Where Is Gyorko’s Power?

One of the most popular sleeper picks this spring was San Diego’s Jedd Gyorko. A third baseman by trade, he’s expected to be the Padres’ primary second baseman once Chase Headley returns from the disabled list, so the positional flexibility will benefit fantasy owners.

The primary reason owners have been drawn to Gyorko is his potential to offer plus-power at the second base position. He launched 30 home runs last season between Double-A and Triple-A, culminating in an impressive .413 wOBA with 24 home runs in 92 Triple-A games. Gyorko backed it up with four long balls this spring and the bandwagon had little room room for additional passengers. It was already filled to the brim.

Early this season, however, the 24-year-old rookie has gotten off to a bit of a slow start. He’s hitting .244/.347/.317 in 49 plate appearances, and while his 14.3% walk rate provides value in OBP leagues, his much-hyped power potential has been notably absent. He currently has an .073 ISO and hasn’t hit a home run on the season.

Of course, it’s been two weeks. This isn’t an article that seeks to argue Gyorko will not hit for power in 2013 or even that he’ll turn it around and mash for the final five months. Instead, I wanted to point out an interesting bit of data for why Gyorko might not be hitting for power thus far.

Among all qualified hitters in Major League Baseball this season, only four players have seen fewer fastballs at the plate than Jedd Gyorko:

Player FB%
Pedro Alvarez 35.4%
Josh Hamilton 41.8%
Wilin Rosario 41.9%
Mark Reynolds 42.7%
Jedd Gyorko 43.4%

The league-average fastball percentage for hitters is currently 58.3%, so Gyorko is seeing a much higher diet of offspeed pitches than the average hitter. Again, this isn’t necessarily the reason Gyorko hasn’t hit for much power thus far — because Wilin Rosario and Mark Reynolds have seen fewer fastballs and have already combined for nine home runs this season.

For a young hitter seeing big-league pitching for the first time, though, the paucity of fastballs is likely a contributing factor to his power outage. His 13.2% swinging-strike rate suggests he’s having trouble making consistent contact, too, especially considering his O-Swing% and Zone% numbers are roughly league-average.

Thus, he’s not chasing an inordinate number of pitches out of the zone. He’s shown solid discipline at the plate — as he had throughout his minor-league career — but he still hasn’t made consistent contact over the first two weeks of the season. Furthering that point, his 71.0% Contact% is well below-average, just like his swinging-strike rate, as discussed earlier.

Gyorko remains an intriguing play at second base throughout the season because he’s a high-upside option. ZiPS still sees him hitting 14 home runs in close to 600 plate appearances, and it’s difficult to ignore the .260 ISO he posted in Triple-A just a season ago. The early data suggests, however, he’s struggling to adjust to big-league pitching, as opposing teams have been featuring a heavy dose of offspeed stuff to him, and he’s having trouble making consistent, solid contact.

To get the level of power many expected of him prior to the season, Gyorko will either have to take advantage of those rare fastballs he sees, or he’ll have to learn to prey on the mistake offspeed pitches he will inevitably encounter at the plate. And owners relying on Gyorko as a primary option on their roster need to hope the power comes. A light-hitting second baseman with a high on-base percentage and few stolen bases isn’t very valuable in most fantasy formats.

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J.P. Breen is a graduate student at the University of Chicago. For analysis on the Brewers and fantasy baseball, you can follow him on Twitter (@JP_Breen).

10 Responses to “Where Is Gyorko’s Power?”

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  1. TheOneWhoKnocks says:

    Nice piece. I’m a Gyorko owner in a lot of OBP leagues, and I wasn’t expecting much power from him. I expected 10-15(still am) but the 30 homers in the minors were deceptive. I think he’s going to finish the season as a top 10 producer at 2B in Points/linear weights leagues because he’ll get on base often. He’s a nice 2B to own for cheap in those leagues.

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  2. DrBGiantsfan says:

    There is a slight difference between playing most of your games in places like Tucson and Albuquerque vs Petco, Dodger Stadium and AT&T.

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  3. Benzedrine says:

    In most Yahoo! leagues, he just got 2B eligibility yesterday.

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  4. moosh says:

    LOL. It’s only April 15th!

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  5. dirck says:

    I was on Gyorko early .I picked him up on my dynasty fantasy teams when he was in the California League ,where he crushed it with both power and average .When he moved up to the Texas league ,both his aver5age and his power took a big hit and did not really come back until he moved back into another hitter’s paradise ,the PCL . He appears to be extremely susceptible to park effects and San Diego is not going to help him . Because of this I dropped him in all of my leagues before the season started .

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    • Reverend Jim says:

      People forget or overlook the fact he hit those 30 home runs in the California league. That’s the place that made Brandon Wood look like the second coming so those power numbers should be taken with a grain of salt. He should eventually hit for a good batting average but I wouldn’t count on that power if that’s why you drafted/picked him up.

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      • dirck says:

        If one assumes that 20 of those 30 home runs becomes fly ball outs in Petco,Dodger Stadium ,and San Francisco ,not only is that a big drop in power ,but those 20 lost hits alone work out to 40 points of batting average over 500 at bats .Obviously that is too simple of an analysis to be 100% correct ,but it does give an idea of the possible loss in offensive value from park effects alone ,not to mention the drop to be expected from facing major league pitching .

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  6. Will says:

    Isn’t this one of those cases where lineup strength might matter a lot? E.g. – Headley and Grandal being missing from the Padres’ lineup saps a lot of its power (which is already low). As a result, less fastballs?

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  7. tmcd says:

    i looked at his game log. he has hits in 12 of the 16 games he has appeared so far. you’d think that was impressive right? i did. but he has only a .224 batting average. he also has 13 K’s and only one game with more than 1 hit, he had 2! at least he’s not going 0 for multiple games at a time. he’ll pick it up.

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