Brian Gordon (photo courtesy of Lehigh Valley IronPigs)
When is a 32-year-old triple-A lifer a pitching prospect, sorta?
When he's been a pitcher for only four full seasons, and has knockout numbers.
Fourteen years ago, when Gordon was just another Texas high-school outfielder, the Diamondback snagged him in the seventh round of the amateur draft. He posted some decent numbers in Class A, but could never quite get over the hump as a hitter and eventually joined the Angels', then the Astros' organizations.
In 2007, still with the Astros, Gordon switched from outfielding to pitching. Impressively, he began his new career in Class AA and acquitted himself quite well. But the Astros released Gordon shortly into the 2008 campaign, and he signed with the Rangers. He didn't pitch all that well in the minors, but was rewarded anyway with a stint in the majors that September, getting into three games and giving up just one run.
It was back to AAA in '009, and Gordon did well but not well enough to earn another summons from the big club. In November, he became a free agent and signed with the Phillies; they too sent him to triple-A ... where, improbably enough, it looks like something clicked. Gordon posted a 3.46 ERA with Lehigh Valley last year, but that ERA belies just how well he pitched: 78 innings, 86 strikeouts, 19 walks and (this is my favorite part) only two home runs allowed.