Marlins Season Preview: Worst case scenario for Dee Gordon
The Miami Marlins were desperate to upgrade at second base over. The likes of Donovan Solano, Jeff Baker and Derek Dietrich weren’t getting it done — far from it — so the Marlins decided to pull the trigger on a vast overpay for the speedy Dee Gordon. Miami sent its top pitching prospect along with multiple other promising role players for a versatile infielder who enjoyed a breakout season with the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2014, and is now set to assume full time second base duties for the next several years in Miami.
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On Tuesday, we predicted a best case scenario season for Gordon in 2015, which figured that if Gordon can actually get on base enough to use his incredible speed to his advantage, he could have another above-average season and set Christian Yelich and Giancarlo Stanton up for some opportunities to knock him home. Gordon enjoyed an inflated .346 BABIP last year, which was 20 points above his career average. However, 2014 was also his first full season’s worth of plate appearances (650); he had never amassed more than 330 PA in a single season prior.
Gordon doesn’t walk much, just 5.2% for his career. The good news is he doesn’t strike out much either (16.4%, or about half a Jarrod Saltalamacchia.) So expect Gordon to make plenty of contact, which in theory would make him look like a perennial .300 hitter, or close to it, thanks to his ability to beat out throws to first base. He also hit 24 doubles last year in addition to a league-best 12 triples. We’re not sure what he changed, but before 2014 he never would’ve come close to that many extra base hits, even if his first three seasons were full 500-600 PA campaigns. In 2011 and 2012 Gordon had nine doubles and two triples in 563 combined PA. In an injury-plagued 2013, he had one double and one triple in just 106 PA.
A long overdue full healthy season of Gordon produced some eye-opening numbers — he even received MVP votes — but it still wasn’t enough for the Dodgers to consider Gordon a part of their long-term plans, as they shipped him to the Marlins relatively painlessly.
The projection systems agree that Gordon will likely crash down to earth somewhat. The kindest projection is courtesy of ZiPS:
ZiPS Projection: .281/.326/.357, 92 wRC+, 1.7 zWAR
Steamer is far less kind to the Marlins second baseman:
.256/.304/.334, 78 wRC+, 0.9 WAR
I’m not buying into Gordon’s average and on base dropping so significantly. Even in his porous 2012 and 2013 seasons, Gordon’s BABIP landed at .281 and .292, respectively. That suggests he was a victim of a LOT of bad luck, coupled with the fact that he couldn’t stay on the field consistently.
Regardless of potential regression with the bat, Gordon’s value should spike notably by playing a whole season at second base in lieu of shortstop. 2014 was the first year the Dodgers played him exclusively at second, and he posted the best defensive metrics of his career. From 2011-13 Gordon racked up a total -15.9 Def (Fangraphs) and -21 DRS at shortstop. Those are dreadful numbers.
In 2014, defending exclusively at second, Gordon registered -5 DRS, but that could be chalked up to his adjusting to playing a new position everyday and doing so for a full season for the first time.
ZiPS projects a 0.1 Def and Steamer a 0.8 for Gordon in 2015, so his sophomore season at second has the potential to be his best.
As I’ve mentioned, Dee Gordon has only been healthy for a whole year once in his four major league seasons. That doesn’t bode well for the Marlins, with how much they gave up to acquire his services. The Marlins are chancing that Gordon will be healthy all season, and for the foreseeable future as he still has four years of club control remaining. If he’s out for any extended period of time, the team will take a major blow having to field Donovan Solano, Jeff Baker or any number of AAAA players at second, as they’ve mostly done the past few years. There’s no way the Marlins flirt with a Wild Card in that situation.
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