Dee Gordon: The New Juan Pierre?

It’s not often that a player we failed to even rank in the preseason finishes third in overall value at his position. But that’s exactly what Dee Gordon did, earning the third highest dollar value among second basemen this year. If someone told you that Gordon would earn nearly $3 more than Robinson Cano this year before the season began, you would have laughed in his face. But maybe it shouldn’t have been so shocking.

After the Dodgers signed Alexander Guerrero out of Cuba, the assumption was that he, not Gordon, would open the season as the Dodgers starting second baseman. But the team was concerned about his defense during Spring Training and they therefore decided to start Guerrero in the minors to open the year. We figured this would be a rather short-term stay, so Gordon would man second base for maybe a month, keeping the seat warm for Guerrero’s eventual promotion. While Guerrero did perform well offensively during his stay in the minors, he missed significant time due to an unfortunate ear incident and that guaranteed he would have no chance to unseat Gordon.

Even though Gordon figured to only start for about a month, there was a possibility he would still only be a platoon guy, though on the strong side of a platoon, partnering with the right-handed Justin Turner. That never materialized though, as Gordon ended up recording 141 plate appearances against southpaws and actually posted a better wOBA against them than versus righties.

Gordon is no stranger to the sleeper label. Unfortunately, he has never delivered on that promise to fantasy owners because of both defensive issues and the BABIP dragons. In 2011, he flashed his fantasy potential, batting .304 and stealing 24 bases over just 233 plate appearances. But a terrible -20.8 UZR/150 meant that the Dodgers simply couldn’t afford to make him their every day shortstop. And without a whole lot of real life offensive value, it was difficult to justify keeping him in the lineup.

It seemed clear that Gordon needed a position change and he ended up performing much better at second base. Of course, he still finished with a negative UZR, but he was still dramatically better than he had been at shortstop. And he ended up posting the highest wOBA of his short career, thanks to a rebound in BABIP. And that BABIP was driven by a much improved IFFB%. Smartly, Gordon takes full advantage of his speed and complete lack of power by slapping the ball on the ground. But he had a pop-up problem in the past. He got that under control finally and actually posted a lower than average mark. His batted ball profile looks a lot closer to Juan Pierre’s now, which is where it needs to be. He’ll need a high BABIP though because he strikes out far more than Pierre ever did.

Gordon ended up leading baseball with 64 steals, which wasn’t really surprising, except for the fact that he came to the plate enough times to even attempt that many steals. But we knew that if given the playing time, this was his upside. However, looking toward next year, there is great risk. Guerrero is still around. Gordon still provides no defensive value. And he needed a .346 BABIP just to get to a .312 wOBA. It wouldn’t be that shocking to see Guerrero tearing it up again in the minors and Gordon struggling through April with a .280 BABIP, offering nothing positive to the Dodgers aside from his base running when he does manage to get on base.

In my experience, Pierre-type players are typically undervalued, and Gordon has a short history of disappointing. So it’s hard to envision him being overvalued in fantasy leagues, but he’s still someone I will likely shy away from. I doubt he’ll be undervalued and he carries real playing time risk, so I would look elsewhere at the position.





Mike Podhorzer is the 2015 Fantasy Sports Writers Association Baseball Writer of the Year. He produces player projections using his own forecasting system and is the author of the eBook Projecting X 2.0: How to Forecast Baseball Player Performance, which teaches you how to project players yourself. His projections helped him win the inaugural 2013 Tout Wars mixed draft league. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikePodhorzer and contact him via email.

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Ryan S
7 years ago

“An unfortunate ear incident” lolz

joser
7 years ago
Reply to  Ryan S

I often forget he was the Evander Holyfield memorial chew toy in that incident; I will always and forever think of it as the Olivo Bite Fight.