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Did Nick Gordon Do Enough?


Ted Schwerzler

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This upcoming season the Minnesota Twins have plenty to decide when it comes to their middle infield. They need a shortstop, and while that could be Jorge Polanco, I’d advise them looking elsewhere. Where, though, does that leave rookie Nick Gordon?

Playing in 73 games and getting exactly 200 plate appearances, Gordon found himself getting a good amount of run for Rocco Baldelli’s squad. There should have been more opportunity had Andrelton Simmons not clogged things for the entirety of the season, but nonetheless Gordon was given a glimpse.

For the past few seasons, I have wondered whether Gordon’s time would come with Minnesota at all. He has a track record of performing well when repeating a level for the second time, and despite missing 2020 with the minor league shutdown, he showed up ready to go in 2021. Miscast as a shortstop, and lacking the power for a second basemen, Gordon needed to reinvent himself. He proved capable of that this season, but where does that leave him going forward?

As a fielder, Gordon saw action at six different positions this past season. The bulk of his playing time came in centerfield (34 G), and his true home of second base was doubled up (17 G). He also made 14 appearances at shortstop, where he’d contest is home, and 12 in the corner outfield with two cameos at third base. Because of his versatility, he was routinely an option for the Twins and fantasy managers alike.

From an all encompassing perspective, it was a jack of all trades, master of none approach. To be fair, that’s ultimately what a utility player is. Gordon adapting to the outfield on the fly should be seen as an incredible boost for the Twins, and something definitely working in his favor. Recording just over 220 innings in centerfield, Gordon posted a -1 DRS there with a -0.8 UZR. It’s too small of a sample size to take much from, but he did also record 1 DRS in 110 innings at second base.

Ultimately, I think that Nick Gordon proved he can be useful anywhere on the diamond. The question still remains if Minnesota should want him in that capacity. On the offensive side of things, the former first round pick slashed .240/.292/.355 for a .647 OPS and a 79 OPS+. Minnesota’s last two utility players posted a 94 OPS+ (Marwin Gonzalez) and a 103 OPS+ (Ehire Adrianza) during the final full year that was 2019. Both were terrible in 2020, but I’d imagine that’s not the bar the Twins are looking to clear.

Gordon’s additional strength is that he can run. The Twins haven’t had much of a stolen base threat outside of Byron Buxton in recent seasons. They definitely have not had a capable pinch runner on their bench. Swiping ten bags and being caught just once, Gordon displayed an ability to generate runs on the basepaths this season. If that’s a skill or advantage Minnesota is looking for, he’s the cheapest option.

I’m not sure if Gordon makes the 26-man to start 2022 or not, but he’s certainly made his case better than it was at any other point coming into his career. There’s not a ton to hope on future development here, but if Minnesota wants to make use of their former first round pick, then it’s seeming like they’ve got a path to get it done.

For more from Off The Baggy, click here. Follow @tlschwerz

Edited by Ted Schwerzler

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Gordon should absolutely be back next year.

Ehire Adrianza was rocking a career wRC+ similar to Gordon's when he came to Minnesota after being DFA'd by SF even though they had made it a point to pay Adrianza on a $600k contract to avoid his first year of arbitration. Adrianza was then claimed by Milwaukee, who also promptly DFA'd him only to have him be claimed by the Twins a few days later.

Why does that matter? To me, it's illustrative of what many teams view as a utility player. Cheap. Playable when you need to fill a spot, but not somebody you want to play as a starter. Still better than rotating typical AAA talent through the roster. Gordon is young, but has no options. Sticking him in as a utility player protects his upside while not costing the Twins any competitive edge on the field.

The Twins deviated from that recently, though. Marwin Gonzalez was viewed as a full time utility player. A guy who would be platooned across the team as a starter and the Twins paid through the nose to get it by utility standards with a 2 year $21MM contract leading to 2.0 fWAR (adjusted for shortened 2020). Maybe 2-3x the production of the average utility player at 20x the price.

Just have to see what they do.

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A utility guy is often just that, a versatile stop-gap until you promote the next generation from the minors to play everyday. He gives people on the roster a rest. Maybe has a skillset like a defensive replacement in blow-out games, a speedy runner if looking for base advancement, someone who hits a sacrifice fly (possibly) or puts a ball in play to move a runner.

 

If that person can also play an everyday role when called upon, for the short-term, it is a bonus. Cave did it before in the outfield. Players like Reboulet and Hocking did it regularly for the Twins. Ehire was fine. WIllians Astudillo can, but also has a price cap for how well he can.

 

Gordon has earned another good look in spring training, and also the inside chance of making the roster. After getting some at bats, have to see how he will change his game, so to speak, and what he can add top his skill set.

 

Otherwise, you go with the Riddles, Maggis, and others.

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To answer the question posed in the headline, he did as much as he could with what he was given. 

Despite impressively transitioning to the OF/CF on the fly, he was still used a bit inconsistently in a losing year. There were absolutely additional opportunities to play he could have been given.

His offense wasn't great, but was solid enough for a utility type. He showed a little pop and no question the speed he displayed is very welcome. 

He's always been know for building on his previous experience at a repeat of a level. That should hopefully be the situation here. Additionally, what would a good, healthy 10-15 pounds do for this kid? Sure hope to find out.

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To me Gordon deserves a spot on the club.  They way they have jerked him around all year he did whatever they needed and did it well.  Unfortunately the Twins have a reputation for not treating their young players fair.  They leave them dangle in the minors for years then USE that person for their own benefits.  You don't USE players you develop them and promote them

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21 hours ago, bean5302 said:

Gordon should absolutely be back next year.

Ehire Adrianza was rocking a career wRC+ similar to Gordon's when he came to Minnesota after being DFA'd by SF even though they had made it a point to pay Adrianza on a $600k contract to avoid his first year of arbitration. Adrianza was then claimed by Milwaukee, who also promptly DFA'd him only to have him be claimed by the Twins a few days later.

Why does that matter? To me, it's illustrative of what many teams view as a utility player. Cheap. Playable when you need to fill a spot, but not somebody you want to play as a starter. Still better than rotating typical AAA talent through the roster. Gordon is young, but has no options. Sticking him in as a utility player protects his upside while not costing the Twins any competitive edge on the field.

The Twins deviated from that recently, though. Marwin Gonzalez was viewed as a full time utility player. A guy who would be platooned across the team as a starter and the Twins paid through the nose to get it by utility standards with a 2 year $21MM contract leading to 2.0 fWAR (adjusted for shortened 2020). Maybe 2-3x the production of the average utility player at 20x the price.

Just have to see what they do.

Three things: 1) Ehire Adrianza was (and is) a legitimate shortstop. That factor increases his value greatly. Gordon can't make that claim. 2) Not sure about this, but if Gordon has no options remaining, trying to send him to the minors probably would end his time in Minnesota. 3) Adrianza and Gonzalez are both switch hitters without discernible platoon splits. Gordon hits left handed and isn't a great fit for (limited) platoon duty, especially with Arraez around without a regular postion.

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3 hours ago, stringer bell said:

Three things: 1) Ehire Adrianza was (and is) a legitimate shortstop. That factor increases his value greatly. Gordon can't make that claim. 2) Not sure about this, but if Gordon has no options remaining, trying to send him to the minors probably would end his time in Minnesota. 3) Adrianza and Gonzalez are both switch hitters without discernible platoon splits. Gordon hits left handed and isn't a great fit for (limited) platoon duty, especially with Arraez around without a regular postion.

I'm not saying Nick Gordon is Ehire Adrianza's clone. I'm saying Nick Gordon fills the typical profile for a utility player. Cheap. Not somebody you think you want to start, but still has some potential upside. Able to cover a lot of defensive positions.

  1. The Twins made it clear they don't trust Nick Gordon at shortstop at the MLB level; however, they also made it clear they viewed him as a shortstop by playing him the vast majority of his time across 4,500 MiLB innings. Some utility players are viewed as defensive wizards, but not all of them. Danny Santana and Eduardo Nunez were horrible shortstops and Adrianza was mediocre.
  2. Yes. If Gordon cleared waivers on a DFA, analysts and fans would be stunned. 
  3. Gordon hasn't hit left handed pitching well as a lefty, but platoon players are generally players who do not hit effectively against both righties and lefties. I don't see the Twins platooning Arraez with anybody next year. With Donaldson on the roster and Miranda pounding at the door, the need for Arraez to cover 3rd is neglible. He can't play shortstop or cover center field making Arraez a poor option for utility, not to mention he's proven to have the talent to be a starter and has a ton of trade value. Arraez is certainly not pushing Polanco off 2nd base and what a debacle it would be to move Polanco back to shortstop. Bottom line, Arraez/Polanco/Donaldson/Miranda are an incompatible, not complimentary group.
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If the Twins think his bat is going to stay around a 79 OPS+ bat, then they should move on. I  like what else he gives us but his bat needs to improve. He really struggled in July and August (limited at-bats) but his bat heated up a bit at the end of the year, with more consistent playing time. 

With 26 man benches, his speed and versatility makes sense but you have to be Nick Punto to get away with such a low OPS+.

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I would like to see what he could do at short for a while IF we can't get a mid-tier free agent or perhaps trade for a starter until Lewis is ready. Otherwise who else do we have? I strongly say NO to moving Polo back, just leave him alone to do his thing at 2nd, and it will take some time before Lewis is back in game shape. Looking down the minors is it Polacios? I don't think so, not yet anyhow.

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Gordon had a few stretches batting that tantalized among long stretches of futility and didn’t field well enough. I’d think he earned enough to not get DFA’d until the spring and compete to be a super-utility player, but not enough that I’d be willing to consider him in a starting role in ‘22. He would not be a 26 man lock for me at this point.

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I will hold onto my ballot until I see more, which I think he deserves. I think he gained confidence as the season wound down. 

One guy who can play infield and outfield might be enough. Maybe it will be Gordon

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