Those were the words of Minnesota Twins scouting director Deron Johnson talking about the team’s first round pick, Nick Gordon.
“Just to be picked by Minnesota, it’s the greatest feeling in the world.”
That is how Nick Gordon described his emotions upon being selected with the fifth overall pick in the 2014 MLB Draft.
It seems like a match made in heaven. The Twins are a team always looking for athleticism, and Gordon provides that. There is a lot to like about the young shortstop from Orlando, Florida.
“(We liked) his ability to play shortstop. We think he’s offensive. He’s got a really good swing. I think he’s going to have power down the road. He’s going to stay at shortstop, in my mind. He’s got great work ethic. Great kid. Big league bloodlines with his brother and his dad. We expect big things from him.”
His brother, Dee, is the second baseman of the Los Angeles Dodgers. He is in his fourth season with the Dodgers and just now becoming the player many thought he would become. He is hitting .279/.327/.372 with 15 extra base hits. He already has 35 stolen bases and the season is just one-third over.
Is Nick as fast as Dee? According to Johnson, “There’s not too many people in baseball with his brother’s speed, but he can run. He doesn’t show you a great time on the clock just because he’s got a pretty big swing, and he’s got power. But he’s a plus-runner.”
Their father, Tom “Flash” Gordon debuted with the Kansas City Royals as a 20-year-old in 1988. He played for the Royals until 1995. He spent time with the Red Sox, the Cubs, the Astros, the White Sox, the Yankees, the Phillies and the Diamondbacks before retiring after the 2009 season. He had a solid major league career, though he really became a star once he moved into the bullpen.
Nick Gordon has spent his life around the game of baseball thanks to his father. “It’s been all my life. Ever since I was born, my dad had me in a clubhouse. Always had a bat and ball, always trying to get on a baseball field.”
He understands and appreciates what he has in his father and his brother. “Without my dad and my brother, I wouldn’t be where I am today. Everything I know and everything that they’ve taught me. I’ve used it in my game. It’s made me a totally better player and a better person, and I thank God for them every day.”
Deron Johnson talked a little bit about how the bloodlines matter in scouting. “In the scouting world, we always say big league bloodlines are going to help at some point. You really don’t know, but the kid is made up right.”
He added what might be the biggest advantage when a player does have family with that big league acumen. “(Confidence is) what really helps him out with the big league bloodlines because there’s a lot of peaks and valleys in baseball. He’s a pretty even-keeled kid.”
But let’s not confuse things. Nick Gordon was not the fifth overall pick solely because his dad and brother are major league baseball players. Gordon has earned his lofty draft position. The Twins first saw him when he was a sophomore in high school when they were at his high school to see a couple other players they were scouting.
Scouts talk about the five tools; hitting, hitting for power, fielding, arm and speed. The Twins believe he already has four of those tools. They believe he will hit. They believe he can stick at shortstop because he is a very solid, sure fielder. He also has the 90+ mph arm which will help him make those long throws from deep in the hole. Though he isn’t as fast as his brother, he also has great speed.
Where even the Twins draft room was divided is whether or not he will develop the power tool. Johnson said he believes he will develop some power as he continues to grow and mature and learn the game. “I think he’s going to have power. We all think he’s going to hit for high average. If he hits for power, he can be a JJ Hardy type, or a Stephen Drew type.”
For what it’s worth, Gordon also believes he will be able to hit the ball out of the park. “I think I can be a line drive, gap-to-gap hitter, but I also think I can hit 20 to 25 bombs a year. I can be that leadoff guy. I can be the next Carl Crawford leading off, or the next Derek Jeter leading off. I pattern my game after those guys at the plate. I know I can be a 1 or 2 or 3 hitter in the game someday.”
Although it isn’t always listed with the other five tools, many people now put “plate discipline” in the category of the tools. It is an area that both Gordon and Johnson say he continued to improve in his senior year in high school. It’s a skill that is very important as he progresses up the organizational ladder.
Plate discipline also speaks to poise and maturity which is important when you consider giving such a young man a large signing bonus. The slot amount for the number five pick this year is about $3.85 million. There is no question that Gordon will be able to handle the money and continue to work as hard as he has to get to this point.
Beyond the bloodlines, Gordon has some of the intangibles that can take him to that next level. “I’m so competitive now. I love winning, and I love being a leader.”
When asked who some of the players were who he looked up to and admired, we get a glimpse of what makes him so special as a person and as a prospect. “Derek Jeter and my brother. I get compared to my brother a lot, but I want to be the player Derek Jeter was one day. He’s a leader. He’s accountable. He’s always in the right place. He’s a professional on and off the field. My brother can really play the game. He plays the game hard, and he doesn’t take it for granted. Even through the struggles, he’s learned to work his way through them and make adjustments. I want to be able to do that when I get older, and I know I’ll be able to do that.”
Last summer, Gordon came to the Twin Cities for the Perfect Game Nationals. He enjoyed it, but he understands the weather in Minnesota will not be the same as it was in Orlando.
“One thing I really knew is it was really cold in Minnesota. I’ve got to make that adjustment. But if I’m cold, then everyone else is cold. I’m going to enjoy playing in the cold, and in the climate. Being away from home, I’m ready to see it.”
When asked, Deron Johnson said that he didn’t know where Gordon would start his journey as a professional baseball saying that once he signs, it will be up to Brad Steil and the player development team. That said, we can make some assumptions based on history.
On signing, he will begin his professional career, most likely with the Gulf Coast League Twins. If he performs and looks comfortable, there is a good chance he will end the year with a stint in Elizabethton. Following the season, he will likely be invited to Florida Instructional League.
That is the path that the Twins went with Byron Buxton, their first round draft pick in 2012. That is the path that they went with both Kohl Stewart, last year’s top choice. In each of those cases, the players began their first full season in Cedar Rapids.
It’s a long journey from high school draft pick to the big leagues and for Nick Gordon his journey with the Minnesota Twins is about to take off. It should be a lot of fun for us to watch at Twins Daily over the coming years.