To say Dee Gordon was overhyped this preseason would be an understatement. Everywhere you looked someone was predicting him to steal 40+ bases. Our man Eno Sarris even made a bold prediction that he would steal 60 bases without hitting a single home run. He looks to be wrong on both accounts. Gordon had an average positional draft position of 10th on Mock Draft Central. The Rotographs consensus rankings had him 7th. What has he done to repay those brave enough to make such predictions? Become one of the worst everyday players in the game.
That last line isn’t hyperbole. Gordon is hitting .200/.244/.255 in 156 plate appearances. He does have 12 steals so he’s running at every opportunity. It’s extremely hard to steal bases from the bench, though, which is where his poor play has landed him. Manager Don Mattingly has given him a few “mental health” days instead of calling it an outright benching, but with the Dodgers facing a bunch of lefties in Arizona this week it’s possible he won’t see another start until Friday. In this L.A. Times article Gordon says he doesn’t think he’s being pitched differently this year. That’s not necessarily true. Last season he saw fastballs 67 percent of the time and this season it’s 63. The drop in fastball rate has been replaced by an uptick in changeups, from 7.9 percent to 10.4. He had success in his 56 game debut last season but the book may be out on him. Adjusting to major league caliber off speed pitches is a challenge all young players face. He’ll need to adjust to have any success.
He’s also hitting six percent more fly balls than season, and ~seven percent more infield flies. Mattingly should give Gordon the Willie Mays Hayes treatment and force him to do pushups for every ball he hits in the air. You can’t outrun a fly ball. While Gordon tries to remember how to hit again 26-year-old Justin Sellers will be starting in his place. Sellers isn’t exactly setting the world on fire either, hitting .186/.271/.372 but does have a hit in four straight games. If the Dodgers didn’t have a rash of injuries I’m not sure Gordon would still be up in the big leagues. Their disabled list includes Mark Ellis, Matt Guerrier, Jerry Hariston, Matt Kemp, Juan Rivera and Juan Uribe. Hariston comes off the DL soon and it’s not out of the realm of possibility that Gordon is sent down to make room.
You have a tough decision to make as a Gordon owner. Do you drop him and run the risk of him fixing his issues in the minors and another owner scooping him up? Or do you stash him on your bench, riding out the struggles for the hope of stolen bases in the future? If it were up to me I’d take the risk and drop him. There are too many better shortstops out there who are better and available in less than 50 percent of leagues.
Erik writes for DraysBay and has also written for Bloomberg Sports. Follow him on Twitter @ehahmann.