Nick Gordon

Sep 23, 2021; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Twins left fielder Nick Gordon (1) hits a three run home run during the fifth inning against the Toronto Blue Jays at Target Field. Mandatory Credit: Jordan Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

The curious case of former first-round pick Nick Gordon continues to get more and more interesting.

Gordon, the Minnesota Twins’ selection at No. 5 overall in the 2014 draft, was once regarded as one of the top prospects in the organization. In 2015, his first professional season, Gordon was ranked as Minnesota’s No. 5 overall prospect by MLB Pipeline behind outfielder Byron Buxton, right-hander Jose Berrios, left-handed pitcher Tyler Jay and infielder Jorge Polanco.

Of course, three of those four other players went on to play for the Twins. But Gordon remained in the minor leagues.

From 2016-17, Gordon jumped up to No. 2 on the Twins’ MLB Pipeline charts before slipping to No. 4 in 2018. The infielder was promoted to Triple-A Rochester that season but struggled immensely, batting .212/.262/.283 in 99 games for the Red Wings.

That 2018 slump plummeted the long-term expectations for Gordon. He dropped to No. 14 on MLB Pipeline’s list in 2019 and was 16th last season.

Now in the big leagues after debuting May 6, Gordon is trying to prove to the Twins they were right all along.

In his first 68 career MLB contests (49 starts), Gordon owns a .678 OPS and .251/.303/.374 slash line. That leaves much to be desired, especially in on-base percentage and slugging percentage. However, Gordon ranks second among rookies this month with a .305 batting average in 19 outings. He’s collected at least one hit in 11 of 16 games started in September and has bumped up his batting average by 24 points and his on-base percentage by 20 points since the beginning of the month.

Gordon, the son of former MLB pitcher Tom Gordon and the brother of former MLB infielder Dee Strange-Gordon, has also stolen five bases on five attempts in September. He’s the first Twins player to bat above .300 and swipe at least five bags in a month since Buxton in his breakout August 2017. “Buck” hit .324 and stole eight bases during that stretch.

The Twins infield does have an opening next season. Veteran shortstop Andrelton Simmons is set to be a free agent. Minnesota could move Jorge Polanco back to short and have Luis Arraez take over as the full-time second baseman, thus giving Gordon an opportunity to flex his versatility and win the utility role. After all, he’s played six different positions in 2021.

Or, maybe Gordon has done enough to be considered as an option at shortstop next season?

If so, he’ll need to walk more. Gordon gets a free pass in 5.4% of his plate appearances. Among players with 200+ plate appearances, only 10 have drawn fewer walks than Gordon, including teammate Willians Astudillo (3 BB; 209 PA).

Gordon will try to get his bat hot when Minnesota opens its final homestand of the 2021 campaign Tuesday night against Detroit.

The Tigers shouldn’t be looked at lightly. Detroit has won 13 of 23 games this month -- the first time the Tigers have been victorious in more than seven contests and have posted a winning percentage above .300 in September since 2018.

NOTABLE

-- Future Hall of Fame infielder Miguel Cabrera, who has collected 251 of 2,986 career hits and 46 of 502 career dingers against the Twins, is batting .347 this month -- his best single month at the plate since 2016. If he wants to join the 3,000-hit club by the end of the season, he needs 14 more with six games remaining.

-- Polanco has tallied a league-high 78 hits against AL Central foes. Catcher Mitch Garver and Buxton rank No. 1 and No. 2 in terms of OPS vs. the division 1.117 and .985.

-- Only three teams have given rookies more plate appearances than the Twins (1,380). Trevor Larnach leads all Minnesota first-year players with 301, followed by Alex Kirilloff (231) and Gordon (201). Twins rookies are batting a collective .216/.287/.373. In the other dugout, Tigers rookies have registered the second-most plate appearances (1,427) and are hitting .226/.294/.413.

Statistics courtesy Sportradar, Stathead