Back in 2005, Alex Gordon was the Royals' first-round draft pick. Only Justin Upton was off the board, as Gordon was the second overall pick. He was coming off a national player of the year season in college baseball. Then, in 2006, he was the minor league player of the year after hitting .325 with 29 home runs, 101 RBI, 111 runs and 22 steals. His OPS was a robust 1.016. All this made him the No. 2 prospect in all of baseball heading into the 2007 season.
Since then, things have been a relative flop.
His best season was 2008, when he went .260/.351/.432. He hit 16 home runs and had 35 doubles in 493 at-bats. He wasn't great, but those numbers certainly weren't awful. So he looked primed for a breakthrough in 2009, only he's badly regressed since then. He has battled injuries, suffered through a demotion to the minors, changed positions and failed to be productive at the big league level.
His combined stats for 2009-10 show 123 games and 470 plate appearances. His line is .222/.319/.365.
The good news is that Gordon has refined his swing and, according to his hitting coach and manager, looks ready to have that breakout season (via Associated Press ).
"It's really huge for him," hitting coach Kevin Seitzer said of Gordon's swing. "His confidence right now is probably as high as it's ever been since I've been here. We’re getting him looser with his upper body, doing pretty much a solid month of drill work, just the tension out of his upper body and really focusing him being more consistent in his approach. His hands are working better. His swing is much better. Now it’s just going to be seeing how consistent he can be once the game starts."
"He's been putting on shows in batting practice," Royals manager Ned Yost added. "Granted it's only been batting practice, but his swing looks different. He looks much, much better. The real judge will be in the games when you’re making adjustments off competitive pitching. It looks like the work is paying off for him. It's just smoothing his swing out more than anything else, really just getting him short and just getting him to stay behind the ball and drive the ball."
He's also only 27, so while it seems like we've been waiting on Gordon for ages, he's still young enough to make good on his once seemingly unlimited promise.
Someone who comes to mind as a viable example is Phil Nevin. Granted, Nevin is viewed historically as a bit of a bust, considering he only made one All-Star Game after being the top overall draft pick, but he did have a solid six-year stint with the Padres from 1999-2004, where he compiled a 133 OPS-plus and 147 home runs. That stint started when he was 28.
This isn't to compare the two players or show Gordon won't break out until next season. It's simply an illustration that sometimes there's a delay before great talent shows up. Gordon could still easily go on to have a banner career.
And 2011 could be the new beginning.
-- Matt Snyder
For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsmlb on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.