Why You Need To Know Who Brian Gordon Is

As I type this, the Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs are up 3-0 at Charolette, with chance to extend their International League-best winning percentage to .631 and strengthen their odds at their first winning season and their first International League North Title. The Ryne Sandberg-led club is filled with capable MLB replacement-level position players like Pete Orr (covered here), John Mayberry Jr. (covered here), Ronnie Belliard, and Scott Podsednik, as well as MLB replacement-level pitching like Brian Bass and Penn State product Nate Bump. The Pigs find themselves with a trio of players who will likely see time with the Phils in some capacity in the next year or two: 6’8 reliever Mike Schwimer, 26 year old starting pitcher Drew Carpenter, and fan favorite Vance Worley. There are also some interesting projects like former top prospect Scott Mathieson and last year’s 30-year old rookie Erik Kratz, but no project player may be more interesting than tonight’s pitcher of record for Lehigh Valley, Brian Gordon.

Gordon was taken in the 1997 MLB draft in the 7th round by the Arizona Diamondbacks out of as an outfielder with plus power and a plus arm. He spent his first ten minor league seasons making a natural progression through the minor leagues, never skipping a level and never getting sent back down.

Year Age Tm Lg Lev Aff AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG
1997 18 Diamondbacks ARIZ Rk 219 27 54 18 4 4 46 8 3 9 62 .247 .272 .420
1998 19 South Bend MIDW A ARI 468 46 131 23 6 8 61 6 4 14 100 .280 .302 .406
1999 20 South Bend MIDW A ARI 184 21 39 9 3 0 17 8 3 9 35 .212 .251 .293
2000 21 High Desert CALL A+ ARI 476 98 148 26 13 12 66 19 14 47 107 .311 .371 .496
2001 22 Lancaster CALL A+ ARI 392 74 119 21 10 16 70 13 7 26 100 .304 .345 .531
2002 23 El Paso TL AA ARI 477 73 137 32 9 10 67 2 6 36 111 .287 .343 .455
2003 24 Tucson PCL AAA ARI 449 58 119 20 7 13 70 1 3 33 93 .265 .314 .428
2004 25 Salt Lake PCL AAA ANA 475 80 123 24 4 22 70 6 2 30 145 .259 .305 .465
2005 26 Salt Lake PCL AAA LAA 340 50 94 25 4 17 55 7 5 25 101 .276 .323 .524
2006 27 Round Rock PCL AAA HOU 303 48 73 21 3 16 59 1 3 28 110 .241 .310 .488

Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/6/2011.

Gordon showed power in each season he played, specifically in a standout year 21 season in A+ ball at High Desert hitting .311/.371/.496 with 26 doubles, 13 triples, and 12 home runs and a 32 doubles, 9 triples, and 10 home run performance with a .287/.343/.455 triple slash in his age 23 season in his only Double A stop in El Paso in 2002. His slugging percentage remained high in his remaining years as an outfielder, never falling below .428, his first year in Triple A and averaged 17 home runs a season in four full seasons as a Triple A outfielder.

Gordon took the mound after the 2006 season, with the help of then-Houston Astros’ special advisor Nolan Ryan. The Astros were his third franchise; he started the 2007 campaign on the hill for Double A Corpus Christi and finished the year with Triple A Oklahoma. In 2008, he was released shortly after Spring Training by the Astros but quickly picked up by the Rangers.

Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/6/2011.
Year Age Tm Lg Lev Aff W L ERA G GS GF SV IP H ER HR BB SO WHIP SO/9 SO/BB
2008 29 3 Teams 2 Lgs AAA-AA TEX,HOU 6 5 3.51 34 11 10 3 95.0 96 37 15 20 70 1.221 6.6 3.50
2008 29 Oklahoma PCL AAA TEX 4 5 4.56 18 11 1 0 71.0 85 36 14 15 51 1.408 6.5 3.40
2008 29 Corpus Christi TL AA HOU 0 0 4.50 1 0 0 0 2.0 2 1 1 1 1 1.500 4.5 1.00
2008 29 Frisco TL AA TEX 2 0 0.00 15 0 9 3 22.0 9 0 0 4 18 0.591 7.4 4.50

Gordon pitched 22 scoreless innings for Double A Frisco, averaging a little more than a half a base-runner per inning pitched and striking out 4.5 for every batter walked. The Rangers gave him an opportunity to start in Triple A, where his WHIP rose, but K/9 and K/BB remained strong. After 12 seasons in the minor leagues, the 29-year old saw his first action in the Major Leagues:

Year Age Tm Lg W L W-L% ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB IBB SO HBP BK WP BF ERA+ WHIP H/9 HR/9 BB/9 SO/9 SO/BB Awards
2008 29 TEX AL 0 0 2.25 3 0 0 0 0 0 4.0 4 1 1 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 16 214 1.000 9.0 0.0 0.0 2.3
1 Season 0 0 2.25 3 0 0 0 0 0 4.0 4 1 1 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 16 214 1.000 9.0 0.0 0.0 2.3
162 Game Avg. 0 0 2.25 68 0 0 0 0 0 91 91 23 23 0 0 0 23 0 0 0 363 214 1.000 9.0 0.0 0.0 2.3

Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/6/2011.

Fast-forward to 2011. Gordon is now a starting pitcher for Lehigh Valley after opening the season on the disabled list in Double A Reading. According to Michael LoRe of Lehigh Valley Live, Gordon was shifted into the starting rotation for the Pigs after three relief appearances to fill the hole that Worley left when he was called-up to Philadelphia on April 29. Gordon has not relinquished his spot. Steven Gross of the Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs Examiner beat relays the fact that Gordon became only the third Pig, joining Justin Lehr in 2008 and Nelson Figueroa in 2010, to win the International League Pitcher of the Week. With the completion of tonight’s game, a 3-0 victory over Charolette, Gordon earned his fifth win of the year, striking out 11 over 6 innings, giving up only 3 hits and one walk, and lowering his ERA to 0.74. Yes, 0.74.

Gordon will turn 33 on August 16 but has the benefit of logging only four and a half seasons as a pitcher on his his right arm. Gordon could be a terrific option in the event of an injury to a member of the Phillies starting rotation or bullpen, but there are a few obstacles in his way:

1.) Worley is likely the man to be called up should there be another injury to the starting rotation. Worley struggled in his last outing with the Phils but at 23, he is the youngest member of the Pigs’ starting rotation with the highest upside.

In Gordon’s favor: upper management may want to keep Worley in a regular rhythm and keep his arm stretched instead of shuttling him back and forth.

2.) If a righty member of the pen goes down, Carpenter has a shot be the next man called up. Carpenter made cameos in 2008, 2009, and 2010 for the Phils and is a former 2006 second round pick who received a sizable bonus. Carpenter made a successful transition this year in his age 26 season from starter to reliever, compiling a 2.10 ERA over 17 games with a 4.63 K/BB ratio. The other obstacles that Gordon would need to climb to claim a bullpen spot are righties Mathieson, who has made a 2011 cameo, and Schwimer, who at age 25, is in a make or break season and is excelling, posting a 1.78 ERA in Lehigh Valley in 20 games with 11.6 K/9 IP.

In Gordon’s favor: Carpenter and Mathieson have been inconsistent at best in the Majors while Scwhimer is a complete unknown in the Major Leagues.

I can’t be objective: I’m rooting for Brian Gordon to see Major League time with the Phillies in 2011. He’s far and away statistically their best starting pitcher and will continue to receive International League accolades. Time will tell if his strong performance will hold but his peripherals indicate that his improvement is for real. His K/BB in four years of Triple A ball  have increased in each of the last three seasons (2.55, 4.53, 6.00), his BB/9 IP have dipped in that time period (2.3, 2.2, 1.2), and his WHIP has dropped from 1.190 to 1.179 to .797 before tonight’s game. Gordon, no doubt, will regress and the last of those numbers in each of the data sets will lower, rise, and rise in that order but he has been one of the best stories and best pitchers in the International League this season and the Phillies would be silly not to give him a serious look.

Revisiting Acquiring John Mayberry Jr.

John Mayberry Jr. rounding first base after hitting the game winning single, Opening Day 2011.

The Phillies entered the 2011 season minus an All-Star right fielder, down a top prospect, and with a lot of question marks after Ryan Howard‘s place in the line-up. An unlikely hero was found Opening Day when John Mayberry Jr., the fourth or possibly fifth outfielder at the time,had a pinch-hit single in the 9th to start the Phils’ season with a win.

The 27 year-old Mayberry is a former first-round pick out of Stanford by the Texas Rangers. Drafted in 2005, Mayberry showed promising power in the minor leagues in four seasons with the Rangers, while displaying poor plate discipline and propensity to wiff.

Year Age Tm Lg Lev Aff G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB GDP HBP SH SF IBB
2005 21 Spokane NORW A- TEX 71 302 265 51 67 16 0 11 26 7 3 26 71 .253 .341 .438 .779 116 1 10 0 1 1
2006 22 Clinton MIDW A TEX 126 533 459 77 123 26 4 21 77 9 3 59 117 .268 .358 .479 .838 220 7 9 0 6 2
2007 23 2 Teams 2 Lgs AA-A+ TEX 132 548 489 82 115 25 1 30 83 16 2 48 126 .235 .311 .474 .785 232 13 7 1 3 2
2007 23 Bakersfield CALL A+ TEX 63 277 244 47 56 15 1 16 45 9 1 28 64 .230 .314 .496 .810 121 7 3 0 2 2
2007 23 Frisco TL AA TEX 69 271 245 35 59 10 0 14 38 7 1 20 62 .241 .307 .453 .760 111 6 4 1 1 0
2008 24 2 Teams 2 Lgs AAA-AA TEX 135 565 519 65 137 38 7 20 71 10 3 34 106 .264 .317 .480 .797 249 12 8 1 3 2
2008 24 Frisco TL AA TEX 21 90 82 16 22 8 0 4 13 4 1 4 21 .268 .322 .512 .834 42 3 3 0 1 0
2008 24 Oklahoma PCL AAA TEX 114 475 437 49 115 30 7 16 58 6 2 30 85 .263 .316 .474 .790 207 9 5 1 2 2
6 Seasons 681 2853 2543 394 655 150 15 110 365 68 16 240 625 .258 .330 .458 .788 1165 53 46 3 21 11
AAA (3 seasons) AAA 331 1380 1248 168 328 75 10 44 166 32 7 103 290 .263 .325 .445 .770 555 29 17 2 10 6
AA (2 seasons) AA 90 361 327 51 81 18 0 18 51 11 2 24 83 .248 .311 .468 .779 153 9 7 1 2 0
A (1 season) A 126 533 459 77 123 26 4 21 77 9 3 59 117 .268 .358 .479 .838 220 7 9 0 6 2
A- (1 season) A- 71 302 265 51 67 16 0 11 26 7 3 26 71 .253 .341 .438 .779 116 1 10 0 1 1
A+ (1 season) A+ 63 277 244 47 56 15 1 16 45 9 1 28 64 .230 .314 .496 .810 121 7 3 0 2 2
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 5/19/2011.

With a triple slash line of .258/.330/.458 in the minors entering his age 25 season, Mayberry, at 6’5 and 220 lbs., was a decent power threat and had a 80.95% success rate on the base paths. Entering the 2009 season, the Texas Rangers fielded an outfield of David Murphy, Marlon Byrd, Josh Hamilton, Nelson Cruz, and Andruw Jones. While being a 25 year old in Triple A doesn’t mean your ancient, your chances become increasingly difficult to reach the Major Leagues if you haven’t gotten there yet. Unfortunately, baseball is a game of labels. And with 331 games played in Triple A through the 2008 season, Texas thought it had the book written on Mayberry.

Ruben Amaro Jr., another Stanford graduate, took over as Phillies’ General Manager following Pat Gillick’s retirement in November 2008. While some may think taking over a championship ball club is easy, Amaro faced a number of challenges in his first off-season as GM. His first decision would be whether or not to re-sign Pat Burrell, who the Phillies had drafted first overall in 1998 and had been a Phillie since 2000. Burrell was the Grand Marshall of the 2008 World Series parade and amongst the primary right-handed power threats for the Phillies for nine seasons. Amaro also had to decide whether or not to offer arbitration to players like Greg Dobbs and Eric Bruntlett, key reserves on the 2008 squad. And most glaringly, Amaro had to find ways to plug holes on the Phillies’ bench and upper minor league systems that were patrolled with names like T.J. Bohn, Mike Cervanek, and Brad Harman; with a bullpen that relied at times on Les Walrond, RJ Swindle, and 39 year old Rudy Seanez. One of Ruben’s first moves went under the radar: Amaro traded once promising speedster Greg Golson for Mayberry.

The trade at the time did not get tremendous amount of press other than the obligatory line in the transaction column on November 20, 2008. Phuture Phillies blog, which continues to this day to be the top site for news, analysis and daily box scores of all Phillies’ prospects, was just about the only link I could find that has reflected on the, at the time, seemingly inconsequential trade. Responses to the trade at the time ranged from upset Phillies fans who saw Golson as the future in the outfield, after all, Golson’s slash line was .263/.309/.398, averaging over 31 steals a season with a 79.01% success rate on the base paths in 5 minor league seasons with power that increased each year, to promise that Mayberry would provide right-handed power off of the bench and the capability to spell Howard at first base. Other responses inspired indifference.

Year Age Tm Lg Lev Aff G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB GDP HBP SH SF IBB
2004 18 Phillies GULF Rk PHI 47 201 183 34 54 8 5 1 22 12 2 10 54 .295 .345 .410 .755 75 2 5 1 2 0
2005 19 Lakewood SALL A PHI 89 409 375 51 99 19 8 4 27 25 9 26 106 .264 .322 .389 .711 146 4 6 2 0 0
2006 20 2 Teams 2 Lgs A-A+ PHI 133 593 546 87 127 26 6 13 48 30 10 30 160 .233 .277 .374 .651 204 5 5 9 3 2
2006 20 Lakewood SALL A PHI 93 419 387 56 85 15 4 7 31 23 7 19 107 .220 .258 .333 .591 129 2 2 8 3 1
2006 20 Clearwater FLOR A+ PHI 40 174 159 31 42 11 2 6 17 7 3 11 53 .264 .324 .472 .795 75 3 3 1 0 1
2007 21 2 Teams 2 Lgs A+-AA PHI 136 607 571 86 156 32 5 15 68 30 8 23 173 .273 .305 .426 .730 243 4 5 3 5 2
2007 21 Clearwater FLOR A+ PHI 99 449 418 66 119 27 3 12 52 25 8 21 124 .285 .322 .450 .772 188 4 4 2 4 2
2007 21 Reading EL AA PHI 37 158 153 20 37 5 2 3 16 5 0 2 49 .242 .255 .359 .614 55 0 1 1 1 0
2008 22 Reading EL AA PHI 106 470 426 64 120 18 4 13 60 23 5 34 130 .282 .333 .434 .767 185 3 1 4 5 0
8 Seasons 774 3344 3073 436 808 145 43 61 314 159 42 185 860 .263 .309 .398 .706 1222 33 29 34 23 4
AAA (3 seasons) AAA 263 1064 972 114 252 42 15 15 89 39 8 62 237 .259 .306 .380 .686 369 15 7 15 8 0
A (2 seasons) A 182 828 762 107 184 34 12 11 58 48 16 45 213 .241 .290 .361 .651 275 6 8 10 3 1
AA (2 seasons) AA 143 628 579 84 157 23 6 16 76 28 5 36 179 .271 .313 .415 .728 240 3 2 5 6 0
A+ (2 seasons) A+ 139 623 577 97 161 38 5 18 69 32 11 32 177 .279 .323 .456 .778 263 7 7 3 4 3
Rk (1 season) Rk 47 201 183 34 54 8 5 1 22 12 2 10 54 .295 .345 .410 .755 75 2 5 1 2 0
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 5/19/2011.

In their analysis of the deal, Phuture Phillies declared the trade a win for Amaroand praised his “outside the box” thinking in a rare prospect for prospect move. They cited Golson’s ceiling as a hitter and his even higher propensity to strikeout as glaring weaknesses in Golson’s game. They projected Golson as a 4th or 5th outfielder, one whose value became his abilities on defense and the basepaths. Meanwhile, Phuture Phils’ cited Mayberry’s improving walk rate, plus power, and his ability to hit left-handed pitching as preferable moving forward for the team.

Mayberry did not make the big club out of Spring Training in 2009. The Phils signed Raul Ibanez in the off-season, retained the services of Matt Stairs, and acquired right-handed hitting Ben Francisco in the Cliff Lee trade. He did, however, make a splash in his Major League debut with the team at Yankee Stadium, going 2-3 with a 3-run home run and a double. Perhaps the most memorable moment for the fans watching at home, however, was Fox incorrectly identifying John Mayberry’s father in the stands.

It is now 2011. Mayberry saw limited action in 2009 and 2010 with the Phillies. With the departure of Werth and injury to Dom Brown, Mayberry cracked the big club out of the gate on opening day. He had a walk off-single and has hit .255/.359/.418 with 2 home runs and 4 steals in 31 games across all three outfield positions and first base.
Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer reported today that Amaro said it’s not a matter of if but when Brown is called up to the Phillies as he rehabs.  Hidden in the piece was a line from Charlie Manuel regarding John Mayberry: “He’s shown me enough he gets to play tonight.”
Will Mayberry remain hot, or at least consistent, enough to continue to patrol the outfield for the Phils? His main competition at this time, Ibanez and Francisco, have .225/.281/.338 and .218/.327/.346 triple-slashes respectively against Mayberry’s .255/.359/.418 in similar sample sizes. At the very least, Mayberry looks like a bigger threat to lefties than Francisco and provides a better arm and greater defensive range than Ibanez. Even with Brown’s call-up looming, I wouldn’t be surprised if Charlie kept Mayberry in the line-up due to his versatility, plus power, and smarts on the base paths. And even if Mayberry should remain a role player, it is clear that Amaro got the better end of his first trade as a Major League GM.
Golson through this date has not seen action in the Major Leagues in 2011 and is now with Yankees’ Triple A affiliate Scranton-Wilkes-Barre via an even less talked about trade that sent Yankee farm-hand Mitch Hilligoss to Texas. In 30 Major League plate appearances, including 6 with the Phillies in 2008, Golson has a triple-slash line of .200/.200/.267 going 1 for 3 on the base paths, with only 2 extra base hits and 2 RBIs. Golson’s stats since the trade in Triple A are as follows:
Year Age Tm Lg Lev Aff G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB GDP HBP SH SF IBB
2009 23 Oklahoma City PCL AAA TEX 123 500 457 46 118 17 8 2 40 20 4 29 114 .258 .299 .344 .642 157 8 0 8 6 0
2010 24 Scranton/Wilkes-Barre IL AAA NYY 116 454 415 51 109 23 5 10 40 17 4 25 99 .263 .313 .414 .727 172 7 6 6 2 0
2011 25 Scranton/Wilkes-Barre IL AAA NYY 24 110 100 17 25 2 2 3 9 2 0 8 24 .250 .312 .400 .712 40 0 1 1 0 0
AAA (3 seasons) AAA 263 1064 972 114 252 42 15 15 89 39 8 62 237 .259 .306 .380 .686 369 15 7 15 8 0
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 5/19/2011.

versus those of Mayberry:

Year Age Tm Lg Lev Aff G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB GDP HBP SH SF IBB
2008 24 2 Teams 2 Lgs AAA-AA TEX 135 565 519 65 137 38 7 20 71 10 3 34 106 .264 .317 .480 .797 249 12 8 1 3 2
2008 24 Oklahoma PCL AAA TEX 114 475 437 49 115 30 7 16 58 6 2 30 85 .263 .316 .474 .790 207 9 5 1 2 2
2009 25 Lehigh Valley IL AAA PHI 89 358 316 44 81 20 2 13 43 6 2 34 94 .256 .332 .456 .788 144 6 4 0 4 0
2010 26 Lehigh Valley IL AAA PHI 128 547 495 75 132 25 1 15 65 20 3 39 111 .267 .328 .412 .740 204 14 8 1 4 4
AAA (3 seasons) AAA 331 1380 1248 168 328 75 10 44 166 32 7 103 290 .263 .325 .445 .770 555 29 17 2 10 6
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 5/19/2011.

Mayberry has Golson beat in the triple slash and BB:K ratio, even when adjusting for his time outside of the hitter friendly PCL and appears to be a better player at this point in their respective careers. Golson remains two years younger, but at this point, Amaro’s shot in the dark at acquiring Mayberry looks like it may be a slam-dunk.

Don’t forget to follow @MaGelb and @phuturephillies on Twitter for the latest in Phils and Phils’ minor league news.

Opening Day 2011: Phillies Win!

As you know by now, the Phillies’ won today’s game 5-4 over the Astros on John Mayberry Jr.’s walk-off, RBI single. Here are some pics from my brother and I’s first ever Opening Day!

And here are some videos Bill took:

The Phils entering Asburn Alley

The awesome pregame American flag set-up with line-ups

And our view of Roy Halladay firing a first pitch strike to open the 2011 season