The Twins drafted Nick Gordon with the fifth overall pick in the 2014 MLB Draft. There can be plenty of pressure put on a top-5 draft pick, but that was even more true for Gordon. His brother, Dee Strange-Gordon, and his father, Tom Gordon, were All-Stars during their respective careers. There’s no quest that Gordon faced added pressure as a prospect, which might have impacted his development throughout his career.
MLB’s draft is different from the other major sports leagues because no players immediately impact the big-league level. In Gordon’s draft, three players taken after him in the first round have accumulated more than 25 WAR, including Trea Turner, Aaron Nola, and Matt Chapman. It’s easy for fans to play the “what if” game with any of these players, but draft baseball talent isn’t an exact science. Gordon was highly touted as an amateur and deserved to be a top-10 pick.
After signing with the Twins, Gordon immediately became one of the organization’s top-ranked prospects. All three major national rankings (Baseball America, MLB, and Baseball Prospectus) placed Gordon among baseball’s top 100 prospects for four consecutive seasons (2015-18). During that stretch, his highest OPS was in 2017, when he combined for 46 extra-base hits at Double-A. Gordon proved he could consistently get on base, but his power hadn’t developed. Unfortunately, multiple health issues impacted his development moving forward.
Besides the pressures of being a top prospect, Gordon dealt with two health issues that had a chance to cost him his career. His entire 2020 season was erased when he tested positive for COVID-19 and didn’t clear protocols until late August. Gordon has also dealt with chronic gastritis that causes him to lose weight. He’s a naturally skinny player, but he was down to 153-pounds at one point. Luckily, he has worked through his health concerns and is currently playing at 180-pounds.
It’s hard to put in perspective what Gordon has meant to the Twins during the 2022 season. Royce Lewis and Alex Kirilloff being out for the year has forced players like Gordon to step up and fill a prominent role. Gordon is doing more than filling in as he is putting himself into the team’s future plans. He ranks in the 79th percentile or higher in Barrel %, Average Exit Velocity, Hard Hit %, xSLG, and xwOBA. Also, Gordon ranks 9th on the Twins according to both versions of WAR. Every team needs role players, and Gordon is more than filling his role.
There is no question that Gordon has been invaluable to the 2022 Twins, but the team might be lucky in other ways. Because he was a late-bloomer, Gordon is not arbitration eligible until 2025, and he can’t reach free agency until 2028. Currently, he is 26 years old, so Minnesota can control the prime of his career.
Gordon may never be an All-Star like the other members of his family, but he is proving the Twins were right to draft him so highly. Not every prospect pans out, but the Twins would be in a much different position if Gordon wasn’t making plays for a first-place team.
What has stood out to you most about Gordon this season? What do you remember about his minor league career? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.