The Phillies return to the road once again after a quick two game home stand to face speedy All-Star 2nd baseman Dee Gordon and the Miami Marlins in a four-game set at Marlins Park in South Florida.
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The 27-year-old Gordon has been enjoying a strong season for the Fish after coming over in a trade with the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 2014 offseason, and though the team has been a disappointment this year, Gordon has been a standout star for the young club.
Gordon entered the league in 2011 after being taken in the fourth round of the 2008 MLB Draft by the Dodgers. His ability to hit was put on display immediately upon getting started in minor league ball.
In his first MiLB season with the Dodgers’ Ogden affiliate (Rookie League) in 2008, Gordon batted .331 with a .371 OBP. In his second season, spent with the Great Lakes Loons, Gordon owned a .301 average — the seventh best average in the Midwest League. The speedy infielder also swiped an absurd 73 bases, the highest mark in the league by far.
When the player known as “Flash Jr.” in reference to his MLB-playing father, Tom Gordon, reached AA ball in 2010, he once again showed off his wheels by stealing a Southern League-best 53 bags. At the plate, Gordon hit at a very respectable .277 clip.
In 2011, Gordon made the move up to the AAA level, where he batted an impressive .315 with a .361 OBP prior to his call up to the big leagues on June 6, 2015. Gordon would make his debut ironically against the Phillies, pinch running for Juan Uribe and scoring the Dodgers only run of the game in a 3-1 Phillies victory. The next night, Gordon collected three hits in his first career start and also stole his first base.
Teetering between AAA and the bigs the rest of the 2011 season, he finished the year with a .303 average and 24 steals in 31 attempts. In September, he was named the NL Rookie of the Month after batting .372 with a .850 OPS in the month.
Though his first stint of Major League ball was promising, his next two seasons would be forgettable. In 87 games with the Dodgers in 2012, he hit just .228 with a single home run and 17 RBIs. His defense proved to be a liability, too. In 79 games at shortstop, Gordon committed 18 errors.
In 2013, Gordon spent almost the entire year in AAA Albuquerque, where he posted a .297 average. But his success at the plate there didn’t carry over against major league pitching. In 37 games with the Dodgers, Gordon batted a mediocre .234 and stole just 10 bases. A once encouraging career then looked rather gloomy.
Even with the Dodgers and their fans losing patience, Gordon didn’t let those two seasons keep him down. He came back in 2014 to play 148 games as the Dodgers 2nd baseman, putting together a .289.326/.378 slash line and earning his first career All-Star Game Selection.
By the time the July All-Star break came around, Gordon had already stolen 43 bases, and he would finish the season with 64 — the most in Major League Baseball. Gordon also led the league in triples (12), had the third most singles (138), and finished eighth in runs scored (92).
It looked as if Gordon had turned a corner while settling into a new position at 2nd base after playing shortstop for much of his early career. He turned the 5th most double plays among 2nd basemen, and recorded the 5th most putouts. But the Dodgers’ seemed to turn a blind eye to the strides he made.
Critics complained Gordon didn’t walk enough (he had 68 in 1319 plate appearances as a Dodger) to be a leadoff hitter. Others pointed out that his defense was still a bit shaky (he committed the 2nd-most errors at 2nd base last season).
Eventually, the Dodgers decided they had seen enough of Gordon and wanted an upgrade. In December of last year, they sent Gordon and starting pitcher Dan Haren to the Marlins, going so far as to pay both of the players’ salaries. The Dodgers then flipped Andrew Heaney, a young starting pitcher acquired in that deal with the Fish, to the Angels to acquire Howie Kendrick, who would take over for Gordon as their starting 2nd baseman.
As the saying goes, “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure,” and that’s exactly what Gordon has been for the Marlins this season. Born and raised in Windermere, Florida, the move back home has been honeymoon-like for Gordon.
Gordon has slashed .334/.357/.776 in 103 games with the Fish, his .334 average being tops in the game. He has 40 stolen bases, which rank second only to the Reds’ Billy Hamilton, who has 54. Gordon also leads all of MLB in hits with 149 base knocks.
Last month, Gordon made his 2nd consecutive All-Star Game after being voted the NL’s starting 2nd baseman, mostly because of what he did at the plate in the first half of the season. But make no mistake, he’s also improved defensively, committing the fourth fewest errors among his fellow 2nd basemen.
With Giancarlo Stanton out for much of the season with an injury, Gordon has been the Marlins’ only real consistent hitter in their lineup, and could be on his way to a batting title. He has posted a .300 or better average in every month this season except for July, when he was forced to miss the All-Star Game while spending a couple of weeks on the disabled list with a dislocated thumb.
Gordon enters the series against the Phils red-hot. In 16 August games, he is hitting .343. He’s also knocked in 13 runs and stolen six bases. A career .409 hitter against the Phillies, Gordon is slated to face Jerome Williams, Aaron Harang, Aaron Nola and Jordan Eickhoff, who makes his MLB debut for the Phils in the series at Marlins Park. For his career, he is 4 for 9 off Williams, 2 for 9 off Harang, and will be facing Nola for the first time.
Gordon looks to have been a solid pickup for a team loaded with young, talented pieces. Besides the obvious superstars the Marlins have in Giancarlo Stanton and Jose Fernandez, they also have an above-average outfielder in Christian Yelich, as well as a stud shortstop in Adeiny Hechavarria.
Also for the Fish, prospect catcher J.T. Realmuto and pitcher Justin Nicolino both made their major league debuts, and are contributing. Carter Capps has been lights out in the bullpen. And with Gordon at the top of the lineup, the Marlins could be set to do big things in the near future.