Phillies 2014 Draft Preview - Nick Gordon, SS

The fog of WAR - Mike Carlson

I was on the fence about previewing Gordon, but since our sister blog, Minor League Ball, had the Phillies taking him in the latest mock, I thought that might make readers more curious to know about him. Would the Phillies really go two High School SS in a row?

Of course, I have no idea what the answer to that question is, so I'll get that out of the way up front. It is important however, to remember that the MLB draft is nothing like the NFL or NBA drafts. The Texans have the #1 pick in the Draft and they could use a new QB, if their scouts believe that Clowney is the next Reggie White and Manziel is the next Cade McNown, the brass may still take Manzeil because they need a QB. That's simply not the case in MLB, all of the guys in this draft are 2 years from the bigs (except the aforementioned Aaron Nola who could start from day 1 like Mike Leake). For this reason I have always been a proponent of drafting the best available. This team could use Pitchers in the system and this draft is deep in potential top of the rotation arms, still, if the best guy left has huge risk and you like a position player better, I say take the route that's more likely to produce value. Gamble in the second round and later.

Now, with that out of the way, let's talk Nick Gordon. Gordon is 6'1" and weighs about 165lbs. He's very lean, but scouts seem to think he'll fill out his frame more. Gordon, as mentioned above, is a High School Shortstop. In my writeup on JP Crawford last year I noted how insanely rare it is for High School SS drafted in the first round to make the Majors and still be Shortstops. The few who do make it often make it as Third Basemen, Center Fielders or Second Basemen. Many more, simply never develop the hitting skills to make the Majors. All reports are that Gordon has the glove, arm and range to stay at Short in the Pros. Similarly, reports are that scouts expect him to fill out more and hit for some power (the Double and Triple variety as opposed to much of the over the fence type). Still, you're drafting a High Schooler who's still growing, will his range stay as he fills out? What about his hitting, will he hit enough to make the Majors or is he closer to Tim Beckham without enough bat to stick? It's worth noting that I'm going to do my best to avoid making comps to his older Brother, as that seems unfair, but his Older Brother has already made the Majors, Dee Gordon. Nick has more present tools that Dee ever showed, so beyond DNA, there isn't much comp to be made anyway.

So, first we can talk about Nick Gordon's arm. It's really good and would play anywhere on a diamond, including the mound. Nick currently pitches for his HS team and features a mid-90's Fastball and pretty good breaking stuff. He's a better prospect as a hitter, but it's important to get the full picture and his arm is very, very good. Below is some video of him Pitching, if you're curious, but he won't pitch an inning in pro-ball unless a game goes long enough to run out of normal Pitchers.

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Go 56 seconds into the video below from baseballfactory and you get to see Gordon fielding during Defensive drills (we'll tackle the swing stuff in the first minute after the video). The first thing I notice is that Gordon looks very, very comfortable and doesn't fight the ball. Even on tough backhand grabs to his right side he seems to have a very natural feel and good range. Clean exchange from his glove and strong throws (you can't see first in the video, so his accuracy could be all over the place, but that doesn't show up in reports, so I'll trust the throws are good). Videos of in game defense are harder to come by, so we'll have to go with this minute and scouting reports to ascertain that he can stick at Short.

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Now, to the bat. I hate high leg kicks. I can live with them for guys like Bautista and Ortiz who use them to generate power, but for most guys I think they do more to throw off timing. Gordon has a leg kick just south of the Rockettes. It works for him in HS ball, but in the pros I'd like to see it get quieter, maybe a little less pronounced. That's an adjustment that can be made if he has issues against pro Pitchers. Beyond the leg kick I really like his swing. His bat speed is good, his swing looks like it stays in the zone for a while and he has good bat control with a bit of a whip in his wrists. Of note, this video is from the 2013 UA All America games last Summer.

To be fair, Matt over at Minor LEague Ball may have projected the Phillies to take Gordon because he's the 7th best player in the Draft on his board or because the Phillies have a reputation for taking very "Toolsy" guys (and Nick Gordon has plenty of tools, I didn't even get around to his above average speed). I have doubts the Phillies go back to back High School Shortstops, but it's hard to see many bad picks in this draft at the 7 spot. Would anyone really complain if the Phillies got a future everyday Shortstop out of this draft and last year's pick became the every day Second Baseman (or vice versa)?
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