Puckett’s Pond’s Minnesota Twins 2018 Top-40 Prospects: #1-5
No. 4 Nick Gordon, 2B/SS, Rochester Red Wings
Nate’s Rank: 4, Gary’s Rank: 5
Nick Gordon was the Twins first-round choice, 5th overall, in the 2014 draft. He agreed to the signing bonus value assigned to his draft slot of $3,851,000 and received an added scholarship incentive that upped the value of the deal to approximately $4 million. Gordon had committed to Florida State, but the expectation was that he would go professional.
Baseball America wrote this about Gordon prior to the draft:
"Opinions on his defense differ, ranging from average to well above-average. He has soft hands, easy actions and natural instincts for the position. Gordon has the best arm in the high school class and it is at least plus. Despite being a plus runner in the 60, Gordon’s speed plays closer to average out of the box. Scouts have conviction about Gordon’s makeup, which is among the best in the draft, and say he has top-of-charts instincts. Gordon also has a solid backup option as a pitcher who can run his fastball up to 94 with an above-average curveball."
The 6 foot, 160 pound Gordon has made a steady climb up the organizational ladder essentially moving up one level each season. In terms of age, the 22-year-old has always been young for the levels he has played in. The largest extremes on both ends came this season where he was 1.9 years younger than the average Southern League position player while at AA Chattanooga, to his present location at AAA Rochester where the differential is 4.5 years.
Gordon was stationed almost exclusively at shortstop his first three seasons. His 2014 slash line in Rookie League Elizabethton was .294/.333 /.366, with a fielding percentage of .964. His 2015 in Lower A Level Cedar Rapids line was .277 /.336/.360, with a .966 fielding percentage. He hit .291/.335/.386 at A+ Fort Myers in 2016, with a .952 fielding percentage. He was then selected to play in the Arizona Fall League where he put up a very impressive line of .346/.418 /.444 in competition against players averaging 2.3 years his senior. In that three-year period, Gordon collected 242 strikeouts against 61 walks in 1,258 total at-bats.
Gordon released his first rap album, “I Do It All” earlier this year, but baseball is his priority:
"The multi-talented youngster is well aware that mixing music and sports can make for a tricky balance, particularly in terms of image. But he doesn’t anticipate any issues. Not only does Gordon consider himself “a baseball player first,” he’s “never been one to lead a lifestyle that isn’t appropriate,” nor does he feel a need to “go out there and rap about things I don’t do."
Not surprisingly, as the son of former big league pitcher Tom Gordon and brother of the Mariners’ OF/2B Dee Gordon, Nick is a fundamentally sound player. Substance over flash. His power is the only tool that isn’t rated at least average. While his throwing arm is the standout tool, average range, along with the draft acquisition of the young star shortstop Royce Lewis saw Gordon seeing time at second base beginning in 2017.
Gordon had a great start to the 2017 season for AA Chattanooga appearing in both the Futures Game and in the Southern League All-Star game. He finished the first half with a line of .315/.376/.504, followed by a second-half line of .221/.304/.305. His final slash was still a respectable .270/.341/.408.
Baseball Prospectus ranked Gordon #33 among MLB prospects in their Midseason Top 50. They note that 2018 draftees and eligible players on major league rosters were not included.
"Why he’ll succeed: He’s got a broad base of tools to fall back on, and has showed an impressive ability to adjust to his level over time. His plus arm should help him stick at the six. Why he might fail: Sometimes a step back in any particular tool from the guys who have a broad base can wreck the profile. If the hit tool doesn’t play to its capacity, he could find it hard to be an everyday guy, even with his up-the-middle defensive profile."
Gordon started the 2018 season back in Chattanooga and lit it up in his second go-round hitting .333/.381/.525 with an OPS of .906. Promoted to AAA Rochester on May 22, things have not gone so well for the young middle infielder. He has struggled to a line of .212/.260/.281, including 77 strikeouts versus 21 walks in 363 at-bats. It should be noted that Gordon is the baby of the Red Wing position players, nearly two years younger than our #20 prospect Lamont Wade. While his performance for the Red Wings is a setback, it seems safe to say that he will adjust.
Coming into each of the last four campaigns, Gordon has been a solid Top-100 MLB selection and Top-5 Twins prospect in all the major pre-season lists. His second half difficulties the past two years have been a subject of discussion, including suggestions that Gordon lacks the drive or stamina for the long haul of professional level baseball. But his second-half production didn’t suffer in his first three seasons and the jump to AAA at the tender of age 22 can best explain the problems this season. While the ceiling for this left side hitter is debatable, his high floor almost guarantees a future starting role at some time in the future.