Typically, when a 23-year-old infield prospect who can play two premium defensive positions is posting a .342/.390/.606 line in Triple A an immediate promotion to the majors seems like the reasonable course of action. Unfortunately for Jedd Gyorko his situation features far less black and white with an ever-growing amount of shades of grey.
In a vacuum, Gyorko is absolutely ready for a shot at regular playing time with the Padres. While his numbers are artificially inflated due to the friendly confines of the Pacific Coast League, the scouting reports on his bat have pegged him as ready for a new challenge since late June. On the defensive end, Gyorko has at least an average glove at third if not a tick above with enough arm strength to make every necessary play. At second base where Gyorko has spent about a third of his time this season, he lacks enough true range to stick at the position long term but is a good enough athlete to be an average defender there over a short period of time.
A Full 40-Man
Each MLB team is given 40 roster positions they can fill to then whittle down to their 25-man active roster for game days. Usually the 40-man roster will include guys on the MLB 15-day disabled list, a few insurance policies in Triple A for the pitching staff, utility options in the upper minors, international prospects who have been with the organization for five or more years and a top prospect or two who are on the cusp of a call up.
To this point the Padres haven’t elected to add Gyorko to their 40-man roster, making a potential move to bring him to San Diego a little tougher. Starting pitcher Andrew Werner took the most recent spot that opened up with Jason Bartlett’s release, and as of now another opening doesn’t appear imminent. Add that to the fact that Jonathan Galvez will need to be protected this winter and both Casey Kelly and Robbie Erlin will needs spots of their own and you can start to see why the Padres may see keeping Gyorko off the 40-man as the most attractive option.
The Chase Headley Factor
A year ago it would have been almost impossible to think that Headley would be one of the most productive players in the game at his position, even when crediting his undervalued skillset. Yet the fact is that Headley has turned himself into an essential piece for the Padres, and one they didn’t appear too keen on giving up during the recent trade deadline.
Now the Padres are faced with a tough decision as they prepare for the offseason. There’s a decent chance that Headley is putting up his career-best offensive season (when looking at statistics that are adjusted to factor in park effects), but he has also become the Padres’ most consistent offensive player while providing a steady veteran presence on what is already a young team that should only get younger.
By giving up Headley this offseason – even for what we’ll assume is a premium package – San Diego will place all of their eggs firmly in the Gyorko basket which is an incredible amount of risk for a front office that is working under brand new ownership.
Oh, and All The Other Guys
This season Alexi Amarista (0.7 WAR), Everth Cabrera (1.7 WAR) and Logan Forsythe (0.7 WAR) have each provided enough value to earn playing time in a rotation that just may be solid enough to solidify the Padres moving forward. While each player is likely borderline replacement level on their own, the offensive bar at second base, shortstop and third base is so low that their versatility may outweigh their shortcomings.
Although Gyorko is unable to play shortstop, in theory he should be able to more than replace the production the Padres have received from their second base rotation. Yet a move that would remove Amarista, Cabrera or Forsythe from regular playing time doesn’t seem to make a ton of sense, as all three players are performing admirably and project to improve with more experience at the big league level. In addition, benching any of the three at this point would all but ruin their trade value and prove to be an inefficient use of assets for the Padres.
While it doesn’t seem like a completely realistic option, San Diego does have the choice of packaging Gyorko with a few other attractive pieces in a deal to consolidate talent. Such a deal borders on a topic that we’ve touched on before: at some point the Padres will reach a tipping point where their farm system will not only become an asset to replenish the big league club, but also create a steady line of tradable assets to add the final pieces to a contending club.
Without even considering the recent winning ways of the Padres it’s perfectly reasonable to expect contention in the next two-to-three season, meaning trading Gyorko and others for a controllable asset that could possibly move up that timeline may not be all that farfetched.
With all that said, there’s still a very real chance Gyorko makes his
professional MLB debut this season. But whatever happens it’s extremely important to keep in mind that this decision has the potential to cause huge ripple effects throughout the organization. While Gyorko’s skillset is extremely impressive and appears to be MLB ready, he is nowhere close to a proven commodity.
Every player has growing pains at some point, even the ones that make it all the way through their first season unscathed. A call up of Gyorko at this point would have to come at the expense of a player who is performing well which would only add to the extreme pressure he will be facing as one of the assumed building blocks of what appears to be a bright future.
At this point in the season the earliest Gyorko will be called up is September 1, meaning 100 at bats is about the best you can hope for as far as sample size goes even making the unlikely assumption that he would play everyday. Though neither of these players are real comparisons skillset-wise to Gyorko, consider that Yonder Alonso put up a .330/.398/.545 line in 98 plate appearances in 2011 while Mike Trout posted a .220/.281/.390 line in 135 plate appearances and you can see that even a 30-game cameo for Gyorko in 2012 would provide little value to the Padres as they head into an offseason where they’ll need to evaluate the future of their infield.
Bring him up? Keep him down? Trade him? Just be glad the decision’s not yours.