Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Alex Gordon is king of Missouri

If you look at the overall value of non-pitching ballplayers over the last two seasons, you would probably guess most of the top five players. But it is almost guaranteed that you would miss who comes in at Number Five. You have Braun on top. Yup. Cabrera is second. Indeed. Cano is third. Got it. McCutchen is fourth. A mild surprise, but okay. And then there is Alex Gordon. Alex Gordon? Yes, Alex Gordon, the king of Missouri.

And Alex Gordon is one of those rare players where Fangraphs and Baseball-Reference actually agree. Fangraphs says Gordon has compiled 12.8 fWAR the last two seasons. B-R gives him 13.3 rWAR. The problem for Gordon is that he has played for the Kansas City Royals, a team whose celebrated team bloggers are more known for their ire and anger at the team's management than anything else. The Royals have lost 181 games over the last two seasons.

But maybe this season will be different in Kansas City. The additions of James Shields, Ervin Santana and Wade Davis along with a full season of Jeremy Guthrie at least gives the Royals four starting pitchers you can't laugh at like in seasons past. A full season of Salvador Perez should help too behind the plate. If Moustakas and Hosmer find their way after difficult seasons in 2012, Alex Gordon might actually play some games that matter.

If that happens, the Royals might make a national telecast or three. They won't play in a vacuum or a black hole. And then the world might discover just how good Alex Gordon has become.

It was a slow road to get to this point for Gordon. He was the second overall pick in the 2005 draft after a stellar college career. The Royals had Gordon skip all the lower levels in the minors and started him at Double-A in Wichita. Gordon did not seem fazed and clocked a 1.016 OPS there in 2006. But then Gordon suffered the fate of great young talents on really bad teams. He was rushed to the majors.

Gordon, then a third baseman, held his own in 151 games his rookie season. He compiled a .725 OPS in 2007 which was somewhat promising considering he only had one year in the minors under his belt. The following season went even better as he compiled an OPS of .789 or a 109 OPS+. It appeared Alex Gordon was progressing toward the path of stardom.

But then he hit a wall in 2009 and 2010. His star fell so rapidly and his performance suffered so radically, that he was sent to the minors during both seasons. By the start of 2011, Alex Gordon was a former phenom pushed aside by the excitement of the new phenoms in Hosmer and Moustakas. But then an unexpected development happened. Alex Gordon came into his own in 2011 and became the team's best player.

Gordon won a Gold Glove in 2011. Now a left fielder, he led the league in assists. His bat became electric as his wOBA soared to .382. A player that was a symbol of failed promise became one of the best in the league. But was it a fluke? Could he repeat 2011? Or was it a career year that would vanish away again like it had going from 2008 to 2009?

Gordon's 2012 should have put away those questions. His offense fell off just a bit from 2011 to 2012. His wOBA went from .382 to .357. But he was even better in the field. He led the league in doubles with an incredible 51 to give him 96 of them in two seasons. After throwing out twenty runners in 2011, he threw out seventeen more in 2012. His on-base percentage has been over .360 the last two seasons. He has compiled 374 hits the last two seasons. He is the complete package.

And maybe, just maybe, 2013 might be the year when more than just fantasy baseball players will discover just how good Alex Gordon is. Maybe he'll actually make an All Star team. Maybe a third straight Gold Glove will convince a few more people how good he is of a left fielder. If the Royals can become competitive in 2013, then Alex Gordon will become the superstar in people's minds outside of Kansas City.

Alex Gordon is a superstar. And more people should know that. He is the undisputed king of Missouri. Perhaps 2013 will be the season he explodes on the world's consciousness.

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