Everyone around this state who follows baseball already knew Jedd Gyorko was a special hitter from his time at University High School and WVU.
Two years removed from graduating college, almost everyone around the country who follows the game can now identify Gyorko as one of baseball's brightest prospects.
Entering the 2012 season, he has garnered a plethora of preseason accolades. MLB.com rates him as the 71st overall prospect in baseball, MinorLeagueBall.com has him at No. 50, Scout.com lists him at No. 86, ESPN places Gyorko 90th and the highly-acclaimed Baseball America rates him as the game's 98th prospect for 2012.
Considering there are 30 major league teams, each of whom have 7-8 minor league affiliates (depending on the number of rookie leagues each major league club is affiliated with), it is a major honor to be recognized as one of baseball's top 100 prospects.
All one has to do is look at his 2011 season, however, to find out why scouts are so high on the 23-year old. Gyorko, a 5'10" 195-pound third baseman in the San Diego Padres organization, put up gaudy numbers in his first full season as a professional.
After finishing his 2010 year with the Fort Wayne Tincaps of the Midwest League, Gyorko was promoted to the High-A level for the start of last season. At Lake Elsinore (California League), he blossomed.
Through 81 games, Gyorko scored 78 times while clubbing 18 home runs and 74 RBI. He maintained a league-best .365 batting average and 1.068 OPS (On-base plus slugging percentage), and also managed to swipe 11 bases. All of this led to Gyorko making the California League (CAL) All-Star team and being named the CAL Player of the Month in May.
From there, the organization promoted him to Double-A, which is where he finished the regular season. His numbers dipped a bit after leaving the hitter-friendly confines of the California League, but Gyorko continued to show solid improvement in the Texas League while facing better pitching. The Morgantown native also worked tirelessly on his defense, as his athleticism, arm and glove have all been mentioned numerous times by scouts as being only "average".
In 59 games with the San Antonio Missions, Gyorko batted .288 with 41 runs, 7 home runs and 40 RBI. His OPS dipped to a respectable .786, but he also cut down on his strikeouts (50) while drawing a base on balls (BB) 26 times.
In other words, Gyorko could still rake, and he further proved that fact this past fall.
He was invited to play in the Arizona Fall League (AFL), which is Minor League Baseball's premier offseason league. Notable current MLB stars who once thrived in the AFL include Albert Pujols (Angels), Ryan Howard (Phillies), Jimmy Rollins (Phillies), Derek Jeter (Yankees), Roy Halladay (Phillies), Michael Young (Rangers), Andre Ethier (Dodgers), Paul Konerko (White Sox), Alfonso Soriano (Cubs) and Tommy Hanson (Braves), to name a few.
Gyorko didn't disappoint during his time with the Peoria Javelinas, batting a league-best .437 in 71 at-bats (18 games) while hitting 5 home runs and driving in 22 runners. Gyorko scored 17 times, drew 10 BB's and finished with an OPS of 1.204, good enough for first in the AFL.
Considering he competed alongside some of baseball's top hitting prospects, including Bryce Harper (Nationals), Mike Trout (Angels), Wil Myers (Royals), Josh Vitters (Cubs) and Mike Olt (Rangers), it's safe to say he made his name well-known.
Gyorko remained red-hot this March, as he's coming off a spring training with the Major League club which saw him hit .302, score 10 runs, belt one home run and drive in 9 RBI in 43 at-bats. He received the 11th most plate appearances of anyone on the Padres roster, proving how highly thought-of he is in their organization.
Over the past few days, the Padres sent Gyorko back down to Double-A San Antonio to clear room on their 25-man roster for Opening Day.
One obstacle that Gyorko faces to a quick promotion is the fact that the Padres minor league system is stacked, to say the least. ESPN.com recently said the Padres possess the best farm system in all of baseball. They're also very strong at Gyorko's position, with Chase Headley holding down the starting position for the Padres and James Darnell starring for Tuscon in the Pacific Coast League of Triple-A.
Having said that, Gyorko looks to have the highest ceiling of them all, and a recent Yahoo! Sports article by Kyle Rapoza echoed the same thoughts:
If he can continue to improve his defense, maintain his great stroke at the plate and drive in runs at a rabid pace, it's only a matter of time until Gyorko forces the front office to make that move.