Last week, I discovered something unfathomable – the fantasy baseball industry considered Dee Gordon to be a consensus top 50 asset in dynasty leagues. Nobody is as present value-centric as me when it comes to dynasty rankings, and yet I choked on this valuation. We’re talking about a one-dimensional player entering his age 30 campaign. Without some help from iron man Robinson Cano, Gordon is going to lose his useful second base eligibility.
It’s hard to receive between zero and two home runs from a starting outfielder and still contend. Much easier to swallow those numbers from the middle infield spot. And so, amply confused, I asked for your help. Today, I’ll take a closer look at the results of that post, where Gordon may go from here, and why my industry colleagues appear to be so bullish.
Let’s do this chronologically.
Gordon of Christmas Past
Gordon broke out just in time for the 2014 season. Over four years, he’s accrued 2,343 plate appearances with an approximate .304/.328/.377* batting line, nine home runs, and 212 stolen bases. That’s nearly a steal every 10 plate appearances. He also has 341 runs and 127 RBI; paces of roughly 95 runs and 35 RBI per 650 plate appearance season.
Using the Standings Gain Points methodology (SGP), Gordon has consistently produced at a $30 to $35 dollar pace in typical 5×5 leagues. He’s generally worth around $25 to $30 in OBP formats. His value takes a larger hit in the less popular OPS variant.
It’s very clear that Gordon has been an easy top 50 asset over the last four seasons – possibly top 10.
*For ease, I cut some corners calculating OBP and SLG
Gordon of Christmas Present
The speedy second baseman is on the move to the outfield. He’ll quickly gain a useful dual-eligibility for his fantasy owners. Steamer projects Gordon for a .281/.318/.361 batting line with five home runs, 77 runs, 49 RBI, and 45 stolen bases.
Projection systems are built upon the concept of regression to the mean. That’s why he’s expected to post a career best home run total and career worst stolen base rate. Steamer thinks he’ll be a little more like other players next season.
It’s perfectly reasonable if you prefer to expect a .290/.330/.380 triple slash with two home runs, 100 runs, 50 RBI, and 55 stolen bases. Keep in mind, projection systems also account for disaster scenarios. My “adjusted-Steamer” projection looks like a combination of all the sunny scenarios.
Your personal valuation of Gordon will depend heavily on the weights you use for stolen bases. Statistically, one stolen base is worth around two home runs. That means Gordon is kind of like Giancarlo Stanton with a side of Aaron Judge.
However, I prefer to arbitrarily set the relationship at one steal to 1.5 home runs. For me, that produces well-rounded rosters even if it means I’ll never draft Gordon or Billy Hamilton. Bradley Zimmer and Jonathan Villar are extremely selectable at their current ADPs/prices.
Gordon of Christmas Future
Baseball Reference has a similarity scores tool. Scroll down to find Gordon’s list if you want to interact with it. Here’s a picture.
I’ll be honest, I don’t find these very helpful for predicting future production. DJ LeMahieu, for example, may be the least physically Dee Gordon-like second baseman. He’s a 6’5” giant.
I want to know what physically comparable players accomplished. I sorted all player seasons since 2000 by stolen bases to proxy speed. I eliminated players over six feet tall like Carl Crawford, Hanley Ramirez, and Villar. Next, I removed players with very dissimilar batting profiles – Villar again, Hamilton, Jose Reyes (too much power), and Jose Altuve (ditto). Here’s what’s left in no particular order:
I noted the age of each player’s last fantasy-productive season in parenthesis. This is very much the list I expected to find. My gut tells me that Gordon’s skill set will fall off a cliff. These guys all very abruptly disappeared into the aether.
Young was an exception. He never approached Gordon-level speed after age 33, but he did manage streamable numbers through his age 38 campaign. Sabermetricians always whined about how often he played. Podsednik also had a brief late career revival at a lower level of production. Castillo is a bad comp for Gordon. His elite plate discipline allowed him to outlast the waning of his speed. His final Gordon-like season was his age 26 campaign.
Based on recent statistically and physically comparable players, Gordon should be expected to rapidly collapse in zero to three seasons. In last week’s post, I had originally estimated a shelf life of about 3.5 years before he slipped into part-time duty. Now I worry he’ll disappear even faster. Then again, this is a very small and not-entirely-scientific list of comparables.
Past: Gordon has produced at a top 10 hitter rate over the past four seasons. Missing part of one season for a PED suspension may push him just outside of the top 10 players for that period.
Present: Although there is some mild bust risk for the upcoming season, we have every reason to expect vintage Gordon in Seattle. The position change does add a small amount of risk. There’s also a small chance he’ll eventually get bumped to ninth in the lineup. Jean Segura and Mitch Haniger are alternative top-of-the-order bats. The risks are massively outweighed by the upside – another 60 steal campaign complemented by over 100 runs and a career high in RBI.
A top 30 valuation make sense, especially if you kick off your draft with an extreme slugger like Stanton or Judge. Gordon perfectly complements those mammoths. He’s worth far less to a team with Mike Trout, Paul Goldschmidt, Trea Turner, Altuve, or similar early round talent.
Future: Here’s where things get scary. My colleagues still rate Gordon as a top 50 dynasty asset. That’s insane. Physically and statistically similar players disappear around age 32. Gordon is entering his age 30 season. He’s still extremely valuable to a win-now roster, but there’s very little reason to believe he’ll remain productive for much longer.
Due to present value greatly exceeding future value, I estimate Gordon is between the 90th and 150th best dynasty asset. Anyone with an eye on the future should only look at Gordon as an arbitrageable asset. Even if you aim to use Gordon as part of a 2018 victory, I recommend selling him mid-season. For emphasis – dynasty owners should not keep Gordon beyond the middle of 2018.