Thursday, February 23, 2012

The Dodgers' potential success starts at the top with Dee Gordon

Every team has a pivotal player -- a guy who is of vital importance to a team's success.

It's easy to choose the good players -- Clayton Kershaw and Matt Kemp. We know how important they are to the Dodgers' success in 2012.

I could choose Chad Billingsley or James Loney because they've been underachievers in the last couple years, but that would be too easy.

So, I'm going with Dee Gordon.

The 23-year-old got a taste of the Majors last year, hitting .304/.325/.362 with 24 stolen bases in 31 attempts. He performed considerably better after returning from injury, hitting .372/.398/.451 with 21 runs scored in 26 games.

He is expected to be the Dodgers' lead-off man and with the severe lack of offense, him being a table-setter is going to be important.

Now, Gordon hasn't been known for taking a lot of walks or working the count in his professional career -- things a good lead-off man should do. However, he puts the bat on the ball and uses his speed to make things happen. He's going to have to do a lot of that in 2012 if the Dodgers want to be successful.

With Kemp the only sure thing in the lineup, Gordon's ability at the plate is that much more important.

Gordon drew comparisons to a young Jose Reyes. Admittedly, Reyes is, was and probably will always be a better player than Gordon and to expect Gordon to be Reyes this early in his career is unreasonable.

Reyes had played parts of two full seasons and parts of two others before his age-24 season. In that time, Reyes hit .285/.321/.427 and stole an average of 39 bases. If the Dodgers could get anything close to that triple slash (maybe a higher batting average and lower slugging percentage), they'd take it and not think twice about it.

Gordon has all of 233 plate appearances in the Majors. In Reyes' first 231 plate appearances, he hit .311/.328/.429 with 11 stolen bases. Gordon actually stole significantly more bases than Reyes, which is surprising for a guy who would go onto lead the National League in stolen bases three years in a row.

Gordon isn't going to hit for Reyes' power, probably ever. But Gordon is going to be a key for the Dodgers in 2012. He'll need to be the catalyst for the offense if they're going to make a playoff push. The pitching will be there and, as usual, the offense is the question mark.

It's a lot of pressure to put on a soon-to-be 24-year-old, but as a former highly regarded prospect and all-around likable guy, I think he can handle it.

Photo credit: UCinternational (Wikimedia Commons), bridgetds (Flickr)

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