Minor league wrap-up: Tucson Padres
Summary: Despite having the best position prospect in the Padres' system, the Tucson Padres struggled for the second straight year, posting a 56-88 record. They finished second-from-the-bottom in the 16 team Pacific Coast League, ultimately one of the reasons that manager Terry Kennedy and pitching coach Steve Weber won't be back next season.
Offensively, Tucson is still a fun place to hit although there are a few parks which are even more juiced in the PCL. The T-Pads were led at the plate by infielder Jedd Gyorko, who joined the club in mid-May, holdover first baseman Matt Clark, shortstop Andy Parrino and outfielder Dan Robertson.
Overview: We used a simple formula for the awards. Whichever team the player appeared for most is where he is eligible. For the top prospect, we took into account not just what the player did this year, but his age and potential impact in the major leagues.
Level: The Triple-A level is a combination of development and a taxi squad for major league teams. At this level, many players are good enough to be in the major leagues but, thanks to roster configuration, organizational need, and perceived or real shortcomings, they are just waiting for their shot. The Pacific Coast League's Pacific Division features six of the most offense-inflating parks in affiliated ball, making it difficult to divine great meaning from many players' stat lines on the circuit.
Player of the Year: Jedd Gyorko 3B/2B - .328/.380/.588
Jedd Gyorko earned MadFriars‘ 2011 Player of the Year, and it's really hard to see anyone who might compete with him for the award this season. Since being drafted out of the University of West Virginia in 2010, he has risen quickly through the system with his power numbers improving significantly at each stop on the chain.
Although he did play 30 games at second base, he spent the majority of his time at third where he profiles much better at the major league level. Ultimately, he made sure it didn't matter where he was in the field. At the plate, he simply hit. Righties, lefties, home or away, Gyorko punished the PCL with 48 extra-base hits and a 34/68 BB/K ratio after joining the T-Padres in mid-May.
Runner-up: SS/Utility Andy Parrino - .328/.400/.464
Parrino made the big league open day roster, but a .174 batting average in San Diego sent him back down to Tucson. However, Parrino whose whole career has been built around proving people wrong, bounced back in Tucson with the majority of his time spent at shortstop.
The switch-hitter hit .426/.493/.639 with runners in scoring position while seeing time at four different positions for the T-Padres. He and catcher Ali Solis were the only position players called up in September, and he will be in the running for a roster spot with the big club again in 2013.
Player of the Year: 3B Jedd Gyorko
In a decision that became a foregone conclusion when Yasmani Grandal was promoted to San Diego over the summer, Gyorko takes the honors here. Even in the numbers-inflating Pacific Coast League, Gyorko's 328/380/588 line was good for an OPS that was 47 percent better than league average. While it's a bit concerning that he struggled in his return to San Antonio to open the year and has only produced in offense-friendly environments, there really is nothing more Gyorko could have done in Tucson.
Runner-up: Hitter 1B Matt Clark - .290/.367/.506
While it's hard to see a path to consistent big-league playing time for the big slugger from LSU, Clark continues to hit a lot of baseballs a long, long way at every opportunity. A left-handed hitter, the 25-year-old clubbed 22 homers this season and now owns 102 in 548 professional games. Unfortunately for Clark, he doesn't offer much else and is likely destined to spend several more years kicking around Triple-A hoping to get a chance in the bigs. If he happens to be in the right place at the right time and perform when his time comes, he could be the next Brian LaHair. If fate isn't so kind, Jon Knott and a small army of predecessors present an alternate outcome.
Player of the Year: 3B Jedd Gyorko
Not much to write here. Gyorko led the team in nearly every offensive category. Counting the first month-plus that he spent in San Antonio, he ended up with a very good .311/.373/.547 line with 30 homers, 100 RBI, and 80 runs scored.
No other Padres' prospect in the entire system, led alone in Triple-A, can compete with those numbers.
Runner-up: 1B Matt Clark
Clark burst on the scene during spring training when he hit .419/.447/.767 leading the big league Padres with four homers and 13 RBI. Many fans were surprised that when Carlos Quentin turned up injured, Clark did not merit a call-up.
After spring training, Clark kind of slipped into oblivion. While Gyorko, Yasmani Grandal and Vince Belnome received most of the attention, Clark quietly hit close to .300 for most of the season. He is still a man without a position as he has bounced around between first base, DH and left field, although this year he was at first with the exception of a single game in the outfield.
Clark's future might not be with the Padres, as he was left unprotected last year, and chances are he won't be protected again this year either. With his bat and statistics in Triple-A he should get an opportunity somewhere, especially since he will still be 26 all next season.
Others of Note: While his big league playing time precludes him from award consideration, we'd be remiss not to acknowledge the absurdly good performance from Yasmani Grandal. In just his second professional season, the 23-year-old catcher posted a .335/.443/.521 line in Tucson. Not bad for a guy playing a position where prospects are notoriously slow to develop offensively. He has the tools and acumen to be a true star in the majors. Second baseman Vince Belnome missed two months to injuries and was slow to bounce back when he returned, but the roster's lesser-known Mountaineer still showed some flashes of the offensive punch that carried him up the system. Don't be shocked to see a massive year from him in Tucson in 2013. Blake Tekotte had a disappointing season in every regard. It wouldn't be surprising to see him lose his 40-man roster spot in the winter. Dan Robertson doesn't have the tools of most prospects, but he has great in-game instincts and is the sort of player you absolutely have to root for. He is similar to Diamondbacks late-season call-up Adam Eaton, and could provide value as a fifth outfielder in the majors.
2012 MadFriars' Tucson Padres Player of the Year: Jedd Gyorko
Top Prospect: Jedd Gyorko
Even the casual Padres' fan with a rudimentary knowledge of the San Diego farm system knows about Jedd Gyorko. He is by far the most major league ready prospect that had not yet appeared in San Diego. If the Padres had traded Chase Headley in July, he would have been in the major league lineup every day and probably posted pretty good numbers.
But now, there is a growing possibility that he will never take the field in a San Diego uniform, and could be a key component in an off-season trade because he doesn't have a place to play.
Very few players can fit in at multiple positions and Gyorko's best - and many would argue, only - defensive position is third base. With the new Padres ownership seeking to repair a reputation within the community for not being financially committed to building a winner, it is highly unlikely they would not bring back Headley. It is equally difficult to see another team being willing to surrender a trade package that would satisfy the Padres after the second half he put together.
Gyorko did play 47 games at second between Tucson and San Antonio. But even if you put aside the well-documented concerns about his range, it is unlikely the organization is going to move Logan Forsythe off of second base. Forsythe hit .298/.362/.429 in the last two months of the season and, because of his superior speed and athleticism, has the potential to be much better defensively than Gyorko and not that much of a drop off offensively.
Forsythe being the starting shortstop over Everth Cabrera to make room at second seems as likely as Yonder Alonso taking over centerfield for Cameron Maybin. Because of Jedd's lack of foot speed and Carlos Quentin's new three year $27 million dollar deal a trip to left field seems out of the question as well.
A major league-ready third baseman could command quite a bit in the trade market and right now it's hard to see San Diego turning down a deal that would bring a quality player back to America's Finest City in exchange for the former West Virginia Mountaineer.
But as David Jay notes there is another answer to all these scenarios, the Padres could do nothing. There is no harm in having players star offensive players at the major league level and in AAA particularly if you don't get the type of return that Josh Byrnes would expect from a player of Gyorko's potential.
But this, as with everything else we have written above, is just our versions of an educated guess.