Jedd Gyorko’s miracle cure

St Louis Cardinals LogoAre you struggling from decreased performance after being highly touted as a prospect? Did your rookie season set expectations that were perhaps too high? Are you in need for a revitalized career despite being still just 27 years young?

Well then, Jedd Gyorko has the solution to all of your problems!

You see, Gyorko came into the league with top 100 prospect list fanfare, and played 125 games as a 24-year-old rookie hitting to a .195 isolated power mark. The rest of his hitting line hadn’t yet balanced itself out (a 109 wRC+ is low for someone with his plus power), but the most important piece was there in his power, which comes at a premium for middle infielders like himself.

But despite what appeared as a promising start, some extremely good-looking analyst used his immense IQ to find some glaring problems with Gyorko heading forward and predicted the barely replacement level production of his over the next two years (the analyst is me, by the way). The issues came from poor contact skills and an inability to properly work the count, two things that are needed to hit for power with consistency. He had holes in the strike zone large enough for even younger pitchers to exploit, so once Gyorko’s book was out, it spelled out his doom.

And then, maybe thanks to a new training regiment, or perhaps a supplement from a guy in a trench coat in a dark alley, or perhaps just by blind luck, Gyorko has just simply fixed his issues. He dropped his strikeout rate down to 19.8% (below the 21.0% league average), and increased his walk rate to 8.4%, slightly above major league average as well. Better discipline has him getting better pitches to hit, so his ISO is a career best .250 and his wRC+ is finally reflecting his powerful stroke, at 112.




What we’re seeing with Gyorko is different than what we see with most hitters when they have resurgent seasons, where they alter the swing plane (which results in changes to grounders, fly balls, etc.) or make a more concerted effort to be more aggressive or more patient (which shows in swing rate and chase rate). He’s stayed remarkable consistent in all of these areas, which on one hand is nice because it could say that his talent has always been there with numbers we know he can sustain. But it also could imply that he’s just getting lucky. I hate to end a paragraph saying that the long-term implications of his current season are tough to read, but that’s exactly what I’m doing.

One thing that catches the attention is the difference in his spray angles. Gyorko has always had decent pull angles on his swings, but this year he’s pulling almost half of his batted balls at a rate of 47.2%. As a righty he gets shifted less often, so he’s more immune to defensive alignment than some. Hitters who are able to pull the ball more are able to have more success (generally speaking pulled hits are harder than opposite field hits), and this has been looked into recently with Josh Donaldson and the rest of the Blue Jays lineup, as their pull heavy approach is helping fuel their dynamic offense.

While the increased power is nice and the reason behind is seems to work for plenty of other players (including the reigning AL MVP), what we want to look for during the rest of the year are signs that Gyorko can take this one step higher. He can be a good power/okay average guy and have tons of value because he plays middle infield, but if we start seeing some real interesting changes in areas like hard contact, batted ball distance, swing rates or batted ball profiles then we can start to get really excited. As mentioned above, Gyorko has the hardest part of hitting down – hitting the ball a long freakin’ way. What we want to see are signs of more consistency that could bring him to the elite ranks.

With Gyorko, what we get is a guy who is due for 25 plus bombs when he’s on all cylinders, and at the same time someone who is plain bad when he isn’t. He’s made some minor adjustments this year that have led to what looks like lasting success (plus playing for the Cardinals just increases players’ ability because that’s how the universe works I guess), and if he continues to build on this he really is a bright spot to look forward to. It may be too late in the season to consider much fantasy implications with him (if you own him, you should definitely be starting him!) but he’s setting the table for a great follow-up in 2017. Gyorko is a legit bat that everyone should want.

 

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James Krueger
James lives in Tampa, Florida and is often one of the 10,000 people you can see at Rays' home games. He's a huge fan of prospects, loves analyzing swing mechanics, and will eat a "Top 100" list for breakfast. Dynasty leagues are his forte, especially rebuilding teams; building a farm system is the best part.