Jedd Gyorko: Power, Patience, and Playing

I’ve written a lot about the Padres infield mix. If the title isn’t enough of an indication, I’m going to keep writing about it.

We last left the story two and a half months ago, when Jedd Gyorko led the Padres in batted ball velocity, as measured by MLB’s new Statcast system. Some/lots of things have changed since, but Jedd Gyorko‘s reported velocity has kept steady, no longer leading the team but continuing to average 89 mph off the bat, good for 3rd on the roster. As a reward, Gyorko’s playing time was cut to only 6 plate appearances in June, followed by a demotion to AAA El Paso June 10th, and 109 PAs since his recall June 30th.

After running my mouth about the situation on Twitter, Patrick Brewer of ItsFriarTime fame pointed out a Beyond the Box Score article I hadn’t seen. Henry Druschel looked at which sources of batted ball data, including Statcast, could properly “explain” BABIP. Druschel’s results don’t paint the Statcast information we’ve been looking at in a positive light.

I disagree with Brewer’s characterization of the article that the Statcast data is “meaningless.” Druschel’s article shows that at the time of writing Statcast data didn’t correlate well with BABIP. It’s an important consideration, but I try not to let single events affect my opinion on things too far one way or another, so I’ll continue keeping an eye on Statcast.

But lets look at another method of evaluating batted balls, this time using BIS data that fared better in Druschel’s test. Here are Cory Spangenberg, Yangervis Solarte, and Gyorko’s soft/medium/hard percentages this season, in fancy chart and graph format:

Cory Spangenberg Yangervis Solarte Jedd Gyorko
Soft 24.8% Soft 20.9% Soft 13.2%
Med 51.8% Med 46.1% Med 51.3%
Hard 23.4% Hard 33% Hard 35.5%
PAs 200 PAs 344 PAs 234

This info doesn’t include Monday’s game against the Brewers in which Solarte and Gyorko both bashed like animals. But it’s clear that based on these BIS data Jedd Gyorko is hitting the ball the hardest of the three players. Gyorko’s now raised his wRC+ on the season to 90; below average, but past Spangenberg’s season mark and strongly into the realm of respectability for adequate defensive second baseman. Meanwhile, with Will Middlebrooks’ struggles in the majors, Solarte’s hot 110 wRC+ bat has found a home at third and seems to be thriving.

They tried to what?

With the trade deadline recently passed, there’s unfortunately more to the Gyorko story. Reports indicated that the Padres may have tried unloading Gyorko via trade, not as a promising young middle infielder, but as a contract liability owed $35 million through 2019. Yeah, rumors are just that, but if this one’s true it seems like bad news for the weird financial situation in San Diego.

Last Easter, the Padres were willing to take on roughly $85 million in salaries for a closer and fourth outfielder (minus Quentin). They also (!) give up prospect talent in the Craig Kimbrel deal with the Braves.

Jedd Gyorko has questions, but he’s a middle infielder who tore up the minors and continues hitting the ball hard in the majors. Meanwhile, the cost of a win on the free agent market is something like $6-7 mil, and increasing like crazy. So even if Gyorko performs as merely a below average second baseman, his contract is so small it’s a bargain over the next few years. If the Padres really did try to dump his contract but willingly made the Kimbrel trade, it’s hard not to be suspicious that ownership outspent itself this offseason.

If Gyorko is traded, I see a strong resemblance to the handling of Yasmani Grandal during the All-Star’s time in San Diego. He and Gyorko are both talented players at defensively difficult positions. They showed strong promise for years in the minors, only to stumble out of the gate in their first couple years in San Diego. Don’t give up on Jedd and make the same mistake twice AJ. Jedd Gyorko should stay and play.

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