Heading into 2012, the Los Angeles Dodgers will have a new face manning the shortstop position. With Rafael Furcal traded away in 2011 and Jamey Carroll off to the Minnesota Twins, Dee Gordon will take the reins and look to utilize his speed, range, and strong arm.
One of the team’s top prospects heading into 2011, Gordon got a chance to play after Furcal was injured, and his speed was on display from the get go, as he swiped 24 bases in 31 attempts, good for a 77.5% success rate. Unfortunately for Gordon, he missed time with a shoulder injury, and his slight frame will probably always leave him vulnerable to injury on some level.
What is more concerning when examining Gordon is his minuscule walk rate of just 3% and a poor UZR/150. To be a successful leadoff man, Gordon will have to draw more free passes or become the reincarnation of Ichiro circa the early 2000s. Flash will never be a power hitter, but the club doesn’t need him to be. Just getting on-base at an solid clip and being an efficient baserunner will serve the team well as he sets the table for Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier. In the field, Gordon will have to improve on his -21.5 UZR/150, though that total is obviously subject to small sample size bias, as he played in just under 450 innings in 2011.
Working in Gordon’s favor is that he doesn’t go down on strikes often, never whiffing in more than 15% of his plate appearances since turning pro (with a 2011 MLB mark of 11.6%). A .304/.325/.362 line with a .314 wOBA simply won’t cut it though, and Dee will need to reach base more often and pound out doubles and triples in order to be a plus with the bat. Any of his minor league lines in 2008, 2009, or 2011 (.331/.371/.430, .301/.362/.394, .333/.373/.410) would serve Gordon, the Dodgers, The Bison, and the pitching staff well.
Don Mattingly has already proclaimed Dee the leadoff guy, and while a more patient hitter like A.J. Ellis is probably better suited to leadoff, Dee has the makeup of a traditional top-of-the-order guy with his speed and bunting ability.
He won’t soon get moved down in the order, but Dee can certainly do himself a favor by being more selective at the dish and drawing a free pass every now and then.