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Dee Gordon: Is He a Top 10 Shortstop in 2012?

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After a bit of a disappointing season in AA in 2010, a year in which he hit .276-.331-.353 with 2 HRs, 39 RBI, 86 runs and 53 stolen bases, prospect experts were down on Dodgers shortstop prospect Dee Gordon because he lacked power, made too many errors and needed to learn how to take a walk every now and then. Some experts even questioned why he gets so much love from the prospect community. But, Gordon set out to prove his top prospect status in 2011 and did just that. In 288 at bats at AAA Albuquerque, Gordon hit .333-.373-.410 with 24 RBI, 51 runs and 30 stolen bases in 34 attempts.

Gordon improved his stolen base success rate in AAA this season, probably due to some side sessions in spring training with Dodgers new first base coach Davey Lopes. More on that relationship later.

Gordon doesn't strike out all that much and he actually reduced his strikeout rate from 14.5% to 12.8% even though he moved up a level, but his walk rate dropped as well from 6.5% to 5.8%. The drop in walks was not a big drop, but for someone who needs to improve his plate discipline, it was noticeable.

More on Gordon after the jump:

The Dodgers called up Gordon back in early June when Rafael Furcal made yet another trip to the disabled list. He hit just .243 and struck out in 22% of his 74 at bats in June and was eventually sent back to AAA when Furcal came off the DL. But everyone knew it was just a matter of time before he would get called back up, as the Dodgers were closer to last place than to the wild card. The Dodgers are in a bit of a rebuild right now and are leaning on some of their prospects to get them through the 2011 season. But Gordon is not just another prospect. He is the Dodgers #1 prospect and their shortstop of the future.

The Dodgers called Gordon back up at the end of July, and he is hitting .311 with 9 stolen bases in 10 chances in 19 games since then, with some time spent on the DL included. He has struck out just 8 times in 74 at bats, compared to 16 times in 74 at bats back in June, so he is making strides at the plate. But, he has only walked once in those 74 at bats, so improvement is needed.

Gordon has tremendous speed on the basepaths, and I have seen him turn singles into doubles twice over the last few weeks, and I am not talking about stealing a base after singling. He has hit some soft liners to the outfield and ended up on second base due to his speed. Gordon has stolen 19 bases in 23 attempts in just 41 games this season, and I think a full season working with Davey Lopes could result in Gordon leading the NL in stolen bases as early as 2012.

I own Dodgers shortstop Dee Gordon in the UBA NL-only keeper league and I think many of you know know how much I like him. He still has some things to work on now that he is in the big leagues, but I am excited to see what he can do in his first full season in the big leagues in 2012.

I think Gordon can hit around .280-.330-.390 with 50 stolen bases in 2012. I may be too optimistic in my projection for him, but he has a tremendous work ethic and the speed to lead all of baseball in steals in very short order. He just needs to learn how to take a walk every now and then. His stolen base potential makes him a Top 10 shortstop in 2012 in my eyes.