By David Heck, Special to CBS Local Sports
CBS Local Sports will be profiling one young player from each Major League Baseball team every day for the next 30 days as part of our “30 Players 30 Days” spring training feature.
Jedd Gyorko, Second Baseman, San Diego Padres
2012 season (minors): 126 G, 499 AB, .311 BA, 30 HR, 100 RBI, 5 SB, .921 OPS
The Padres had one of the worse offenses in baseball last year, scoring just 651 runs. Only two regulars in the lineup totaled double-digit homers – Chase Headley and Carlos Quentin – and only the same two put together OPS’s above .800. Petco Park is known to sap offensive numbers, but the Padres still have to do better in the offensive department.
That’s part of why prospect Jedd Gyorko is expected to start at second base on Opening Day this season. Selected in the second round of the 2010 draft, Gyorko has been a force in the batter’s box throughout his minor league career. In 2011, he hit .333 with 25 homers and a .952 OPS between High-A and Double-A. Last year, he put up similar numbers while splitting time between Double-A and Triple-A.
This season, Gyorko will be expected to provide some offense at the highest level. There are many reasons to think he will be up to the challenge, but also a few warning signs as well. As impressive as Gyorko’s performance has been the last two seasons, his best numbers have come in favorable hitters’ leagues (High-A and Triple-A). At Double-A, Gyorko struggled both in 2011 and 2012. Two years ago, he hit .288 with seven homers and a .786 OPS in 59 games, and last season, he hit .262 with six homers and a .786 OPS in 34 games. Those numbers aren’t bad, but they clearly aren’t as special as his statistics in other leagues.
Another point of caution is Gyorko’s walk rate. The 24-year-old drew free passes 8.3$ of the time in Triple-A last year—a rate that would be league average in the Majors – but that number should come down with the Padres. It’s not a big issue for him, but it’s something to keep in mind as he transitions into his role as a big leaguer.
Still, despite those concerns, Gyorko has a promising career in front of him. He probably won’t be the 30-home-run hitter he was in the minors – especially playing in Petco – but he should be able to hit for a strong average with doubles power. That’s valuable for a second baseman anywhere, but even more so for a San Diego team that struggles offensively. Gyorko’s defense will never be great, and there’s still a question of how he will do at second – he played third much more during his minor league career – but he’s not in the Majors for his defense. Gyorko is there to provide a solid bat in the lineup, and he could very well emerge as one of the league’s best offensive second baseman.