When Dee Gordon first came up to the league as the Los Angeles Dodgers‘ top prospect in 2011, he looked like he could be a star, hitting .304 with good contact at the plate and flaunting the kind of scary game-changing speed that could make the shortstop a star lead-off hitter in no time.
Just a little over a year later, not only was Gordon no longer the team’s shortstop – the Dodgers were even trying to trade him after just one disappointing season, with several teams being linked to the speedster.
That, though, eventually died down, and the team now seems ready to go into Spring Training with Gordon, who will looking to avoid the minor leagues in April. With a retooled infield that has Hanley Ramirez in the fold, you’d think it’d be a forgone conclusion that the 24-year old is AAA bound, right?
The odds are certainly against him, but there’s a possibility that he can carve a role for himself yet. See, for all the retooling that the Dodgers did over the season, one of those places that remain something of a question mark is the left side of the infield.
It’s not totally set in stone where Hanley will play, meaning that there could be a spot opening up at shortstop to be determined between Gordon and Luis Cruz, who showed, ironically enough, Gordon-like numbers in 2012, except with a bit more pop and fewer steals.
The configuration of a Cruz-Hanley left side is what the team will go with into Spring Training, but they could quickly find out that Ramirez’s below-average range and glove at short could be hazardous to winning baseball games.
Cruz has also not had much of a record of success in the past, and a slow start in Spring Training could affect his status on the team quickly.
Either of those scenarios could lead Dodgers manager Don Mattingly to give Gordon another look at short instead of sending him to AAA. Of course, the team could also acquire a backup plan at third that would make that a certainty, and the Dodgers have been linked to potential retiree Scott Rolen.
It’s also worth mentioning that the team has discussed moving the shortstop to the outfield, although that’s not something Mattingly prefers. If that transition happens in the minors, there’s a chance that Gordon could come back to contribute in a utility role.
So it’s not a total loss yet. Gordon has dodged being traded for now, and still has a couple of outs before he spends another season in the minors.
Only this time, he won’t be coming in as a top prospect, but someone who will have to impress enough to convince the Dodgers that they’re not just better in 2013 with Hanley at third, but better with Gordon at short, too.