PEORIA, AZ: “He’s a baseball player.”
Those are the words that nearly everyone in the Padres’ organization will say about Jedd Gyorko, the Padres’ rookie second baseman who won the job in spring after a stellar three year climb up the organization.
“You have to give Jedd credit because he has earned this opportunity to break with the club based on him putting up numbers in the minor leagues,” said Phil Plantier the Padres‘ hitting coach who was Gyorko’s manager with the Lake Elsinore Storm in 2011 where he had a batting average of .365.
Gyorko is considered the best position prospect that the Padres have developed since Chase Headley but not everyone was overly excited when San Diego selected him in the second round of the 2010 draft.
Although Gyorko hit .404/471/.674 for his career at West Virginia he was also a shortstop and no one believed he had the range or quickness to play there at the next level. Because of the thickness of his his lower body there were some questions about his ability to play second or third as well.
The doubts about his athletic ability didn’t phase Gyorko, who was an all-state point guard in high school, who promptly went out and hit .330/.358/.528 in short-season Eugene and surprised people on how well he handled the transition to third base defensively.
“I don’t really care what they say,” Gyorko said after being drafted. “I am not a guy that worries about what other people think. I know what I can do and I go out and perform.”
The other knock on him was his ability to hit for power despite hitting 19 home runs and a .764 slugging percentage in his junior and final year as a Mountaineer. In his second year in the organization he answered those questions as well blasting 47 doubles and 25 home runs between High-A Lake Elsinore and AA San Antonio.
In 2012, he continued to hit for average and power in both San Antonio and Tucson, although he spent most of the year with the T-Padres, hitting a combined .311 with 30 home runs and 100 RBI.
With Headley having a career year and ensconced at third base, the Padres began experimenting with moving Gyorko to second base, a position he played as a freshman at West Virginia.
“I would say that was a harder adjustment to third when I first got drafted than transitioning to second,” Gyorko said towards the end of spring training.“But I’ve always been comfortable around the bag and at this level its just getting up to the speed of the game.”
So far the Padres have also been comfortable with what they have seen from Jedd at second defensively and somewhat surprised with his athleticsm.
“I think that I am a better athlete than many people give me credit for,” Gyorko said at the end of last year. “I don’t see myself and don’t think I’ve shown myself to be a one-dimensional player that can only hit.”
But his hitting is what has always caught the attention of the Padres.
“We are going to ask him to do the same thing that he did in the minor leagues, be a good hitter first,” Plantier said at the end of the spring.
“Jedd has the ability to hit home runs but he really is a guy who can use the whole field and hit doubles.”
“We want him to continue to be that guy. Go line to line with a doubles mentality. Let the home runs happen within your swing and approach.”
With Headley suffering a thumb injury in mid-March Gyorko has split time between third and second base at the opening of the season but for people who have followed his career its unlikely that it will phase Jedd much.
He just likes to play and it doesn’t really matter where.
“You put him anywhere out on the field he is going to find a way to succeed,” said Randy Smith, the Padres’ Director of Development.
“He has great hands on both sides of the ball and for me it just comes down to this, he’s a baseball player.”