Draft : : Prospect Scouting Reports
Friday, January 17, 2014

Draft Focus: Nick Gordon

David Rawnsley        
Photo: Perfect Game

Every weekday leading up to the 2014 MLB Draft, Perfect Game will be providing a scouting profile on a notable draft-eligible prospect.  Stay tuned to Perfect Game and be sure to visit the Draft Page for all of the latest info and reports pertaining to the draft.

Nicholas Gordon Perfect Game profile

Position:  SS/RHP
Height:  6-2
Weight:  170
Bats/Throws:  L-R
Birthdate:  Oct. 24, 1995
High School:  Olympia
City, State:  Windermere, Fla.
Travel Team:  FTB Chandler
Commitment:  Florida State
Projected Draft Round:  1

There is an element of the baseball community that says once a player has the attention of the scouts, has his national ranking and has his college commitment, there really isn’t any reason for him to hustle around and play at national level events.

Fortunately that is a very small element in the game at this level. The reality is that baseball is a game of repetitions and learning, and the only way you get better is by playing as often as possible against players of your talent level or better.

No player in the 2014 class has ascribed as enthusiastically and completely, and benefited as much, to the 'play as much as you can' path than Nicholas Gordon.

Gordon has played in at least 24 Perfect Game events, starting at the 2010 Perfect Game/East Cobb 14/15u Championship and continuing on through the 2014 World Showcase in early January. He’s also played in numerous other national level events such as the Area Code Games and the East Coast Pro Showcase. The pinnacle of last summer occurred when he received the Jackie Robinson Award as part of the Perfect Game All-American Classic, honoring not only his success on the baseball field, but the high merits of his character.

Maybe the only time he’s been known to pass on an opportunity to play was last summer when he declined to play at the Tournament of Stars as part of the selection process for the USA 18u National Team. The story in the scouting community was that Gordon’s mother, Yolanda, wasn’t wild about him spending two weeks of school time traveling in Taiwan and South Korea.

When a scout gets to see a player play that much over a four-year period of development it becomes a huge advantage to the player – if his tools, skills and character are up to it.

Gordon’s tools and skills are most obvious on defense. While his running speed is probably only a 55 on the pro scouting scale – he ran 6.69, 6.68 and 6.65 in his three sixty’s in 2013 – he is exceptionally athletic and quick in his actions and will have easy plus to plus/plus range. His raw arm strength is peerless and is at the top of the grading scale. He has a tendency to lay back on routine ground balls and get them between hops, but that is a learned skill that he will grow out of with repetitions and a faster game.

When the game gets faster is when Gordon’s defensive instincts and creativity really shine. He’s one of the rare players one watches closely on defense because you never know when he might make a spectacular play.

My personal favorite was when he was playing second base at the PG National Showcase last June. With a runner on first, the batter rolled a ground ball up the middle that looked like a base hit. Gordon slid across the dirt cutout at second base to spear the ball, tagged the second base bag with his glove in same motion as fielding the ball, then effortlessly popped up and threw to first to complete the double play by 20 feet. It looked so simple and yet was so difficult and unique.

I turned to the scout next to me and said, “who in the big leagues makes that play?”

Observing Gordon’s evolution as a hitter has been a huge benefit of seeing him so often. He’s always had a fundamentally sound swing that keeps the barrel inside the ball for a long time and works the ball to the middle of the field and to the left-center field gap. It’s not a dissimilar overall approach than a bigger Joe Mauer had at the same age.

When he weighed 150 pounds, Gordon just concentrated on getting the barrel out and squaring the ball up. As he’s got stronger the ball is coming off the barrel harder and going up the gap instead of just over the shortstop’s head, and he’s learning what pitches he can turn on and drive to the pull side.

At the World Showcase a couple of weeks ago it was obvious that Gordon was stronger in the upper body and his bat speed and strength at contact reflected that. The defining swing was when he took an 86 mph fastball from a lefthander and calmly drove it about 30 feet over the left fielder’s head. It was not something he could probably have done a year before.

But it might be with the character aspect that seeing Gordon around the ballpark and at the field so much has benefited scouts the most. There is no player in the 2014 class whose self-identity and actions are more centered around being a baseball player than Nicholas Gordon. Yes, it is easier when your father played in the Major Leagues for over 20 years. But that is only a first step.

Gordon has played for FTB and their head coach Jered Goodwin in the summers and fall for over two years. Goodwin isn’t shy about discussing Gordon and very little of it has to do with his tools.

Nick is like a little brother to me. We are past the coach-player relationship. He is as genuine of a kid as I have ever been around. There is zero entitlement, he wants to work hard and build his own road. Nick is a leader on the field and off of it and the hard work and competitiveness is contagious to the people around him. He can run, field, hit, has a great arm and is developing power.

However, his best tool may be his character. Nick is the biggest fan of all his teammates and truly wants them to do well. When you have a leader like that it makes it so easy for an entire team to produce big numbers and wins. With everything that Nick brings to the table you could start to build a franchise around him. People just want to be around this kid.”

Of course, no discussion of Gordon would be complete without breaking down his potential on the mound. It’s noteworthy that Goodwin says that Gordon and his father love to compete and trash talk and the two most common and heated topics are who's better at basketball and who has a better curveball.

Any 18 year old who can argue with conviction that he has a better curveball than Tom “Flash” Gordon is saying something.

There is no question that Gordon has first round potential on the mound. Even before his recent strength/weight gains, he was capable of getting his fastball up to 94 mph with great downhill plane and without too much effort. His upper-70s hammer is indeed a potential plus big league pitch, and it would just be a matter of more innings before his changeup and command advanced to the same level. There are plenty of national level scouts who feel this way and dream of Gordon focusing on the mound.

I once asked Flash what he thought about the whole shortstop versus pitcher question. After pointing out that he, too, had been a primary shortstop back in high school in Avon Park, Fla. in the mid-80s, he answered with a laugh.

Oh no. Nick thinks he’s a shortstop and I think he’s a shortstop. That’s what he’s going to play.”

Perfect Game events attended:

    2010 14u/15u Perfect Game-East Cobb Invitational
    2010 14U BCS Finals
    2011 16U WWBA Memorial Day Classic
    2011 14u/15u Perfect Game-East Cobb Invitational
    2011 WWBA Underclass World Championship
    2011 WWBA World Championship
    2012 National Underclass Session 3
    2012 16U WWBA East Memorial Day Classic
    2012 18U WWBA East Memorial Day Classic
    2012 Sunshine East Showcase
    2012 Jr National Showcase
    2012 16U BCS Finals
    2012 WWBA 2013 Grads or 17u National Championship
    2012 WWBA 2014 Grads or 16u National Championship
    2012 WWBA Underclass World Championship
    2012 WWBA World Championship
    2012 National Underclass Showcase-Main Event
    2013 World Showcase
    2013 National Showcase
    2013 18u BCS Finals
    2013 WWBA 2014 Grads or 17u National Championship
    2013 Perfect Game All-American Classic Presented by Rawlings
    2013 WWBA World Championship
    2014 World Showcase

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