Who Would You Rather Have: Alex Gordon or Andrew McCutchen?

KANSAS CITY, MO - SEPTEMBER 17: Alex Gordon #4 of the Kansas City Royals breaks his bat as he hits a RBI single in the fourth inning during a game against the Chicago White Sox at Kauffman Stadium on September 17, 2011 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images)

I have started looking at my Top 50 Outfielder Rankings, which will be published on November 28th, and was surprised to see how similar Alex Gordon and Andrew McCutchen were in 2011. McCutchen is one of my favorite fantasy players, and he is NOT a Dodger. Shocking right? I just love hitters who can go 20-20, and McCutchen reached the 20-20 club for the first time in 2011. 

But Gordon became another personal favorite of mine earlier this season, as he was a feel good story after getting off to a hot start to the 2011 season, and finally reaching his potential after a few hiccups at the big league level. Gordon was probably drafted in the mid to late teen rounds in fantasy drafts in 2011, while McCutchen was probably a 4th-5th round choice, yet they ended up with very similar stats. McCutchen will still probably be ranked higher amongst fantasy outfielders heading into 2012 fantasy drafts, but if you focused on their 2011 stats, you would think they should be ranked right much closer. 

Let's take a look at their 2011 stats after the jump:

Here are the 2011 stats for Alex Gordon followed by Andrew McCutchen's, courtesy of Baseball-Reference:

Alex Gordon

Year G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS OPS+ TB
2011 151 688 611 101 185 45 4 23 87 17 67 139 .303 .376 .502 .879 140 307
162 Game Avg. 162 675 595 85 156 38 3 20 72 13 66 145 .262 .343 .434 .777 108 258
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 11/13/2011.

Andrew McCutchen

Year G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS OPS+ TB
2011 158 678 572 87 148 34 5 23 89 23 89 126 .259 .364 .456 .820 127 261
162 Game Avg. 162 704 608 98 168 37 7 20 77 30 82 115 .276 .365 .458 .822 123 278
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 11/13/2011.

McCutchen stole a few more bases and drove in a few more runs than Gordon, but Gordon scored more runs and had a better triple slash line than McCutchen last season. Gordon did benefit from a career high BABIP of .358, 100 points higher than his 2010 BABIP, and from a 23.2% line drive rate as well, so fantasy owners have to decide if Gordon's 2011 season was a career year or a sign that he has turned the corner and is finally reaching the potential we all projected from him several years ago. A few positives in Gordon's 2011 season were the increase in power last year as his .502 slugging percentage and .200 ISO indicates, and the 17 stolen bases. Royals manager Ned Yost gave the Royals the green light quite often last season, and I don't see that changing in 2012. Can Gordon become the next 20-20 hitting outfielder in 2012?

McCutchen also enjoyed an increase in power last year as he hit 23 HRs and 62 extra bases hits, but also experienced a drop in stolen bases from 33 in 2010 to 23 in 2011. Coming into the 2011 season, I projected McCutchen to steal 40 bases after reading manager Clint Hurdle's spring training comments that the Pirates would be more aggressive on the bases, but he didn't come close. He set career highs in walk rate-13.1%-and ISO-.198-and I am curious if he has laid the building blocks for a monster season in 2012. Another fantasy baseball writer has projected that he could put up a 30-30 season in 2012, and I can see where he is coming from as the increase in walks should result in more stolen base attempts next season. He also hit more line drives-20.0%-and more fly balls-41.7%- than ever before, and his HR/FB rate increased from 8.7% in 2010 to 12.2% in 2011.

So, Fake Teamers, who would you rather have in 2012? Heading into 2012 fantasy drafts, I would lean toward McCutchen, but if he were already off the board, I would not hesitate to draft Gordon, as I can see him building on his breakout 2011 season.

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