For those of you Friars fans which were not aware, highly touted prospect Jedd Gyorko was named to the Triple-A All-Star team by Baseball America. What makes the Third Baseman’s accomplishment even more terrific though was the fact that Gyorko spent the first 34 games of 2012 in Double-A San Antonio before he was promoted to Triple-A Tucson for the final 93 games of the season.
Between both levels, Gyorko hit a solid .311, smashed 28 Doubles, 30 Home Runs, and drove in 100 Runs combined between both levels. Most impressively however, and why Gyorko earned Triple-A All-Star honors, was how the Third Baseman hit .324, slugged 24 Doubles, 24 Home Runs, and knocked in 83 RBI’s at the Triple-A level in his 93 game stint!
In terms of his hitting ability, Gyorko has absolutely raked at each and every level in San Diego’s minor league system. If there were a Padre prospect as big league ready for the hitting side of the game, Gyorko would arguably be the best prepared to make the jump (as illustrated in his career statistics here). As much as Gyorko has proved himself at the plate during his minor league career, the biggest question which will face the Padres this offseason will have to do with if (and likely when) they deem the Third Baseman “big league” ready at some point next season, and where they ultimately decide to play him. This will be especially true if the organization decides that their current Third Baseman Chase Headley is worth signing to a long-term deal, and thus the long-term answer at the hot corner.
The Headley Factor
Headley earned the National League Player of the Month Award in August, and finally began to emerge as the Padres’ most consistent offensive threat this season. Not only has Headley clubbed 28 Home Runs and driven in 104 Runs so far this season (National League leader), he also ranks 2nd among National League Third Basemen with a .974 Fielding Percentage. Because the new ownership group already re-upped some of San Diego’s important veteran players like Huston Street and Carlos Quentin, one would think that Headley would be the next veteran to be extended before he hits the Free Agent market in 2015 if his price tag is not too high. If Headley is traded or is allowed to walk, then Gyorko will be allowed to take over when either of said situations happen. Yet if Headley is deemed the long-term answer at Third Base, the Padres will look to move Gyorko somewhere else in the Infield, and the most likely position appears to be Second Base.
The Move to Second Base & The Possible Infield Shuffle
Thankfully, the Padres’ minor league brass have planned for ways to get Gyorko on the field with the big league club, even if Headley does indeed stay. The organization has been getting the versatile Gyorko some reps and added experience at Second Base over the last two seasons in the event that Headley stays. After playing only 1 game at Second Base with Single-A Fort Wayne in 2010, and 0 during his stops with High-A Lake Elsinore and Double-A San Antonio last season, the Padres saw it fit to play Gyorko at Second Base much more extensively in 2012. Of the 126 games he played this past season, Gyroko lined up at Second Base in 47 of them. And to his credit, Jedd did a terrific job when one considers his limited minor league experience. Between Double & Triple-A, Gyorko recorded a .988 Fielding Percentage as a Second Baseman, which equated to only 3 Errors in the 256 chances he had at the position in 2012.
Now though, Logan Forsythe has manned the Second Base position over the last couple of months. Since returning from a Disabled List stint, Forsythe has done what I consider to be a good enough job to enter Spring Training next season as the starter. In addition to Forsythe though, the Padres also have Alexi Amarista and Andy Parrino on their roster. And both of these players have seen some extended action at Second Base during the 2011 and 2012 seasons as well. In the event that Gyorko is moved to Second Base, I cannot wait for Spring Training to start to see how he will stack up and compete against “the field” at the position. Furthermore, I am anxious to see what the team will do with their other Second Basemen and how they will respond to the increased competition when the time comes when Gyorko is deemed “major league” ready, and Headley is still in fact with the team. San Diego could even explore the option of moving Forsythe to Shortstop if they deem Everth Cabrera is not the long-term answer at the position, and the organization wants more power as opposed to speed in the Middle Infield. The team appears receptive to the idea of moving Forsythe to Shortstop. Plus, what better way to accommodate and prepare the team for Gyorko’s call-up than to give Forsythe some reps at Shortstop in the present?
I know that I am probably looking a bit far ahead at the moment, but I am anxious to see what the team decides to do with one of their best prospects next season and beyond. Gyorko has done more than enough to warrant an extended look in Spring Training, and possibly a spot on the 40-man roster to start the 2013 regular season if he performs well in Peoria. What I do know is that I am happy to see that the Padres do have a viable option to turn to in the event that Headley leaves via Free Agency or trade, and a legitimate plan to upgrade their Offense at the Middle Infield spots.
As San Diego’s top and most ready minor league Infield prospect, I would just like to say “Congratulations” to Gyorko on a fantastic season, and I hope that he can begin contributing early and often to the big league club starting in 2013.
Stats Courtesy of: Baseball Reference