Gyorko a more than pleasant surprise
Padres infielder Jedd Gyorko has hit everywhere he's played.
Gyorko was an all-conference baseball player during his four years at University High School in Morgantown, W.Va.
After reviewing several collegiate options, Gyorko stayed home and attended the University of West Virginia just like his brother, Scott, who played linebacker from 2001-04.
Jedd Gyorko had a tremendous collegiate career. As a freshman shortstop, he won Big East Rookie of the Year honors, hitting .409 with eight homers and 63 RBIs.
His sophomore year, Gyorko shifted to second base and hit .421 with eight homers and 53 RBIs. A pattern emerged. He could hit.
Gyorko returned to shortstop for his junior year and finished with a .381 average with 19 homers and 57 RBIs. The home run total served to cement his reputation as a potential power-hitting infielder who was capable of hitting for average.
In the second round of the 2010 First-Year Player Draft, the Padres selected Gyorko as a second baseman.
After three seasons in the Minors, the right-handed-hitting Gyorko is a member of the big league club, playing both second and third base.
Gyorko earned his way to the Major League club by compiling a .319 batting average in 1,502 plate appearances at every Minor League level.
He had his best season last year, when he hit .328 with 24 homers and 83 RBIs at Triple-A Tucson in the Pacific Coast League. He had already hit six home runs at Double-A San Antonio before going to Tucson, giving him 30 for the year.
In his entire Minor League career, Gyorko struck out only 266 times -- a statistic that highlights his consistent ability to make contact.
At 5-feet-10 and 210 pounds, Gyorko has a strong, stocky, fireplug-type physique. He has strength throughout his body, but his lower half is rather thick and very powerful. At 24, he likely won't grow any taller, however, if anything, he may get a bit stronger.
Gyorko has faced shoulder surgery in his past that caused him to miss some playing time. Whenever I saw him play, he showed no signs or symptoms of that earlier shoulder issue.
This spring, Gyorko showed why he landed a spot on the Padres' 25-man roster. His bat can be very loud. He hit .257, but he hit four homers and collected 12 RBIs in 26 Spring Training games.
A barrel-of-the-bat hitter, Gyorko has the ability to adjust his approach at the plate based on the count he's facing. His hands are extremely quick, but his pitch recognition and eye-hand coordination are major contributors to his hitting prowess. He has a natural ability to use the entire field in his short, compact swing mechanics.
Keeping rather still in the batter's box, Gyorko is unique for a young player. He can hit breaking balls. He can clobber fastballs. This past spring, his power increased since I last saw him play in the 2011 Arizona Fall League. And he was pretty powerful in that short season.
When I scouted him in the AFL, I thought he was a special player. He hit a very loud .437 with five home runs and 22 RBIs over 71 at-bats. Defensively, he played exclusively at third base, making three errors in 25 total chances. Remarkably, Gyorko hit .500 against left-handed pitching and .400 vs. righties. It was a fine display of both his balanced and well-refined hitting and power tools.
While his hitting is stellar, Gyorko is an average, but solid enough Major League-quality defender. His good hands and positive reaction time allow him to play every infield position, with the exception of first base.
Gyorko isn't the most athletic defender. His footwork can be a bit awkward at times. It's almost as if his mind and feet aren't always in sync. He has to respond naturally and trust himself to make all the plays. And he will. His defense is improving and will continue to improve with hard work and repetition.
Gyorko has enough arm strength to play anywhere in the infield. A throw from the deep hole at shortstop may challenge him, but he'll respond with adequate carry on accurate throws.
Gyorko's most challenging tool is foot speed. He doesn't have much. He won't be a stolen-base threat. But he will make wise decisions on the basepaths and not run himself into outs.
When an evaluation of Gyorko is finished, it keeps coming back to his bat.
Playing at home in Petco Park in San Diego with large gaps and plenty of outfield room, Gyorko projects to be a true force at the plate. He will not go quietly without making the best of his opportunity with a bat in his hand. He will not give away at-bats. He has the capability to drive in runs with those barrel drives to both the left- and right-field gaps. Regardless of the distance from home plate to the outfield seats, especially in left-center field, he will have sufficient loft on his line-drive approach to register home runs.
So far with the Padres, Gyorko is hitting a very respectable .271 with three home runs and 12 RBIs. He has 10 doubles and has scored 16 runs. He has made only two errors in 128 total chances.
Gyorko offers the Padres the flexibility of a player with the ability to offer sound defense, a solid and accurate throwing arm and a grinding, positive work ethic.
Looking ahead, Gyorko should provide the Padres an offensive quality they will continue to welcome. He can flat-out hit. He has always hit. And that should continue.
Bernie Pleskoff has served as a professional scout for the Houston Astros and Seattle Mariners. Follow @BerniePleskoffon Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.