He ripped up high school pitching with impunity, batting .494 his senior year, but so what? The important question is, how will Nick Gordon, the Twins’ newest high-ceiling prospect, handle big-league pitching?
It just so happens he already has got an inkling.
“I pitched to him, threw it pretty hard, had it going pretty good, back just after I retired [in 2009]. I even hit him, and he’d get upset,” said Tom “Flash” Gordon, father of the Twins first-round pick and a 20-year veteran who pitched more than 2,100 major league innings. “Whack. Whack. Whack. ... He was whacking it all over the place.”
That’s a great sign for the Twins and Gordon, who accepted a $3.851 million signing bonus Monday, only four days after being taken fifth overall in last week’s amateur draft. The contract exactly matches the recommended “slot” amount for the fifth pick, so there was little negotiation necessary.
“This is a rarity. Players don’t sign this quick, especially first-rounders,” Twins General Manager Terry Ryan said. “Many times, they take a month or two off before they want to get on with things.”
But Gordon was eager to get started, and as a result, he will report to Fort Myers, Fla., later this week. If all goes well, he will be taking the field as Elizabethton’s starting shortstop June 19 in Greenville, Tenn., when the Appalachian League season opens.
“Having an ex-major leaguer as a father” sped up the process, Ryan said, adding that Tom Gordon told him, “ ‘Let’s get this done, let’s get the most money we can, get him signed and let’s get him out.’ As we all know, the money’s not in the minor leagues.”
No, it’s in the big-league clubhouses, where Gordon has spent his entire life, following his father. “Nicholas is a kid who played the game all his life. He wanted to be at the ballpark every single day, every single moment,” the elder Gordon said. “I had to sneak out of the house to go to the park, because if I left him, oh, it was a problem, a serious problem.”
He was a shortstop but also a pitcher that threw 95 miles per hour. But his father believed two positions was too much and was most impressed with Nick Gordon’s instincts in the infield.
“He’s always in the right place. He’s always getting the big hit,” Tom Gordon said. “So we focused on that.”
Nick Gordon is focused now on bulking up his 175-pound frame, of growing into the occasional power hitter the Twins believe he can be.
“I’m ready. I get in the gym, hit it pretty hard, and I’ve gained about 15 pounds already,” he said. “It’s a blessing to be a Minnesota Twin. It’s a great feeling and I’m ready to get started.”
Some teams are reluctant to send high school prospects to rookie league right away, preferring to start them slowly in the Gulf Coast League. But Gordon “is a little more advanced high school player,” Ryan said, in part because he spent plenty of time in offseason traveling leagues.
“He’s going to be exposed to some college pitching, a little different flavor. College guys can throw breaking balls on 2-0 and 3-1 [counts]. But we think he can handle that.”
So does Gordon, having hit fastballs and curves from his father, an All-Star with the Red Sox, Yankees and Phillies.
“I faced him again recently. I don’t know if it was the major league stuff, but he does his best,” the younger Gordon said with a smile. Then he made solid, major league contact, his hardest hit yet: “I didn’t swing the bat too much,” Gordon said mischievously. “I didn’t see too many strikes.”