Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
Due to his status as one of the league's best fielders, Kansas City Royals outfielder Alex Gordon has played at close to an MVP level with 12.8 wins above replacement (WAR) combined over the past two seasons, according to fangraphs.com.
But his offense deserves a closer look heading into 2013.
Gordon hit .294 with 14 homers, 72 RBIs and 10 steals last season, solid numbers on the surface but a disappointment compared to 2011, when he hit .303 with 23 homers and 87 RBIs.
Gordon had some trouble elevating the ball in 2012, but it wasn't for a lack of hard contact. He had a career-high 25 percent line-drive rate, but a career-low 32.7 percent fly-ball percentage. That was more than seven percentage points below his career FB rate.
He also had some bad luck on fly balls, posting a HR/FB rate of 8.5 percent, which fangraphs.com qualifies as slightly below average. Gordon posted a HR/FB rate of 11.3 or better for three straight years before 2012, including 12.6 percent in 2011.
Gordon ended up leading the MLB in doubles with 51 in 2012, one more than Albert Pujols.
Gordon's final numbers also were dragged down by a horrid start. He hit just .167/.276/.288 with two homers over his first 17 games and .227/.322/.357 with four homers over his first 47.
A turnaround came soon after. He batted .322/.386/.495 with 10 homers over his final 114 contests.
The rebound was spurred by a move to the leadoff spot. In 83 games as Kansas City's leadoff hitter, Gordon hit .307 with an .845 OPS, six homers, 31 RBIs and 48 runs.
Royals manager Ned Yost has indicated that he plans on having Gordon hit out of the leadoff spot all season, so his RBI totals will probably be limited, but 110 runs are a definite possibility, especially if Eric Hosmer bounces back, Mike Moustakas and Salvador Perez continue their development and Jeff Francoeur doesn't produce like MLB's worst player again. Gordon had 93 last season, tied for 11th in baseball, despite struggling early and hitting out of the leadoff spot for only half the season.
Gordon also has proven his ability to bat .300 with close to an .850 OPS, so fantasy owners can pencil those in as well.
And we should see his FB and HR/FB rates normalize in 2013, turning some of those doubles into homers and giving Gordon a realistic chance at reaching 20 round-trippers for the second time in three seasons.
My prediction: Gordon will bat .305 with a .375 OBP and .480 slugging percentage and hit 19 homers with 81 RBIs, 103 runs and 12 stolen bases in 2013. Early Yahoo! drafts have Gordon going with an ADP of 103.3, but reaching those numbers would put him somewhere between a fourth- and fifth-round value.
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