Concerned About Second Base Yet?

This morning at FanGraphs, I took a look at the increasingly questionable second base situation for the Dodgers:

But while there’s obvious questions about how reliable the projections might be, the unavoidable truth is this: if Guerrero doesn’t work out or isn’t ready, the Dodgers have almost nowhere else they can turn, and so if this isn’t the worst situation for a contender in the bigs, it’s almost certainly the riskiest.

This isn’t our Miguel Rojas. But it is a Miguel Rojas, and how could I resist?

It’s not that I don’t like Alexander Guerrero, of course. It’s that he has so many questions marks hanging over him — mainly the missed season in Cuba and limited winter ball play thanks to an injured left hamstring — that I can’t say that it’s at all a given that he’s going to be ready to play on Opening Day. And, though the FG article only went up this morning, I wrote it on Tuesday night, before we got the added curveball about his uncertain visa status.

As you’ll see in the FG article, the primary in-house option is Dee Gordon, which is hardly appealing, and this situation is probably going to get Justin Sellers through yet another winter on the 40-man roster. And yet Ned Colletti keeps talking about Miguel Rojas, who did get an invite to the Winter Development Program, and who reportedly has an outstanding glove. Yet there’s just seemingly no way that a guy who has a career .234/.302/.287 line in parts of eight minor league seasons — all but 44 games of which have been below Triple-A, where he hit only .186/.226/.233 in 2012 and didn’t return to in 2013 — can be anything approximating even a below-average major league hitter.

Hopefully, Guerrero gets into the country, arrives at camp, and shocks us all. But with each day, I’m feeling less confident about that, and there’s no good alternatives available otherwise. Right now, this is probably the biggest trouble spot on the team heading into 2014.

On A Fun Dee Gordon Rumor

Just imagine it! (via EephusBlue. Buy a shirt!)

Just imagine it! (via EephusBlue. Buy a shirt!)

I don’t usually spend a lot of time digging into every rumor, because there’s dozens and the overwhelming majority disappear quickly, never to be heard from again. But I’m going to talk about this one, because it’s not from the usual suspects and it’s actually pretty interesting.

Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News Tribune, who was a Royals beat writer until moving to the northwest a few weeks ago, offered this:

One #Royals rumor as I leave the winter meetings: Talking to the Dodgers about trading OF Justin Maxwell for INF Dee Gordon.

With the obvious caveats that this is just talk and not particularly likely to happen, this is a pretty fun idea that I like more the more I think about it. I think we all know that Gordon’s prospect shine has long worn off, especially now that he’s been moved off of shortstop and may have a ceiling as a utility player — and even that is only if he can learn to hit. For a while, I’ve felt that when the end comes for Gordon with the Dodgers, it’ll be as a toss-in as part of some larger deal.

Maybe that’s what will happen, but this is a fun thought too, because Maxwell actually has some value. I know, I know: why do the Dodgers need another outfielder? Because he actually could fill a role I’ve long wanted them to, and that’s as a righty hitting complement to Andre Ethier & Carl Crawford who can fill in at center, as well. (Sort of like Reed Johnson, but I like Maxwell better.)

Maxwell, 30 last month, was a fourth round pick of Washington in 2005, and spent most of his time in the Nationals organization before spending 2012-13 with Houston, and finishing out 2013 with Kansas City. In just 352 plate appearances in 2012 in Houston, he hit 18 homers, enough that I guessed he could be a 20/15 guy given regular playing time. It didn’t happen, because he broke his hand after being hit by a pitch and then dealt with concussion problems upon his return. Finally healthy after a July trade to the Royals, he played extremely well down the stretch (.268/.351/.505 with five homers in 111 plate appearances.)

He strikes out a ton, so he’ll never have a great OBP, but as a righty with power who is an average-to-slightly-above defender and can cover all three spots? For Gordon? Yes and please. It’d create some redundancy with Scott Van Slyke, but Maxwell can play center, and honestly I don’t hate the idea of having both on the bench.

The Royals have a bit of an outfield logjam themselves, with Norichika Aoki joining Maxwell, Alex Gordon, David Lough, Jarrod Dyson, and Lorenzo Cain, so they’re likely to make some kind of a move. They have a huge hole at second base, and while Gordon isn’t going to suddenly be a starter there — they’re reportedly in on Omar Infante and Mark Ellis — he’s a clear change-of-scenery guy, one who would benefit from a new home. (And, of course, Dee’s father Tom Gordon had plenty of success as a Royal.)

Again, this was a one-off tweet by a beat writer, and even if the discussions were real, this almost certainly leads nowhere. But I’ve long been a Maxwell fan, and the idea of turning Gordon into any kind of value, well, that’s extremely appealing. Now let’s return to our daily lives, never to discuss this again.

2013 Dodgers in Review #8: SS Dee Gordon

90topps_deegordon.234/.314/.298 106pa 1hr 10sb .273 wOBA 0.0 fWAR D-

2013 in brief: Killed any last prospect value he might have had with more uninspired play during Hanley Ramirez‘ hamstring injury.

2014 status: If he’s not traded first, another year spent in Albuquerque, though this time trying to be a utility player.

Previous: 2011 | 2012


Hey, remember when Dee Gordon used to be a prospect? That sure seems so long ago, now. Coming off a 2012 season that was just unthinkably terrible, Gordon never really had a chance to make the Opening Day roster, and he didn’t. But when Ramirez hurt his thumb in the World Baseball Classic, it wasn’t Gordon who got the call: It was Justin Sellers, mostly because of his superior glove, which should tell you all you need to know about Gordon’s status.

As Sellers and the team struggled while Gordon played well in Triple-A, fan furor for Gordon’s recall grew, to the point where I had to remind everyone that “yes, it could be worse than Sellers” on April 16. The Dodgers resisted the impulse, but then when Ramirez injured his hamstring about ten minutes after returning from his thumb injury, they decided to give Gordon a shot on May 4.

After a week of that, it had been a little bit of everything:

Dee Gordon is absolutely everything we thought he would be, and I mean as both a positive and a negative. He’s showing patience. He’s making mistakes on the basepaths. He’s scoring runs that potentially no other player in the game could manage. He’s getting to balls; he’s bobbling balls. He’s everything, and he’s nothing.

But as Gordon tends to do, he cooled off quickly. He had just five hits the next two weeks, and when he was sent down in late May, he was hitting only .175/.278/.254 — because, although some people stubbornly refuse to acknowledge it, he’s not a quality major league hitter and is unlikely to ever be, which I went into in great detail on May 27:

But while many liked to point to a batting average of .429 after two games as an indication Gordon should have been up all along, it quickly became clear that little had changed. And now, as Gordon has had just about as many plate appearances as Sellers had, the question of “could it be worse?” is… well, yes.

Think about it this way: on offense, the contributions have been nearly equally poor, as the close-to-identical wOBA marks show. Yes, Gordon’s speed on the bases is obviously superior, but he’s given some of that value back with poor decisions, and his net stolen base total is merely three.

But on defense, even though Sellers hasn’t really been wonderful (0 Defensive Runs Saved, -5.1 UZR/150), Gordon has been worse (-2 DRS, -9.3 UZR/150). I’m aware of the risks of using defensive stats over a month of play, and so that’s why these are not to be taken as gospel, but as a data point that backs up what we’ve seen with our own eyes. Yes, Gordon’s gotten to some balls that Sellers never would have; he’s also botched more than a few that haven’t been marked down as errors. Neither has added much on offense, especially as Gordon just went more than a week without a hit, and Gordon has given back more on defense.

From then on, when Ramirez was unavailable, the team could take no more of either, and it was Nick Punto who got the playing time. Back in Triple-A, Gordon started seeing some time at second base in June, eventually playing 20 games there. Gordon returned in August when Ramirez hurt his shoulder in Chicago, but started only three games before going back down.

Unfortunately, one of them was this mess on August 11:

This all came despite Gordon having what is probably the most Dee Gordon game ever. Gordon made what was an admittedly nice defensive play in the early innings, then struck out in that big spot in the second. He then used his outstanding speed to get on via a bunt in the fourth and an infield single in the seventh, around another whiff in the fifth. But he also made an error in the third… and another in the sixth… and another in the eighth. It was an embarrassing night for him, and frankly I’ll be surprised if Nick Punto doesn’t start every game until Hanley Ramirez is ready.

That’s more or less what happened. He came back up once again when rosters expanded, but started only three games in September. (He made an error in one, and somehow managed to get only one assist combined in the other two. For a shortstop, that seems impossible.)

With Matt Kemp out and Andre Ethier hobbled, Gordon made the NLDS roster, even shagging some balls in center as an emergency option. He didn’t bat, but you might remember his one appearance in Game 2:

He somewhat surprisingly made the NLCS roster too, and again didn’t bat, appearing only when Adrian Gonzalez was bizarrely lifted in Game 1.

Gordon still has an option remaining, so unless he’s traded, his 2014 might look a lot like his 2013 — a whole lot of time in Albuquerque, with occasional recalls when injuries strike. He’s going to be 26 next year, and in 669 plate appearances he’s hit just .256/.301/.312, with generally terrible defense. The good news is that his walk rate this year both in the bigs (9.4%) and in Triple-A (11.8%) were career highs, so there’s perhaps some indication his plate discipline is improving.

But for all his speed, he’s not a particularly effective base-stealer, and I no longer hold out any hope he can play shortstop well enough to be usable there in the bigs, because he’s just awful. Second? Center? Maybe, maybe not, though they seem committed to giving the outfield a shot in winter ball. It just doesn’t seem likely he’ll find out in Los Angeles.


Next! A shortstop you want to talk about! It’s Hanley Ramirez!

Dee Gordon Finding Another Position To Not Hit At


I joke, but only mostly. Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times reports that Dee Gordon is listed as an outfielder for Dominican Winter League team, Tigres del Licey, and it makes sense at this point. (The roster page still says “SS”, but Ken Gurnick says he “will play the outfield,” and that team does have Jurickson Profar, so that’s good enough for me.)

Licey’s own site put out a release saying that Gordon would be in uniform for tonight’s game against Aguilas, though it appears he didn’t play, and they refer to his time there last season in “his original position of shortstop,” so there’s that.

There’s also this, which isn’t really related but is still worth sharing:

The information was offered Monday by the club’s general manager, Manny Acta, who added that the veteran Guillermo Mota also preparing to join the Tigers’ pitching staff.

While I was against a Gordon position switch at one point, arguing that a move off of shortstop would cut his already limited value, I’ve changed my opinion, because I no longer have a lot of faith that he can handle short. He’s had more than a full season of play to prove that he can’t, and it’s not like it’s steadily improved, either. (Not to put undue importance on one game, but I assume no one’s forgotten his three-error mess on August 11, after which he never really played again.) Since the Dodgers are overstuffed with outfielders and have just about nothing behind Hanley Ramirez at shortstop, I’m guessing the team is more than convinced he can’t handle it either.

We’ve seen infielders who proved they couldn’t handle the left side move to the outfield before, whether it was shortstops like B.J. Upton & Billy Hamilton or third basemen like Alex Gordon & Ryan Braun. The difference is that Alex Gordon & Braun are elite hitters, and Upton was productive before cratering this year. Hamilton is probably the player most closely associated with Dee Gordon, but his speed seems to be even better.

Gordon’s minor league line is superior to Hamilton’s, though of course he’s proven that he can’t hit big league pitching, while Hamilton hasn’t yet had that opportunity. And that’s really the point, here, because it’s great to get Gordon some added flexibility and hope that maybe he can be a useful multipositional player in the bigs. But if he can’t improve his batting skills to be something less than putrid in the bigs, it’s not going to matter where he can or can’t play in the field.

Hoping that he can maybe be a bench player is a long, long way away from when we’d hoped he might be a star, isn’t it?

Wanted: A Center Fielder for the Playoffs

Sometimes, I’m not sure if anything I add to a story can be funnier than the original information itself:

There’s like a 0.00001% chance that Dee Gordon, who cannot hit and has never played center field, will play center field in the playoffs, unless Yasiel Puig somehow steamrolls Skip Schumaker and they both end up in the hospital. There’s probably even less of a chance that Scott Van Slyke actually ends up out there, something akin to what happens if you divide by zero. I imagine Don Mattingly is just doing some due diligence for that complete worst-case scenario, or perhaps more likely no one wanted to stand by Puig and risk getting injured.

Still, just imagine it. Imagine Gordon in center field. Imagine Van Slyke there. In a game that not only counts, but is the culmination of months of hard work. Imagine how many things have to go wrong for that to be the situation, where two guys who A) don’t play the position and B) aren’t even certain to make the postseason roster end up playing center field. It’s glorious, or at least it would be if it weren’t so mind-numbingly terrifying.

It’s not going to happen, because it can’t, but seeing that out there at least makes me a little less likely to be hard on people who want to call up Joc Pederson for the playoffs. (Short version: even if asking a guy to make his big-league debut in the playoffs wasn’t a terrible idea, he hasn’t started a game since August 31.)

Anyway, if you’re so desperate that you’re really looking at those guys in center, even if only in an emergency situation, you put Puig out there. Simple as that. No, he’s not an ideal option, but if my choices are “Puig misses a cutoff man” or “Van Slyke turns a single into an inside-the-park homer,” it’s not all that complicated.

It’s going to be a long next 48 hours, I think. Eeesh.