No one in recent San Diego Padres history has had as up and down start to a career as Jedd Gyorko has over the last few years. Over the last two years, no other player in a Padres uniform has been as much maligned as Gyorko. He broke into the league in 2013 with a stellar rookie season that earned him a hefty long term contract.
Since then Gyorko has never been consistently the same player he was in his rookie year. He struggled through all of 2014 with injury and has struggled through poor performance and demotion so far this season. Many have questioned what player Gyorko is and whether or not he is worth the contract he was given. This all begs the question: Is Gyorko the second baseman of the Padres future?
Jedd Gyorko is currently 26 years old (turning 27 at the end of September) and in his third season in the Major Leagues with the San Diego Padres. Gyorko was the ninth pick of the second round of the 2010 MLB Amateur Draft for the Padres. He did not see his first playing time with the big league club until the beginning of the 2013 season.
Gyorko ended up playing 125 games for the San Diego Padres in 2013 and finished with a 2.4 WAR. He hit twenty-three home runs and drove in 62 runs which was good for a wRC+ of 110. For reference, a wRC+ of exactly 100 is considered to be the league average. Therefore anything higher than that is considered a percentage point above average. A wRC+ of 101 is 1% above average, a wRC+ of 102 is 2% above average and so on. Based on his 2013 performance, the Padres front office thought they had found their second baseman of the future. With this performance in mind, the Padres inked Gyorko to a six year contract worth a total of 35 million despite him still being under team control through arbitration.
What followed his 2013 campaign was a bit of a disaster for both Gyorko and for the Padres. In an injury plagued 2014 season, Gyorko only played in 111 games at the big league level. He finished the year with a WAR of 0 and only hit 10 home runs and finished with a wRC+ of only 77. Gyorko saw his numbers decline across the board and many attributed to his various injury problems throughout the season. Going into 2015, there was some general optimism that Gyorko could return to the performance of his rookie season.
For Gyorko this year has been much of the same in failed expectations. So far on the season Gyorko has only hit eight home runs in 85 games and currently sits at a negative WAR with a wRC+ at a slightly improved 88. On the year Gyorko’s strikeout rate is at an all time high while his walk rate is at an all time low. Beyond that, Gyorko is having his worst year defensively.
Gyorko started the season with a terrible March/April where he hit only .135 with a wRC+ of only 13. Gyorko followed this up with a better May where he hit .289 with a wRC+ of 124 before his demotion to Triple A on June 10th following a 1 for 6 start to the month. Gyorko spent nearly three weeks in Triple A before being promoted back to the big league club on June 30th.
Since being called back up Gyorko has played almost every day and has a slash line of .257/.303/.417 with a wRC+ of 103. While these numbers are obviously a big improvement over his first two or three months of the season these numbers are not that encouraging for Gyorko’s long term future. So far in two plus weeks of August, Gyorko has a slash line of .246/.283/.439 with a wRC+ of 103. This seems to be the level of play that can be expected of Gyorko in the long term. With a walk rate of under 2% for August to go along with a consistently high 20-25% strikeout rate, a slightly above average performance at the plate may not be enough to save Gyorko’s position on the Padres in the long term.
If Gyorko’s contract is ignored completely it seems fairly obvious that the Padres would want to cut ties with Gyorko completely. At this point in his career, he is not even halfway into his new contract and he has already seemingly peaked at his current performance.
With his large contract in mind, it seems the Padres may be stuck with Gyorko long term whether they like it or not. At this point, it seems more logical to have Cory Spangenberg as the short term option at second base, given his better defense, his speed on the base paths, and his ability at the plate, which is really only slightly lower than Gyorko. Jedd Gyorko has been given his chances by the Padres and he has still failed to perform at a high enough level. Going forward, it seems the Padres need to try to cut ties with Gyorko and find a new long term option at second base.