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Twins Draft Preview: Nick Gordon

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Arguably, it's been quite a long time since the Twins have employed a franchise type player at the most important position on the diamond, shortstop (I'll leave J.J. Hardy out of this conversation). Since 2004 when Christian Guzman last manned the position, the Twins have sent players such as Jason Castro, Jason Bartlett, Nick Punto, Matt Tolbert, Adam Everett, Orlando Cabrera, Alexi Casilla, Trevor Plouffe, Brian Dozier, Pedro Florimon, and Eduardo Escobar out there for extended playing time, to extremely underwhelming results (recent play of Escobar not withstanding).

The Twins could do well to change this organizational shortcoming with the fifth overall pick in the 2014 draft, where there are a few highly touted players at this position, including North Carolina State’s Trea Turner. But there is another shortstop where the connections with the Twins have been much louder leading up to this draft, and that has been with Windermere, FL high schooler, Nick Gordon.

Who is this guy?

A conversation about Gordon should almost certainly start with a look at his pedigree. He is the younger brother of current MLB second-baseman, Dee Gordon of the Dodgers, and son of former MLB reliever, Tom “Flash” Gordon.

Much like his brother Dee, Nick has above-average speed and came up playing shortstop, but that is nearly where the similarities end. The difference between them has been Nick’s bat, which took a big step forward in 2014 after adding some strength to his upper body. This has made him a far more highly regarded draft prospect than Dee, who was selected by the Dodgers in the fourth round of the 2008 draft.

While he shares the position and speed similarity with his brother, Nick also possesses one of the draft’s best infield arms, which came courtesy of his father, “Flash.” On a high school mound Nick touches the mid-90’s, and translates this arm strength easily to the shortstop position. Scouts also praise Gordon’s instincts for the position, and he carries far less doubts about his long term outlook to stay at short than the usual prep player. Jonathan Mayo of MLB.com echoed these thoughts recently while discussing Gordon for the Chicago Cubs at pick number four: “It's a common situation every year to see players who man shortstop as amateurs but aren't expected to stay there long-term as professionals. Gordon, without a doubt, will play shortstop at the highest level. He has the arm, the hands and the range to be an outstanding defender at short.”

Why the Twins will pick him

In their recent history, if the Twins have targeted a high school position player early in the draft, it’s been for players that had potential with their bat (Travis Harrison) or great athleticism (Niko Goodrum) for their position and it can be said that Gordon possesses both these qualities. Add in the fact that the Twins have been devoid of a long-term solution at shortstop for ten years now, and it’s hard to miss why the Twins might be in on him.

Gordon is a left-handed batter who is praised more for gap-to-gap power than raw power potential that he could grow into, but this is also what makes him more appealing if you’re looking for a shortstop. Even though he added strength to his 6’2” frame, he's been described as a “wiry” build that onlookers don’t see outgrowing the position or his athleticism for it.

When you combine all of these elements together, you get a premium prospect at a premium position who definitely deserves a long look.

Why the Twins will not pick him

If you believe most of the rumblings, only one of the top pitchers (Aiken, Kolek, Rodon, or Nola) may prevent the Twins from selecting Gordon.

The Twins do already have a few intriguing middle-infield prospects in their farm system, including Jorge Polanco, Niko Goodrum, and the Twins recent spark plug, Danny Santana. But all of these players have questions related to their long-term outlook at shortstop, or have already played considerable innings at other positions.

Even though the comments above do temper this concern, it does always exist in some capacity if the expectation of drafting a high schooler is for him to stick at shortstop. It simply is a rarity that any of them make it to the big leagues in that capacity or develop the hitting skills to stay there in the majors. His own brother has certainly been a prime example, and this has also been the case for the Twins with players like Casilla, Plouffe, Dozier and Florimon reaching the big leagues at short, but not sticking for long.

If there isn't another player atop the Twins board at number five, it’s likely none of these reasons would deter them from adding one of the best high school position players available in 2014 to the organization.
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