MadFriars' Player of the Year: Jedd Gyorko

Third baseman Jedd Gyorko is the MadFriars' player of the year after hitting .333/.400/.552 with 25 home runs and 114 RBIs between the High-A Lake Elsinore Storm and AA San Antonio Missions comprising an integral component of both of the Padres' championship teams.

"It's been a great year," Gyorko said upon receiving the news. "We go into each year hoping to win a championship and to have the opportunity to win two was really special."

"I really don't think a lot of guys can say that they have done that."

While both Anthony Rizzo of the Tucson Padres and Rymer Liriano of the Fort Wayne TinCaps had impressive seasons in addition to a great professional debut by Cory Spangenberg, Gyorko had the most consistent numbers throughout the year. In addition to answering questions about his ability to hit for power and play third.

After punishing the California League at a .365/.429/.638 clip he was promoted to San Antonio with the ascension of another top prospect James Darnell to Triple AAA. After struggling initially with the Missions he finished August strong with a .300/.379/.464 line.

"It's always tough to see pitchers for the first time and San Antonio is not an easy place to hit either," said Gyorko.

"Throw in the fact that there are really solid pitchers in AA with good command and it was a challenge. But I was able to get my swing back in August and bounce back."

"When you play as many games as we do you are going to go through periods of when you lose your swing."

Gyorko, despite hitting .404/.474/.674 in his three year collegiate career with the West Virginia Mountaineers in the Big East Conference didn't really get as much attention as one would have thought, then again he wasn't heavily recruited or drafted out of high school either.

And after being drafted by the Padres in the second round of the 2010 draft the selection didn't exactly set the San Diego media and blogosphere on fire.

Kevin Goldstein, the managing partner of Baseball Prospectus, and one of the leading authorities on the draft and the minor leagues, may have summed it up best in classifying him as the type of pick that we saw the previous regime of Sandy Alderson and Grady Fuson pick; a polished college bat without many tools.

"I do think he can hit, but he's just not my kind of player mainly because I am more of a tools guy," said Goldstein on the West Virginia native.

"The problem is no one is really sure if he has the defensive ability to stick there [the infield], and then you start talking about putting him in the outfield and does he have enough of a bat to be a corner outfielder?"

The negative opinions had little effect on Gyorko then and has remained the same throughout his pro career. "I'm really not that into proving people wrong or right because I play the game for myself and my teammates," Gyorko said on the pundits that have doubted his ability to compete at upper levels.

"I know what I am capable off and what I can do. So I just go out and play."

After signing quickly Gyorko proceeded to tear up the Northwest League hitting .330/.383/.528 before moving up to Fort Wayne to finish off at .284/.366/.389.

The one possible knock on his game was on if he had enough power to play the third or even possibly the corner outfield positions but seventy-four extra-base hits this season helped to quell that criticism.

"In the off-season I tried to get stronger and in better shape," Gyorko said of his off-season program. "I dropped about fifteen pounds and worked with [Lake Elsinore manager/hitting coach] Phil Plantier on my mechanics quite a bit."

"I didn't have any drastic changes but I did quiet down my swing a little so I could go more directly towards the ball. Also getting used to playing with wooden bats over an extended period of time helped."

With the Padres having Chase Headley in the big leagues at third and Darnell, who also had a big year in San Antonio before moving up to Tucson, the hot corner is getting a little crowded and could force a position change.

"I've always enjoyed playing defense and really will play wherever the Padres want me too, third, second or short," Gyorko said on a possible position change. "I just love to play the game and anywhere they put me is great."

But for right now he is in the Arizona Fall League, doing what he has always done preparing for the next season. And after making the AFL all-star team and hitting over .400 at the time of this interview went on-line he hasn't slowed down.

"I'm just trying to do what everyone is doing out here, get better and become a more complete player."

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