What Astros prospect learned from World Baseball Classic

August 30th, 2023

This story was excerpted from Brian McTaggart’s Astros Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

The chance to pitch in the World Baseball Classic last spring and represent Team Israel was an opportunity that had a profound impact on the life and the career of left-handed pitcher , ranked as the No. 7 prospect in the Astros’ Minor League system by MLB Pipeline.

Gordon, who is Jewish, didn’t get the results he wanted while pitching in the WBC -- he gave up four runs in one inning -- but pitching against high-caliber competition helped set him up for success in 2023.

“The experience has helped me so much, kind of take that momentum into the season and try to ride that and continue to build off that going into the year,” he said.

Gordon has been able to do that this year, most of which was spent in the rotation at Double-A Corpus Christi. He appeared in 20 games (18 starts) with the Hooks and went 4-5 with a 3.95 ERA, a 1.19 WHIP, 121 strikeouts and 36 walks in 93 1/3 innings.

He’s struggled a bit since his promotion to Triple-A earlier this month. Gordon has posted an 8.80 ERA and 2.15 WHIP with 15 runs and 24 hits allowed in 15 1/3 innings. Still, Gordon is focusing on the overall progress he’s made this season.

“I think everything’s been going in the right direction, trending in the right direction,” he said. “I’m happy with it. Obviously, I think there are some areas to always improve. But yes, I’m happy with the year. No. 1, I’m so thankful to be healthy all year and continue to sharpen my pitches and take that into games and execute at a high level. And just continue to try to do that better and better, not only at each level but every week I go out.”

Joe Thon, who managed Gordon at Corpus Christi for much of the season, said Gordon’s ability to adjust has been impressive. That’s something he learned in the WBC -- how to get guys out in different ways. He wasn’t challenged much in the Minor Leagues prior to getting to Corpus Christi, but the jump in competition has forced him to adapt.

“After his first outing, I believe it was Amarillo or so, he was asking me ‘What do you see?’ from the hitters,” Thon said. “He’s very, very routine-oriented. He loves to do his thing. He prepares really well and he’s really into being with the guys, preparing. When he’s on the bench, he’s paying attention to everything.”

Gordon gets a lot of swings-and-misses on his fastball but commands all his pitches really well. He has a lot of tools to get outs. He throws a four-seam and two-seam fastball, a changeup, slider and is working on a cutter.

“Just trying to be more consistent,” he said. “I’m always throwing [the cutter], just trying to make it sharper. That pitch is a little more consistent. What’s been working is throwing all those pitches for strikes and executing what you need to with two strikes in proper locations. I know that sounds simple, but getting ahead with strike one and finishing the pitches once you’re ahead makes pitching easier on yourself and on our team.”

Gordon has put himself on the map for a possible invite to Major League Spring Training next year. As the top-ranked left-handed pitcher in the system, there could be an opportunity in Houston sooner than later. For now, he’s looking to finish the season strong.

“I’m really happy to be here,” he said. “I’m enjoying the moment and the guys around me and trying to do the best I can every time I go out.”