With veteran Rafael Furcal entering the final guaranteed season of his contract, the Dodgers have put the son of 22-year veteran Major League pitcher Tom "Flash" Gordon squarely in the fast lane to the Major Leagues.
Gordon is ranked No. 44 on MLB.com's Top 50 Prospects list for 2011, but Gordon has been the Dodgers' top position prospect for two years running and he doesn't turn 23 until April.
He preferred basketball and didn't play baseball in high school until his senior year, then he missed a year of college action because of a transcript snafu. So Gordon has been playing makeup since the Dodgers -- on the recommendation of assistant general manager DeJon Watson, who played with Gordon's father -- selected him in the fourth round of the 2008 First-Year Player Draft and signed him for $250,000.
"He reminds me of a young [Omar] Vizquel," said new manager Don Mattingly. "You look at him and think you can knock the bat out of his hands, but he just gets better and better. You see the tools, but he has to go out and play and continue to get better so he'll be ready to play when he gets here."
Physically, Gordon looks a lot more like a batboy than the hoped-for 2012 starting shortstop and leadoff hitter. He's listed at 5-foot-11 and 150 pounds. His head disappears into a batting helmet and it looks like he still needs to grow into his uniform. So far, the Dodgers have been unsuccessful trying to get him to gain weight.
But the raw tools are there, most notably the game-changing speed that resulted in 53 stolen bases last year at Double-A Chattanooga, following up the 73 he stole at low Class A Great Lakes in 2009, when he won the organization's Branch Rickey Award as the Minor League Player of the Year.
The double jump in competition class last year didn't stop Gordon from batting a respectable .277 with 86 runs scored. He's still working on cutting down his strikeouts (89) and caught stealing (20), but 11 extra-base hits (including six triples) in only 33 games in Puerto Rico give a glimpse that he can be more than a slap hitter.
Defensively, he's athletic with remarkable first-step quickness and range, but still a work in progress, having committed 95 errors in 319 games. Some come on throws after he's reached balls that seem unreachable.
In virtually every trade discussion, other teams ask for Gordon, but general manager Ned Colletti has resisted the temptation to include him. The Dodgers' farm system hasn't produced an All-Star shortstop since Jose Offerman in 1995.
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.