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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  • Billy Lybarger

    I dread what will happen to Jedd’s playing time once Spang is back.

    • Sac Bunt Chris

      Yeah. Not sure what the deal is there.

      • Tom Waits

        Is there a mystery? It took Gyorko four months to produce, and even his “hot” last month is 250/315/388. Spang’s no world-beater but when Black was trying to keep the team afloat he was beating Gyorko.

        Gyorko has way more upside, but let’s not act like he was unfairly jerked around. He was crap for almost the whole first half, after being crap for most of 2014. In a normal Padre “We’re playing for the future” year, you let him work it out. That wasn’t what 2015 was supposed to be.

        Glad he wasn’t pushed out of town to clear his salary and cut down on what we’d get for a pitcher. He may not ever become what Byrnes thought he could be, but it’s usually dumb to trade somebody so young when his value is negative.

      • Sac Bunt Chris

        I disagree that he was crap during most of 2014, he hit .268 / .323 / .464 in the second half. Most of the time he’s been unproductive in the majors he’s either been hurt, or shown positive indicators.

      • Tom Waits

        His second half of 2014 was all of 55 games, and his good part of the second half was only September. He “hit” 217/301/326 in August. So one good month out of a six month season, I’m sticking with “most” of the time he was crap. I also don’t think injury should be much of an explanation in his favor. It’s positive in that his struggles weren’t completely (not even mostly) related to his skill, but it’s not a positive that he was knocked off the major league roster so long at such an early point in his career.

        I’m not claiming he’s destined to always be unproductive. He can barrel the ball, he’s got sock, he may learn to control the strike zone better and become really dangerous. But you can’t fault a manager for sitting him in favor of a player who was doing better when the manager’s boss had gone all-in for 2015.

      • Robby Deming

        I have to agree with Tom, here. Gyorko has had plenty of time to show who he is as a player, and the aggregate result isn’t encouraging. He still appears to have the long swing issues that had him missing so many pitches earlier this season, and he doesn’t supplement the bat with enough defense or speed to keep running him out there in lieu of other options who are younger (Spangenberg) or hit better (Solarte).

        Yeah, we got burned by Grandal so far. But he also could have gone the path of Everth, who constantly teased us with flashes but never put it all together. You’re going to miss occasionally, but I think there’s way too much revisionist history around Grandal this season. He was largely a dumpster fire the past two seasons in San Diego, he had a crap attitude, and the pitchers hated him. Let’s not pretend that the Padres gave up on him. And if the Padres move Gyorko, it’s not giving up. It’s looking at all available evidence and deciding that the current course is no longer optimal.

      • Tom Waits

        Not sure we’re altogether in agreement, Robby.

        If we’re ranking on overall talent at 2b, Gyorko is #1. That’s why I’m glad he wasn’t hitched to a pitcher and traded for nothing. His contract isn’t that expensive and he has the best chance of being an above-average hitter and adequate defender of that trio. My argument was only that you can’t blame Black or any manager for sitting a player who looked as lost as Gyorko did earlier in the year. Black’s been watching baseball almost everyday since he was in kindergarten. The batted ball velocity might have been encouraging, but the strikeout and walk rates, the flailing approach, those were all obvious. With the expectations for this team, there wasn’t much margin to be patient and hope the high exit velocity started turning into hits.

        I don’t know what Chris’s opinion was on Grandal at the time of the trade, but there were lots of people who thought it was a bad move when it happened. They’re not revisionist, they were right. He wasn’t at all a dumpster fire on the field. Terrific in 2012, lost 2013, and then good again in 2014, especially after his knee got better. If the pitchers didn’t like him, that’s when the manager earns his money. Lots of teams have won without being 25 buddies.

      • Robby Deming

        Dumpster fire was probably over hyperbolic, but his offense was meh. His pitch framing was great, but he was an awful receiver (I know that seems like a contradiction, but they’re different skill sets). He struggled mightily will balls in the dirt, and if I remmeber right, he was close to the league lead in past balls despite playing a relatively low amount at catcher. And regarding the pitchers, I think that came out wrong. They literally did not want to throw to him. When 60 percent of your rotation doesn’t want anything to do with a catcher, that’s a problem.

        There’s no guarantee Grandal has the same season in San Diego he’s having in LA. It was a risk to trade him, but even Maybin and Peterson have looked competent when they were lost causes here. On the flip side, we’ve seen plenty of pitchers crater in their post-Petco lives, as well as folks like Everth. So I do think it’s a little disingenuine for people to state that what Grandal is doing this year was entirely predictable. There were signs he could break out, but there was also ample evidence that he wouldn’t.

        As for Gyorko, I can take him or leave him. But I do thinks he’s had more than enough of a shot here. I got the sense from the post that Gyorko was somehow getting a raw deal, when I don’t think that’s the case at all. I’d like to see what Spangenberg can do with regular time, whether it’s at 2B or potentially SS as Corey tweeted last night. But if the team moves on from Gyorko, I think it will be justified.

      • Tom Waits

        The offense wasn’t meh in 2012, and it wasn’t meh when he was healthy in 2014. Even in 2013 it was good, although only for 28 games. 376, 310, and 324 wOBA for those years, which are fantastic for a catcher.

        The attitude of the pitchers is still a management problem. The Dodger pitcherrs don’t have an issue with Grandal. The way the Giants solved it when Posey was coming up, they simply traded Molina to get him out of the way, even though the pitchers loved Bengie. That’s a five minute harangue from Bud Black on the first day of camp. You three don’t like pitching to Grandal? Grow up or quit. None of you are good enough that you get to dictate roster decisions for this team.

        Grandal’s performance this year isn’t entirely predictable, but there were lots of positive indicators, far more than negative ones. With Grandal’s control of the strike zone and power, it will be hard for him NOT to be a solid hitter regardless of his batting average. From the catcher position, and with a catcher that frames well, that’s huge. It’s what GMs are supposed to do, figure out what players will do in the future instead of reading the back of the baseball card and assuming a linear continuation.

        I’m not against trading Gyorko in all circumstances. I’m against trading anybody when there’s a good chance that the player is worth more to the Padres because of unrealized potential than he will fetch from a competitor. Right now teams either want to use Gyorko to get one of our good pitchers cheaply or to swap another low-value player for him. That doesn’t help us.

  • Marsh

    “the cost of a win on the free agent market”… yeah, true. But, Jedd’s performing below replacement level and generating negative win shares – right? So… uh…

    • Sac Bunt Chris

      Not exactly a shining success, but after his terrible start he’s back to even on the year. Which matches Matt Kemp.

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