The Value of Dee Gordon with Alex Guerrero Lurking

Sep 24, 2014; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Dodgers second baseman Dee Gordon (9) leaps over San Francisco Giants second baseman Joe Panik (12) after making a relay to first base to complete a double play in the third inning at Dodger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

One of the top second basemen in 2014 fantasy baseball was Dee Gordon of the Los Angeles Dodgers, which was quite a shock to most of the baseball community.  Gordon was simply supposed to be a placeholder for Alex Guerrero while they groomed Guerrero in the Minors to improve his defense.  However, Dee Gordon was handed the job on Opening Day and took off running both literally and figuratively.

As a virtually unrated player coming into 2014, Dee Gordon finished as one of the top second basemen because of his blazing speed that resulted in him leading the league with 64 stolen bases.  His ascension from free agent to elite fantasy second basemen resulted in Dee Gordon being one of the players who brought the most value to their owners.

By setting the table for the Dodgers and constantly stealing bases, Gordon was able to record 92 runs and even hit to the tune of a .289 batting average.  The biggest improvement I noticed in glancing through Gordon’s stats was that he stopped hitting so many infield pop-ups.  Infield pop-ups are the worst form of contact because they are the easiest outs for a fielder to record.  In 2013, Dee Gordon had a pathetic 21.1% infield fly ball rate that sharply dropped to 8.0% in 2014.

Dee Gordon owners could not complain because he filled the void of a middle infielder at no cost and offered 2B/SS eligibility.  However, there are still some major risks to drafting Dee Gordon in 2015:

  1. The Cuban signee, Alex Guerrero, is definitely Major League ready with his bat and there is a very real chance he finds his way into the lineup assuming he stays out of dangerous fights with Miguel Olivo.
  2. Dee Gordon is not that good of a fielder, so his only upside comes on the base paths. Gordon was a terrible shortstop when the Dodgers tried to play him there from 2011 to 2013, but his defensive negatives are minimized at second base.
  3. A lot of Gordon’s value could have been driven by his .346 BABIP.

In 2014, Alex Guerrero played in 65 games at the AAA level where he crushed 15 home runs and slashed .329/.364/.613.  Most of those numbers are quite encouraging, but it is pretty clear that Guerrero cannot take a walk for his life.  While that is alarming, he still offers significantly more value at the plate than Dee Gordon.

Furthermore, the Dodgers are a team that is built to win now, so Dee Gordon could easily be benched if he is getting on-base less than 30% of the time and Alex Guerrero continues to tear up AAA pitching.  I would expect Gordon to have at least a month or two of a leash, but if we reach the point where Guerrero may be needed, then you would not want to start Gordon anyway unless you are trying to stream stolen bases.

Secondly, the fact of the matter is that Gordon is not there for his defensive abilities.  Dee Gordon is basically a one-tool player that makes an asset in two categories in fantasy baseball.  His below average defense makes it a little more risky to draft Gordon because it could be easier for him to fall out of favor with the Dodgers.

Finally, Dee Gordon truly struggled at the plate in 2012 and 2013.  Gordon had a .304 average and .345 BABIP in 233 plate appearances in 2011, a .228 average and .281 BABIP in 2012, a .234 average and .292 BABIP in 2013, and a .289 average and .346 BABIP in 2014.  I do think that Dee Gordon made a slight jump at the plate by hitting less infield pop-ups and using his speed perfectly, but he is still a very poor MLB hitter.

In 2014, Dee Gordon was able to record a hit on 20 of his 47 bunt attempts.  A whopping 20 hits off of bunts is pretty incredible for one season.  The only player that is faster than Dee Gordon is Billy Hamilton and Gordon is not far behind.  In his MLB career, Gordon has 130 steals in 1,319 plate appearances.  Of course, he is occasionally implemented as a pinch runner, but he has a stolen base for roughly every ten plate appearances.  Again, that is tremendous.

In the end, you are looking at a player who could very well lead the league in stolen bases again and score 100 runs in 2015, but the risks are not worth it for me.  You are essentially paying a premium for a Billy Hamilton or Ben Revere with 2B/SS eligibility.  While Dee Gordon finished as one of the top second baseman in 2014, I would have a hard time drafting a guy who could very easily lose his job to Alex Guerrero.