he has the pedigree to be judging prospects and compiling a ranking. I tend to take what he says with a grain of salt.With that said, the BA rankings clearly stated that they were based on ceiling.Gordon is probably a major league player with the ability to show flashes, but won't be THE guy in a lineup or team.Hopefully he turns into a solid second baseman and helps the Twins win baseball games, but he was never a guy that I was hanging my hat on that he'd be a major contributor the way I looked at Sano, Buxton, Kepler, and Rosario.At the end of the day, the rankings are just that; they don't really mean anything until the players begin to produce.

 

Well the debate about his Top Ten List is due almost exclusively to the fact that he went quite a long way off course from all the national and local prospect takes.

    • Sconnie, RaymondLuxuryYacht and SF Twins Fan like this
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nicksaviking
Jan 11 2018 10:38 AM

 

I wonder about Alex Kirilloff. Will he recover well/quickly from injury and pickup right where he left off?

 

With the extra uncertainty there, I'd bump him to 8, Graterol to 7 slide the rest of the list up accordingly and slot Gordon in at 6....

 

It does make me happy to see so much talent brought in to the pipeline in the last 1-2 years.

 

TJ surgery seems to allow for a fairly quick recovery time for hitters comparatively to the pitchers. It didn't appear to impact Sano in anything other than his call-up date.

    • Sconnie and Doctor Wu like this
By my standards my prospect ranking system is the most accurate one out there and I ranked Gordon the 2.6th best prospect in the system.

All kidding aside, Bernardino had a set criteria for his list and he is excluding other criteria. And that gives room for discussion. We could make a list based off of highest floor and that would give us different results.
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Tom Froemming
Jan 11 2018 10:48 AM

 

Bernadino is a pretty poor reporter, in my opinion.His articles are mostly rehash of what others have said either nationally or in other local publications.He rarely breaks Twins news and I highly doubt he has the pedigree to be judging prospects and compiling a ranking. I tend to take what he says with a grain of salt. 

I would respectfully disagree. I thought he's done a great job chronicling Buxton's swing adjustments and Jose Berrios adjusting between the major and minor league ball. He was the first reporter I remember who covered the Twins' investment in better nutrition for the minor leaguers. He also is the only beat writer who had the nerve to actually press Molitor on all the bunting and wrote a great article on it, though it came after the season was already over.

 

He said in the chat that the list is not his evaluation of the players, but more his conclusions based on information he gathered from sources both inside and outside the organization. Is that the best methodology? I'm not sure, since those sources might have ulterior motives. By now, I'm sure Mike has a very strong BS indicator and can tell when someone is trying to use the media as a tool for their own good.

    • Kevin, BigSkyTwinsFan, nicksaviking and 8 others like this
Gordon really needs to produce against lefties... Otherwise he'll be unplayable if/when he is called up.

I'm in no rush calling him up to the majors until he can improve in that skill. And really, I wouldn't be comfortable with it until he is moderately successful (.650+ OPS) after ~400 PAs.

I still think it makes sense to dangle him in a package trade for a top of the rotation arm.
    • beckmt and HitInAPinch like this

 

Gordon really needs to produce against lefties... Otherwise he'll be unplayable if/when he is called up.

I'm in no rush calling him up to the majors until he can improve in that skill. And really, I wouldn't be comfortable with it until he is moderately successful (.650+ OPS) after ~400 PAs.

I still think it makes sense to dangle him in a package trade for a top of the rotation arm.

I think this was the point of ranking him #8.He will probably be a solid major league regular and while cheap a bargain. That has value to lower market teams.Just bring back the correct pitcher.Would not package him for Cole unless not much else goes, but Archer if you could use him as the biggest piece, otherwise with one of the Twins outfielders. 

I think it's fair for Gordon's second-half struggles to downgrade him some on the prospect lists, and for it not just to be a function of higher-upside prospects joining the organization/being recognized. He had an ok year; it started really well offensively and ended pretty badly. It's not an unusual occurrence for a prospect to hit a stumbling block when they start getting into the high minors, but while Gordon is young for his level (and has been at every stop) it's still a reasonable cause for concern.

 

He also didn't do a lot to prove that he really can stick at SS at the major-league level, either. He didn't disqualify himself either, but taken in aggregate, last season is more of a "he justified the promotion" sort of season rather than a "he's ready to keep advancing" one.

 

I'd like for him to repeat at AA and see how it goes. He's got some things to work on and repeating a level at his age is fine. he's still a prospect, but right now he's not showing enough to say "we can't deal him".

    • SF Twins Fan likes this

It really is not about attacking the messenger (reporter in this case), everyone should have a list that reflects their own evaluation, but rather this is a fun list because it raises questions and therefore gives us the fun of speculation and discussion.I have no dislike for any of our MN reporters, the more articles the better for me.

 

Gordon at 8 is fine with me.I think his second half decline raised questions about the validity of the first half.Each year the reviews and reports seem to have a slightly less optimistic look at Gordon.It appears to me, if I combine the various TD and other reports that he will be a fine average major leaguer, but not a star.Which is fine, but it is nice to know that we actually have some others in the system now that have higher potential.

 

​My biggest question in Kirilloff. I want to hope, but I need a full season of ball to see where the injuries have put him.I am much higher on Rooker.

 

 

 

 

    • Tom Froemming and MN_ExPat like this
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tarheeltwinsfan
Jan 11 2018 12:10 PM

I'm not going to get too excited about any Twins'prospect until that prospect is a consensus top 25 in national rankings. Don't get me wrong, I really enjoy reading about the Twins' prospects, and I wish them all well...but until then, I have my doubts about their chances of being real difference makers in the major leagues.

    • h2oface and Taildragger8791 like this
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tarheeltwinsfan
Jan 11 2018 12:21 PM

 

Bernadino is a pretty poor reporter, in my opinion.His articles are mostly rehash of what others have said either nationally or in other local publications.He rarely breaks Twins news and I highly doubt he has the pedigree to be judging prospects and compiling a ranking. I tend to take what he says with a grain of salt.With that said, the BA rankings clearly stated that they were based on ceiling.Gordon is probably a major league player with the ability to show flashes, but won't be THE guy in a lineup or team.Hopefully he turns into a solid second baseman and helps the Twins win baseball games, but he was never a guy that I was hanging my hat on that he'd be a major contributor the way I looked at Sano, Buxton, Kepler, and Rosario.At the end of the day, the rankings are just that; they don't really mean anything until the players begin to produce.

I appreciate and enjoy Berndino's writing. After all, he is a UNC Journalism School graduate.

For what it's worth, my immediate takeaway from Royce Lewis being pegged as the "best defensive infielder" gives me major pause.

 

I hope he proves me wrong, but I don't think he makes it to the majors as an infielder and I don't know how anyone could slot him in that position at this point. You think there's questions about Gordon's defense? Those questions should be far bigger on Lewis right now.

    • Doctor Wu likes this

Furthermore, I don't think Gordon's second half makes him a suspect.

 

Chattanooga had a stacked lineup this year if you ask me, his ranks:

 

Doubles: 2nd (6th in southern league)

Triples: 1st (1st in southern league)

HRs: 4th

RBI: 3rd (8th in southern league)

Total Bases: 2nd (4th in southern league)

Walks: 3rd (13th in southern league)

SB's: 1st

 

Think of it this way: If he had compiled those numbers without the drastic 1st and 2nd half splits, would you still contemplate calling him "suspect"?

 

    • glunn, Dance with Disco Dan, JaleelWhite FanClub and 1 other like this

My glass is half-full today. While I feel that Gordon earned a slip down the rankings, pretty much everyone's top 10 makes me feel a little better than where we were a year ago.

 

I feel that if Gordon isn't a short-stop, I'd rank Luis Arraez ahead of him.But we'll see.Maybe he is a short-stop.

 

If a list is slanted toward up-side, I'm mildly surprised Akil Baddoo doesn't crack the top 10.Regardless, I'm mildly optimistic that I can think of other names that are not even on this list that I feel have a very good chance of being useful down the road as either trade material or for the major league club.Jermaine Palacios is another name that comes to mind in that regard. 

    • glunn, markos and Dance with Disco Dan like this
I think Gordon is too low at 8, but we're splitting some pretty fine hairs here debating a couple of spots on a top 10 list. There's a few guys loaded with potential that aren't even in the top 10 here.

I think his poor second half downgraded him somewhat. But young, talented and improving overall, he could be right back in the top 3-5 This time next year.

Defense is highly important, but error numbers, by themselves, don't trouble me. You can randomly look up error totals for a myriad of highly successful ML infielders, past and present, and you would be surprised by some of the error totals you would see while in the minors.
    • kab21 likes this

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