Despite being a second round pick out of a college program, the San Diego Padres have taken their time with the development of Jedd Gyorko. Despite a career .319/.385/.529 line in the minors and being 24-years-old, he's yet to appear in the majors for a team in desperate need of offensive pop.
But that could all change this season, and it could be led by a change of scenery for Gyorko in the field.
Gyorko was drafted without a position, having played shortstop at West Virginia but knowing he wouldn't play there as a pro. The Padres have used him primarily at third base throughout his minor league career, but the emergence of Chase Headley as a legitimate star in the majors has effectively blocked that path to Petco, at least for the time being.
But Gyorko has also seen time at second base, playing 48 games there over the past three seasons, 30 of which came in 2012. Given the lack of offensive production that the Padres have gotten out of their second basemen over the past few years, that now appears to be his best path to the major leagues.
Gyorko is getting a strong look at the keystone this spring, reports Bill Center of The San Diego Union-Tribune. Having played 92 games in Triple-A last season, Gyorko has little left to prove in the minors, so he'll be out to prove this spring that he can handle the defensive responsibilities at second base. He may never be great at the position - he lacks the lateral range to really be proficient there - but if he can provide above-average offensive production compared to other National League second basemen, the Padres will tolerate him simply making the plays he can get to.
Gyorko has proved himself as a strong hitter in the minors, with the only question being what kind of power production he will provide. With back-to-back seasons of 25 and 30 homers respectively, it's easy to get excited about Gyorko's power potential, but it's just as important to remember where that power has taken place. Gyorko has slugged .638 in the California League and .588 in the Pacific Coast League - two leagues notorious for inflating power numbers - but just .429 during his time in between in Double-A. The fences may be coming in at Petco, but it still won't play like the California League or the PCL.
Gyorko should hit for a little bit of power, but likely not the 25-30 homer range that he's done in the minors. Still, 15-20 home runs with an average near .300 and a decent eye at the plate, Gyorko would be better than most NL second basemen and certainly better than any of the Padres other options.
In his way are the likes of Logan Forsythe and Alexi Amarista, both of whom Gyorko should be able to out-hit immediately. Amarista would be a far superior defensive player but can't hit while Forsythe crushes lefties but is best suited for a platoon/utility role. Assuming the Padres believe that Gyorko can handle the defensive responsibilities of being an everyday second baseman, there's little reason to believe he won't outhit that duo.
The Padres may elect to send Gyorko back to the minors, but if they do, he won't be there for long. The only thing truly blocking Gyorko is that he's not yet on the 40-man roster and the Padres would have to subject a player to waivers in order to add him, but that's a problem they're going to have to deal with sooner or later, so it shouldn't be too much of an obstacle if they decide that he's their man.
Unless Forsythe can turn things around against right-handed pitching, he's destined for a utility role, and Gyorko will be knocking on the door, taking advantage of the PCL to put up inflated numbers. With a good spring, he could be the Padres Opening Day second baseman, but either way, he should be up by the start of summer.