Dee Gordon will report to the Dominican Winter League in hopes of transitioning from shortstop to center field, according to Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times. Ken Gurnick of Dodgers.com also said he’ll be in the outfield this winter.
The league will not only offer the Dodgers their first extended look at recently signed Cuban infielder Alexander Guerrero, it will also be where Dee Gordon attempts to move from shortstop to center field.
Whether you like this move or not should basically be dependent on whether you think Dee can still have value as a regular in the future.
Why? Because even against minor league pitching, Dee never showed a ton of offensive upside. He never once posted an OPS above .800 in AAA Albuquerque, even though the league’s average OPS was ~.770 and his home park was an absolute launching pad.
For all intents and purposes, he was fringe average as a prospect in terms of production and the scouting reports weren’t all that much more friendly. In the majors, his career line is .256/.301/.312/.614, which is only made worse by the fact that his best showing was in his debut from three years ago.
Essentially, the only position where his bat could be acceptable as a MLB regular on a playoff-contending team like the Dodgers, even assuming progress, would be catcher and shortstop. Thus, moving him to center just puts that much more pressure on his defense and his bat, the former is a complete unknown and the latter looks bleak. To put it in perspective, with all the complaining about Matt Kemp’s 2013 (and it WAS bad), he still posted a better OPS than Gordon by 100 points. To say the least, it’s an uphill battle for Gordon to become a regular if he’s going to be in center.
On the other hand, if you’ve given up on him as a potential regular, there’s a potential silver lining in the move. Gordon is still valuable for his speed as a pinch runner, but he was never an actual bench consideration because he both couldn’t play his position and couldn’t hit. However, if he can get to the point where he can be average or even above-average in center, it extends his versatility and makes him a decent reserve option. Even if he never ends up hitting much better than mid-600s in OPS, the defensive utility makes it possible to roster him as a fifth outfielder because of the impact he could make in certain baserunning situations.
I’ve wanted to keep him at short in the past on the off-chance that he actually shows improvement at the plate and in the field. But going into his age 26 season, I think it’s fair to say that complete overhaul as a player is not going to come at short, but he could still salvage a career as a reserve outfielder. Disappointing end result for a player once ranked as the top prospect in the system, but the rational choice for his future.