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TD Top Prospects #4: Nick Gordon

It has been a long, long time since the Twins have had a “shortstop of the future” in their pipeline. But since drafting Nick Gordon fifth overall in the 2014 draft, they finally do have one. And, now only three years after paying him $3,851,000 to pass on his commitment to Florida State, the young Gordon is knocking on the big-league door.
Age: 21 (DOB: 10/24/95)
2016 Stats (A+): .291/.335/.386, 23 doubles, 6 triples, 3 home runs, 19/32 stolen base attempts
ETA: 2018
2016 Ranking: 4

National Top 100 Rankings
BA: 60 | MLB : 50 | ESPN: 53 | BP: 48

What's To Like

Gordon knows what it takes to be a professional baseball player. His dad, Tom, did it as a pitcher for 21 years, including three All-Star Game appearances. His half-brother, Dee, has played in two All-Star games and has won a Gold Glove and Silver Slugger award.

While lineage doesn’t portend success, Nick Gordon has the work ethic to match his family’s prior accomplishments, if not surpass them.

An example of that desire to be great occurred shortly after being drafted - four days, to exact - when he signed his contract.

"The work doesn't stop," Gordon said after signing. "The drafting and getting signed is just a little piece of the pie. That's what my dad always says. Now's when the real work starts. It's time to achieve my goal and get ready to play."

It doesn’t hurt that Gordon has enough glove to stick at shortstop, where he’ll be solid, but not flashy, and a bat that will play at the top of the order as a potential .300-hitter each and every year.

We at Twins Daily may be selling Gordon short, as he was the only Twins prospect to make each of the four Top 100s mentioned above… and the lowest he checked in was at #60.

What's Left To Work On

When you hear Nick Gordon, you probably think of Dee Gordon and his prowess on the base paths. That’s not Nick. Nick is fast enough to be a bit of a menace, as evidenced by his 19 steals last year, but he was caught 13 times as well. He’ll need to be more efficient.

Gordon’s strikeout rate as a professional is around 17%, which is manageable, but his walk-rate of 4.7% in Fort Myers isn’t good enough. If Gordon is a .300-hitter, which isn’t asking for the moon, there’s no reason that he shouldn’t have an on-base percentage in the .370-range.

While he many never be a Gold Glove-caliber shortstop, Gordon should be good enough to remain in the hole for most of his major league career. He’ll have to cut back on his errors, the 24 he committed as a shortstop led to a fielding percentage of .952.

Gordon remains skinny as a rail, so hopefully he'll continue to fill out as he continues to mature.

What's Next

Like many of the team’s top pitching prospects, Gordon is ticketed to start 2017 in Chattanooga. It wouldn’t be entirely unexpected for fellow shortstop Engelb Vielma to also start his season in the Southern League. Could that cause the Twins to move Gordon around? He did make two starts at second base last year as well as one at third base. And Vielma is known for his defensive wizardry. If Jorge Polanco proves that he can handle shortstop, could Gordon be Dozier’s eventual replacement? (I highly doubt that.)

There are many questions that the franchise will (continue to) face as it pertains to the middle infield, but when all's said and done, Nick Gordon will be the answer to one of them… and hopefully for a long, long time.

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68 Comments

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Nick Nelson
Feb 20 2017 09:36 PM

In my view, Gordon needs to take a physical step forward before he can surpass the three guys ahead of him on our list. He's a very safe bet to become a decent big-league regular, but it'll be hard to see him as more than that until he starts showing standout skills in a few areas. 

 

If he fills out and adds some strength that reflects on both his bat and arm, he can jump to the top of these rankings quickly. 

    • glunn, ScrapTheNickname, beckmt and 2 others like this

 

In my view, Gordon needs to take a physical step forward before he can surpass the three guys ahead of him on our list. He's a very safe bet to become a decent big-league regular, but it'll be hard to see him as more than that until he starts showing standout skills in a few areas. 

 

If he fills out and adds some strength that reflects on both his bat and arm, he can jump to the top of these rankings quickly. 

If he can become a "decent big-league regular" I will be happy. I am tired of revolving shortstops.

 

I am also hopeful that he will do whatever he can to exceed his brother. I like it when human nature is on our side.

    • dgwills likes this
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ScrapTheNickname
Feb 20 2017 11:59 PM

 



 

 

 

Thanks for the right-up, Jeremy, but I'm left flummoxed by the #4 rating.

 

Yes, his dad half-brother and and were professional baseball players of some stature. Add to that he has a tremendous work ethic. Okay. But then the reality of what kind of a player he is is revealed.

 

"enough glove to stick at shortstop ... solid ... not flashy ... .952 fielding percentage."

 

"potential .300-hitter each and every year [THE SOLE STELLAR TRAIT?)

 

. . 19 steals ... caught 13 times." With poor success like this I would think he simply runs less often in the future. [I could be wrong, but all along we've heard that he isn't FAST].

 

..."walk-rate .... 4.7%." I just fell over Delmon Young's dead body - and he's not even dead!

 

How is this guy ranked #4 in our system? I wonder how much of it is the vaunted family he comes from overriding real observations? I personally don't know, don't get me wrong. Just thinking this is a worthy concern to bring up.

    • glunn, mikelink45 and tarheeltwinsfan like this

This is where dreams and reality collide.  Ten years from now, Gordon will probably still be playing MLB.  Wander Javier will possibly/likely be the answer to a "Remember That Guy?" question.

 

It's like that first car dilemma I had back in '87.  Do you go with the Merkur XR4TI, or the Honda Accord?  (I went with a Chevy Beretta, splitting the difference)

    • gunnarthor and Vanimal46 like this
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JaleelWhite FanClub
Feb 21 2017 07:53 AM

 



 

 

Thanks for the right-up, Jeremy, but I'm left flummoxed by the #4 rating.

 

Yes, his dad half-brother and and were professional baseball players of some stature. Add to that he has a tremendous work ethic. Okay. But then the reality of what kind of a player he is is revealed.

 

"enough glove to stick at shortstop ... solid ... not flashy ... .952 fielding percentage."

 

"potential .300-hitter each and every year [THE SOLE STELLAR TRAIT?)

 

. . 19 steals ... caught 13 times." With poor success like this I would think he simply runs less often in the future. [I could be wrong, but all along we've heard that he isn't FAST].

 

..."walk-rate .... 4.7%." I just fell over Delmon Young's dead body - and he's not even dead!

 

How is this guy ranked #4 in our system? I wonder how much of it is the vaunted family he comes from overriding real observations? I personally don't know, don't get me wrong. Just thinking this is a worthy concern to bring up.

 

 

Who among numbers 5-10 would you have ahead of him? All those guys have big question marks attached to their names and have not had the production of Gordon in the minors. 

 

If anything I think he's too low. Gonsalves should be #1. I'd have Gordon at #2. Kirilloff has one season in E-town (a good but not mind-blowing debut) under his belt while Romero had a great 2016, but is one year removed from TJ surgery.

 

Gordon's been consistent and is still young enough where most expect him to continue to get bigger and improve the power side of his game.

    • brvama likes this

Gordon is blocked by a player better than him (Polanco) and is followed by another better than him (Javier).  Add to the fact that Vielma is probably ahead of him in MLB-readiness, much better with the glove and not that much lesser with the stick (esp if he quit switch hitting), and Gordon's future with the Twins should be obvious:  He should be traded as soon as possible for something the Twins need, like young starting pitching, possibly in a package with Dozier, Santana and/or other veterans... 

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JaleelWhite FanClub
Feb 21 2017 08:08 AM

 

Gordon is blocked by a player better than him (Polanco) and is followed by another better than him (Javier).  Add to the fact that Vielma is probably ahead of him in MLB-readiness, much better with the glove and not that much lesser with the stick (esp if he quit switch hitting), and Gordon's future with the Twins should be obvious:  He should be traded as soon as possible for something the Twins need, like young starting pitching, possibly in a package with Dozier, Santana and/or other veterans... 

 

I gotta say I'm on the complete opposite side of the argument from you.

 

Right now I'll take Gordon at short over the other three. Polanco's a 2B who is only at short now because Dozier's still on the team. Vielma's a glove-only guy who can't hit, and Javier has 9 games in the DSL under his belt. Gordon projects better than all those guys at SS.

 

IMO, we should be hoping that by 2018 at the latest, we'll see a Gordon-Polanco double-play tandem starting for the Twins into the foreseeable future. 

    • gunnarthor, ThejacKmp, mikelink45 and 3 others like this

 

 

 

Right now I'll take Gordon at short over the other three. Polanco's a 2B who is only at short now because Dozier's still on the team. Vielma's a glove-only guy who can't hit, and Javier has 9 games in the DSL under his belt. 

 

Vielma hit .271/.345/.318in AA,while Gordon hit.291/.335/.386 in High A. Vielma has less power but gets on base more often than Gordon.Vielma's problem is swinging from the left side.As a RHH last season he hit .338/.407/.416 in AA. And the jump from A+ to AA with the stick is significant.  Let's see what Gordon will do in AA.  This is his first season with OPS > .700

 

Vielma "cannot hit" is a suburban legend, brought to you by the same people who said that Polanco cannot play shortstop and Molitor apologized for yesterday...

Not trying to compare them but as an example of stats in A+ ball, as a 21 year old in A+ ball in 2011 Anderlton Simmons posted a .958 fielding percentage and had 28 errors, while also sporting a 5% BB rate. Let the kid develop...

    • Brock Beauchamp, Steve Lein, birdwatcher and 2 others like this

Surprised he's this low.  I think pretty much every national ranking has him #1 in our system and for good reason.  

 

Not really much to say with him.  He'll be 21 next year and in AA.  He has a few things to work on - like every prospect - but he seems pretty likely to be a solid MLer.  

    • birdwatcher, brvama, markos and 1 other like this
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Jeremy Nygaard
Feb 21 2017 08:43 AM

 

Not trying to compare them but as an example of stats in A+ ball, as a 21 year old in A+ ball in 2011 Anderlton Simmons posted a .958 fielding percentage and had 28 errors, while also sporting a 5% BB rate. Let the kid develop...

 

It's impossible to know exactly, but I'd guess Simmons committed a number of throwing errors on plays that no other human could have fielded the ball. 

 

It's also a one-year anomaly. All of his other years as a pro have been been better than all of Gordon's.  

 

But Simmons is in a tier all by himself defensively.

    • Willihammer likes this
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Taildragger8791
Feb 21 2017 08:47 AM

I'm good with Nick Gordon at #4 due to his higher-than-usual floor. Not every position on the diamond has to be a player with an elite skill. Sometimes you just need a steady & reliable guy at a key spot. I think of him as ending up like a Denard Span at SS (good at everything but not elite or terrible at anything) and I think we'd be pretty darn happy about that.

    • CUtomorrownight and BuxtonBandwagon like this
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Jeremy Nygaard
Feb 21 2017 08:53 AM

 

Vielma "cannot hit" is a suburban legend, brought to you by the same people who said that Polanco cannot play shortstop and Molitor apologized for yesterday...

 

I could "play" shortstop if I stood between second and third base, but I wouldn't be very good at it.

 

Polanco "plays" shortstop, but I've yet to see a metric that suggests he can PLAY shortstop.

    • ashbury, Twins33 and Vanimal46 like this

 



 

 

Thanks for the right-up, Jeremy, but I'm left flummoxed by the #4 rating.

 

Yes, his dad half-brother and and were professional baseball players of some stature. Add to that he has a tremendous work ethic. Okay. But then the reality of what kind of a player he is is revealed.

 

"enough glove to stick at shortstop ... solid ... not flashy ... .952 fielding percentage."

 

"potential .300-hitter each and every year [THE SOLE STELLAR TRAIT?)

 

. . 19 steals ... caught 13 times." With poor success like this I would think he simply runs less often in the future. [I could be wrong, but all along we've heard that he isn't FAST].

 

..."walk-rate .... 4.7%." I just fell over Delmon Young's dead body - and he's not even dead!

 

How is this guy ranked #4 in our system? I wonder how much of it is the vaunted family he comes from overriding real observations? I personally don't know, don't get me wrong. Just thinking this is a worthy concern to bring up.

 

Definitely a worthy concern to bring up; however, my defense for this ranking is twofold: 1) it is easy to underestimate how valuable a broad set of average skills can be, and 2) a CF/SS prospect can still be very valuable despite not hitting much.

 

My poster-child for this kind of player is Denard Span. He never hit many homers, but he made a lot of hard contact (consistent above-average BABIPs) which translated into a lot of doubles and triples. He didn't walk a ton, but his 8% walk rate was very good when combined to his very low strikeout rate. All said, his overall batting line is just slightly above-average (105 wRC+). He wasn't a great base-stealer and got picked off too often, but overall he was an above-average baserunner because he was good at taking extra bases and stretching singles into doubles and doubles into triples. He was never flashy in centerfield (not like Hunter or Gomez), but he was very consistent and made enough plays to be at least average, maybe even above-average. All told, he has averaged almost 3 WAR per season for 9 seasons. That is an extremely good and valuable player.

 

It isn't that much of a stretch to see Gordon in a similar light. He doesn't hit a lot of homers, but he makes hard contact and is getting extra bases. He is having some issues stealing bases, but all reports indicate that he is a heady baserunner who will take extra bases when available. I agree that he doesn't walk enough (relative to his strikeouts), but the Delmon Young comparison isn't completely fair - even Young, with all of his batting deficiencies, would have been perfectly fine big league player if he played an adequate CF or SS. In my mind, the big question is where exactly Gordon's defense will end up. Will he be a legitimate shortstop? Parsing through the scouting reports from the various prospect analysts, there is enough doubt to make me pause.

    • mikelink45 and CUtomorrownight like this
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Willihammer
Feb 21 2017 08:57 AM

I think this is a fair analysis. "Solid, not spectacular" glove seems about right, based on his fielding / range numbers. One quibble I would have is that a .300 BA is kind of a tall order these days. BA has been falling for a few years leaguewide. I don't see him improving from a .285 into a .300 hitter between A ball and MLB unless he shaves that k-rate down to nothing. So what I'd like to see personally are more walks, and more homers.

 

Surprised he's this low.  I think pretty much every national ranking has him #1 in our system and for good reason.  

 

Not really much to say with him.  He'll be 21 next year and in AA.  He has a few things to work on - like every prospect - but he seems pretty likely to be a solid MLer.  

Yeah, I definitely have him above Kirilloff.

Okay, I give up on hoping for an exciting end to the listing and I am convinced that the national rankings of our system are correct.  That said, Gordon is my definition of a good player.  Not great, just good.  Reminds me of one of my all time favorites - Johnny Logan who played for the championship Milwaukee Braves in the late fifties.  Nothing about Johnny was outstanding.  He did not have any one amazing attribute, he was reliable, he was durable, and he caught what he should catch and hit enough to fill a good lineup. http://www.baseball-...loganjo01.shtml I would take that any time.  That means I am happy to have him top ten, I am sorry the national rankings have him number 1 and I have tried not to anticipate who is in front of him, although the comments sections seem to have it nailed unless you can pull off a great surprise (which would be fun).   

I write these knowing I really no nothing.  I have not seen these guys, I just read what you and the other opinion and scouting reports say and try to process them. Thanks for keeping us involved. 

    • ScrapTheNickname and BuxtonBandwagon like this

I should have done this for all of them, but ...

 

Nick Gordon's Twins prospect rankings by some "rankers":

 

Twins Daily - 4

Seth - 4

Nick - 4

Jeremy - 3

Cody - 1

Baseball America - 1

Baseball Prospectus - 1

John Sickels (Minor League Ball) - 1

MLB Pipeline - 2

Keith Law - 1

 

    • birdwatcher and gunnarthor like this
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Taildragger8791
Feb 21 2017 09:31 AM

 

Vielma hit .271/.345/.318in AA,while Gordon hit.291/.335/.386 in High A. Vielma has less power but gets on base more often than Gordon.Vielma's problem is swinging from the left side.As a RHH last season he hit .338/.407/.416 in AA. And the jump from A+ to AA with the stick is significant.  Let's see what Gordon will do in AA.  This is his first season with OPS > .700

 

Vielma "cannot hit" is a suburban legend, brought to you by the same people who said that Polanco cannot play shortstop and Molitor apologized for yesterday...

 

I think that's an oversimplified view of his hitting. It's not so much that he can't hit at all, it's that he hits with the power of Ben Revere but without the elite base-stretching speed or contact ability. Even that meager career slash line of .264/.327/.309 will be difficult to maintain as he moves up and better pitchers challenge him knowing that he can't possibly do any damage. You're basically staring down a Pedro Florimon rerun.

 

Gordon has considerably more contact ability and way power (only 11 XBH for Vielma in all of 2016), and he's even showing some potential as a run producer. They're about the same on base-stealing, maybe a slight edge to Vielma as of today. I just don't see how the two even begin to compare with the stick.

    • birdwatcher likes this
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Nick Nelson
Feb 21 2017 09:42 AM

 

How is this guy ranked #4 in our system? I wonder how much of it is the vaunted family he comes from overriding real observations? I personally don't know, don't get me wrong. Just thinking this is a worthy concern to bring up.

 

A player who you can comfortably project as a capable MLB starting SS at the age of 21 is very valuable. I think most people believe he will keep maturing physically and add more muscle. National lists seem more presumptive to that end, which is why they're ranking him higher than we did. 

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nicksaviking
Feb 21 2017 09:44 AM

 

 

Vielma "cannot hit" is a suburban legend, brought to you by the same people who said that Polanco cannot play shortstop and Molitor apologized for yesterday...

 

He had a .663 OPS in AA last year which represented a career high. Unless someone wants to single out a stretch or two of simply not having a terrible batting average, I think the opinion that Vielma can't hit is more than valid.

    • birdwatcher and Vanimal46 like this

 

Vielma "cannot hit" is a suburban legend, brought to you by the same people who said that Polanco cannot play shortstop and Molitor apologized for yesterday...

 

I mean, Vielma can't hit isn't a legend - he's not particularly adept at that yet and it keeps him a fringe prospect. The nonexistent power tool means that MLB pitchers are going to make him hit so that OBP is not as likely to translate as he ascends to AAA and MLB. He's got to continue to hit, one reason I think he should be in AAA this year. He'll face more guys with an MLB mindset so we can see if he can potentially hit .260 on the MLB level.

 

I say this as a huge Vielma fan. I love having a top defensive shortstop, especially on a team that often eschews defense for power (Vielma makes Sano at 3B much more palatable for instance). But Vielma can't hit is a relatively valid concern. He's still only 22 and I'm hopeful he could be a big riser on this list if he can take a step at the plate but there are concerns.

    • ScrapTheNickname, Taildragger8791 and rghrbek like this

 

He had a .663 OPS in AA last year which represented a career high. Unless someone wants to single out a stretch or two of simply not having a terrible batting average, I think the opinion that Vielma can't hit is more than valid.

 

He is not a power hitter.  He will get on base at .345 clip.  OPS does not do him justice.  There is a certain shortstop with career .666 OPS who is a first ballot Hall of Famer... 

I agree with the general assessment that Gordon will be solid and all around defensively as well as offensively. What impresses me most about him is his attitude and work ethic. The guy just seems to "get it" and what it takes to develop and succeed. Gotta love a young SS prospect who works out with and gets advice from "Mr. Larkin" in the offseason.
    • gunnarthor and brvama like this
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nicksaviking
Feb 21 2017 10:14 AM

 

He is not a power hitter.  He will get on base at .345 clip.  OPS does not do him justice.  There is a certain shortstop with career .666 OPS who is a first ballot Hall of Famer... 

 

Ozzie Smith didn't get into the HOF because of his bat.

 

The only reason people wouldn't say that he couldn't hit was because he is a beloved icon and it would seem rude to do so.

 

Vielma also has a career .327 OBP, which isn't very satisfying considering there is no slugging to prop it up.


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