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Archive for Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Woodling: Gordon maturing slowly

July 15, 2008

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Distinctively handsome with curly locks and an impish smile, Alex Gordon personifies the combination of looks and talent.

Gordon was the Royals' first-round selection - the second player chosen - in the 2005 June Draft after earning College Player of the Year honors at Nebraska University.

A year later, following an impressive season at the Royals' farm team in Wichita, Gordon was tapped Minor League Player of the Year by Baseball America magazine.

During those halcyon years, Gordon was baseball's Golden Boy. Now, after a season and a half in a Royals uniform, Gordon is little more than a run-of-the-mill major-league player.

Sure, it's too early to label Gordon a flop, but after hitting .247 as a rookie last season and carrying a .253 average into the All-Star break, the jury can't stay out much longer.

While Gordon remains wrapped in Teflon in Kansas City, his underwhelming achievements to date haven't escaped the national media. Not too long ago, for example, a baseball writer for the Chicago Tribune penned: "Evan Longoria is what Alex Gordon was supposed to be."

Longoria, a rookie third baseman with Tampa Bay, was selected for the American League All-Star team. He leads the Rays in homers, RBIs and slugging percentage. His defense is just as good as his offense.

Like Gordon, Longoria was a high draft choice. He was the third player to go in '06, the same year the Royals made pitcher Luke Hochevar the No. 1 pick. So Longoria is an All-Star during his rookie season, while Gordon wasn't even under consideration in his second year.

Is Longoria really that much better than Gordon?

Defensively, the two are pretty much a wash. Gordon is a very good fielder, too. On offense, Longoria owns a huge edge in slugging percentage (.513 to .407), mainly because he has hit five more home runs than Gordon. And Longoria also has a little better batting average (.270 to .253).

Both players strike out too much. Gordon ranks fourth in the AL with 89 whiffs and Longoria sixth with 82. Both have walked about the same number of times and have similar strikeout-to-walk ratios of 2.3-to-1.

Given the choice, fantasy baseball owners - at this stage anyway - would also rather have Longoria than Gordon. But, with 21â2 months remaining in the season, it's also possible Longoria could tail off and Gordon could kick into high gear.

If Gordon has a positive, it's that his strikeout-to-walk ratio is down from 3.3-to-1 last year when he fanned 137 times and drew only 44 walks. But he still hits about 100 points lower against left-handed pitchers than right-handers, and, unless he solves that platoon weakness, he's just another Mark Teahen.

Teahen, who moved to the outfield to allow Gordon to play third two years ago, is hitting .252 with a .323 on-base percentage and a .408 slugging percentage. Gordon's corresponding numbers are an uncanny .253, .334 and .407.

Teahen, pushing 27, probably has attained his level of competence. Has Gordon at the age of 24?

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