The Kansas City Royals are coming off their best season since 1989, and are looking to improve on their 86 wins in 2013. Going forward, we are going to take a closer look at the players that should play significant roles for the Royals in 2014, as they try to make their first post season appearance since winning the World Series in 1985.
If you want to read the other completed profiles, just click here. This link will be updated as we add more profiles over the upcoming weeks.
Up next: left fielder Alex Gordon
The Kansas City Royals left fielder Alex Gordon has be one of the most under rated players in all of Major League Baseball, though he is finally starting to get some recognition. Gordon has won a Gold Glove each of the last three years for his terrific work in the outfield.
Early in the week, KC Kingdom’s John Viril reported that Gordon was named to Sports Illustrated’s All-MLB preseason team. Word is getting out nationally, and Royals fans need to realize just how good Gordon is.
The biggest concern with Gordon is his drop in production in 2013. Last season, his slash line dropped significantly from what it was in 2011 and 2012. In 2013, his slash was .265/.327/.422/.749. Compare that with the 2-year slash from the previous to seasons – .298/.372/.475/.850. The numbers plummeted in every area.
Gordon was one of the most prominent successes of the Royals former hitting coach, Kevin Seitzer. Gordon bought in to his guru’s teaching, and the results were obvious.
One of the most concerning aspects of 2013 was Gordon drop in doubles. He crushed 45 in 2011, and 51 in 2012, but only 27 in 2013. His home runs bounced back last season to 20, after he notched just 14 the year before, but it was short of the 23 he belted in 2011.
The hope here is that Gordon can bounce back to his overall 2011-2012 averages, and that 2013 was just an off year (as is the hope for Billy Butler as well).
The worry is that 2011 and 2012 were the anomalies, and that 2013 is the norm. The fact is, last season was much more in line with his career stats than the two previous seasons.
There is a possibility that much of Gordon’s success was due to luck. In 2011, his Batting Average on Balls in Play was .358, and it was .356 in 2012. Last season, it was a more normal .310.
Gordon isn’t a predominately ground ball or fly ball hitter either. According to Fangraphs.com, for his career, Gordon hits ground balls 38.7% of the time, and fly balls 39.9%. In 2012, he hit line drives an extraordinary 25% of the time, probably explaining his 51 doubles. His fly balls less common (32.7%), so basically his home runs turned into doubles that season.
This all boils down to that 2011 and 2012 maybe the outliers offensively. Which means he may be actually closer to the hitter he was last season.
Another thing to consider is that Gordon has been much more successful as a lead off hitter than batting 5th, where he is slotted this season. Batting first, Gordon’s slash is .285/.358/.466/.824, in 1,343 plate appearances. In a much smaller sample size of 304 plate appearances, Gordon’s slash is .264/.338/.398/.736.
Now, this isn’t something to worry about right away, but if he struggles early, the Royals will have to take a look at this. He has never produced well when hitting in the middle of the line up.
One last thing to discuss about Gordon is his glove. Over the past three seasons, Alex Gordon has an Ultimate Zone Rating, according to Fangraphs.com, of 35.4 – 12.2 in 2011, 14.6 in 2012, and 8.6 in 2013. All of these numbers are very good.
He also leads the majors with 54 outfield assists over those 3 seasons, hence the trio of Gold Gloves on his mantle. Right now, he is the best fielding left fielder in the game.
The key to Alex Gordon’s season, and may be for the Royals offensively, is if he can produce in the number 5 hole. He will have to break his career trends in this department, but he is more mature as a hitter than he was when most of the number were accumulated for hitting 5th.
He always appeared to be pressing too hard when he was in the middle of the order but maybe now, he has grown as a hitter, and maybe he can be that run producer the Royals need in that spot behind Butler.
Gordon seems to fly under the radar when fans discuss this Royals team, but he needs to be a major contributor for the Royals to challenge for a post season berth. He has to show that 2013 was the outlier now, not 2011-2012. If Alex Gordon can be what he was in those two years, the Royals are going to score a lot more runs.