Who Will Lead Off for the 2016 Nationals?

Dee Gordon

The 27-year-old second baseman struggled to get and stay on the field consistently in Los Angeles, and he generally posted weak offensive numbers there. He was known for his blistering speed and good glove work, but he showed no power, he struck out too much, and he didn’t walk enough.

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It’s worth noting than in two of his three down years, he posted BABIPs well below his career average of .346, indicating he suffered unusually from some combination of bad luck and facing good defenses.

Separating out the 2014-15 seasons shows an improved offensive player that is “similar, but different.” Little power, and while the walks rate is still small, the strikeout rates came down several percentage points and BABIPs came back to being much more in line with his career marks. These show a player much more suitable to being a top-of-the-order hitter.

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His 2015 campaign is notable for a career-high BABIP, but he also posted his lowest strikeout rate since 2011. His power numbers are up, too, but that’s never going to be what he’s paid for. He’ll get paid to wreak havoc on the bases once he gets there. And that he did, stealing 58 bases in 78 tries (good for an effective 74 percent success rate.)

Gordon’s sprinter-grade speed allows him to beat out bunts and make routine plays stressful; it gives him more defensive range; it’s a generally hidden factor, but one that is always useful.

Comparing Gordon to Span, we are reminded of just how top-form Span really was in his final two years with Washington, and we also see that Span posted three years (his age 26, 27, and 29 seasons) that were Gordonian in nature:

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In sum: little power, middling on-base figures and average or below average BABIPs.

Span will probably always be harder to strike out than Gordon, and will probably always walk more and have more power. But they are reasonable comps for each other. Gordon has hit lefties and righties roughly equally over his career (.667 OPS and a .708 OPS, respectively.) He’s a second baseman, which would also allow Nationals additional infield flexibility.

Would the Marlins trade him? If a club is willing to consider trading Jose Fernandez, presumably they’re willing to trade just about anyone, right? That doesn’t seem like a serious obstacle.

Gordon is young. He’s durable. He’s possibly getting better – like Span – but even if he’s not, his floor is still solid.

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