MadFriars Minor League Wrap-up
For the second straight year Jedd Gyorko is MadFriars' player of the year.
"Thank you very much," Gyorko said upon winning the award.
"As with last year it's a great honor."
In 2011, he hit .333/.400/.552 with 25 home runs and 114 RBIs between the High-A Lake Elsinore Storm and AA San Antonio Missions comprising an integral component on two teams that both won championships.
This season he hit .311/.376/.547 with 30 home runs while splitting time between third and second in both AA San Antonio and AAA Tucson positioning himself as the Padres' top prospect going into 2013.
Gyorko was drafted by San Diego in the 2010 draft out of the University of West Virginia where he was a second team All-American shortstop after hitting .421 his junior year. Despite being the only player in Mountaineer history to finish his career with a batting average over .400 and a strong showing in the highly regarded Cape Cod League in the summer, he lasted until the second round.
The problem is at 5'10" and 200 lbs. he did not fit the prototypical image of what a major league middle infielder should look like and many scouts doubted if he had enough power to play third or first base.
As always, the negativity didn't really faze Jedd.
"I don't really care what they say," Gyorko said after being drafted to MadFriars. "I am not a guy that worries about what other people think. I know what I can do, and I go out and perform."
And since being drafted by the Padres Gyorko has performed hitting .330 in Eugene before putting together back-to-back stellar seasons through three different levels of the minor leagues.
San Diego converted Gyorko to third base to begin his pro career but with Chase Headley becoming increasingly entrenched at that position on the major league level, and other top prospect such as James Darnell, the Padres began to experimenting with the idea of playing him at second base.
However as with his move to third base he has been better defensively than the initial projections.
"One scout's thought was he is 'above average' at second base, and the Padres were impressed at how hard he worked during the transition to second base this season," said Tim Hagerty, the Tucson Padres play-by-play announcer.
One of the reasons that Gyorko may have performed above expectations is that he is a better athlete than many have believed. In addition to being a three-time, all-state player on the diamond in high school, he was also a three time, all-conference player in basketball and in his senior year he was the conference player of the year.
"I always enjoyed playing basketball, and it was a great way to stay in shape during the off-season," said Gyorko on his hardwood career. "Playing basketball really helped my lateral movement and quickness."
"I also think that it shows that I am a better athlete than many people give me credit for. I don't see myself and don't think I've shown myself to be a one-dimensional player that can only hit."
If Gyorko can play second base, and some believe current Padres' second baseman Logan Forsythe is athletic enough to play shortstop, San Diego could have a major upgrade to their offense and he already has some supporters on the big league coaching staff.
"I think he can really play about any position on the field. He's a baseball player. Wherever they need to get his bat in, he will fill the spot," said Phil Plantier who was Gyorko's manager in Lake Elsinore in 2011 and San Diego's current hitting coach last year.
"He plays a great third base, can play second, could play left and right and even be a spot starter at short.
"Gyorko get hits a lot of different ways. He can go to all fields, he hunts pitches and I've never seen a player at this level that can set pitchers up."
What differentiates Gyorko from other hitters is his ability to drive the ball to all fields with a quick line drive stroke that many credit to not only superior hand-eye coordination but superior footwork inside the box. While enjoying the praise Jedd's off-season goal is the same as it was last year, the year before and really the same as when he began playing the game at three; find a way to improve.
"It's the same thing I've done every year, just try to be a better baseball player as opposed to working on just one thing," Gyorko said from his off-season home in West Virginia.
"I'm always trying to get in better shape so I will be up for whatever the Padres throw at me.
"Because regardless of any success you may have. Once you start to think you don't have to work as hard or keep trying to get better you are going to come down pretty quick."