Padres 'pleased' with Gyorko's development at short
Infielder has been solid defensively, but may not be SD's long-term solution
DENVER -- The sample size is still relatively small, but the Padres are encouraged by what they've seen from Jedd Gyorko as he's made the transition from second base to shortstop in the past month.
"I think he's only going to get better," said Padres interim manager Pat Murphy.
While it may be too soon to know if Gyorko is San Diego's future full-time shortstop, he has shown he can handle the position defensively on a short-term basis look and maybe longer.
"We're very pleased," said Padres assistant general manager Josh Stein. "[Gyorko has] got great hands. He's able to make throws from different arm angles. He has a good sense of timing. We've seen him go into the hole and make some throws."
Gyorko has played in 20 games at shortstop, with the first coming exactly one month ago Thursday (Aug. 17). He hasn't committed an error in 62 chances.
So how did all of this happen, and what does it mean moving forward?
San Diego still wants to take a long look at speedy second baseman Cory Spangenberg. He's one of the few players on the roster who offers a true speed component. In a perfect world, Spangenberg will be the Padres' Opening Day starter there in 2016.
Gyorko, a second baseman by trade, hadn't played shortstop since 2010, his last season at West Virginia University. He played third base in the Minor Leagues, but third baseman Yangervis Solarte, in the midst of the breakout season, probably isn't going anywhere.
So last month, the Padres asked Gyorko to slide over to shortstop. He became -- and, no, this isn't a typo -- the 18th player to fill that role for San Diego since the start of the 2009 season.
Unlike others who have come before him, Gyorko looks like he might actually be able to stick for a while. He's made the routine plays, though he's the first to say his range may not be ideal for the position.
Dipping into advance metrics -- like DRS (defensive runs saved) or UZR (ultimate zone rating) -- at this point won't get you far, as there's not enough data to make a fair estimate of Gyorko's worth.
The Padres like to shift and have been able to move Gyorko advantageously to help put him in better positions against certain hitters.
"He can make the routine play and has handled himself better than expected," said a National League Central scout.
But unlike a year ago when six weeks of Alexi Amarista were enough to convince San Diego to give him the starting nod at shortstop this spring, Gyorko has a bat that carries much more weight that many of his predecessors.
Consider this: If Gyorko had played shortstop all season, his 14 home runs would rank fourth in the NL for shortstop and his 51 RBIs would have put him in fifth place -- and that's with Gyorko's 20 days at Triple-A El Paso earlier this season.
"He does look more relaxed playing shortstop than second base," said a National League West scout.
But can Gyorko hold up to the physical demands of the positions, the ball deep in the hole, ranging up the middle, coming in on the slow roller? He's worked close with veteran Clint Barmes on the subtle nuances of playing the position, but that won't prepare him completely for the toll the position can take on the body.
Gyorko missed nearly two months on the disabled list with plantar fasciitis in his left foot in 2014.
"I would worry about the wear [and] tear on his body. He's had foot issues in the past, and obviously shortstop is very demanding on the feet," said a National League Central scout.
"I would never say he can't do it. I would just say it's an unlikely long-term solution from both a team defensive standpoint and [the] risk to his body."
For his part, Gyorko isn't worrying about what his future at the position might be. He spends his time before each game practicing with third-base coach Glenn Hoffman, who works with the team's infielders. Gyorko has benefited from time with Barmes, who has been a great help on reading certain hitters.
"[Barmes will] tell me a guy or two to creep in a step or two on, maybe take a step this way or that way," Gyorko said. "It's not big stuff, but it's things that can make a difference.
"For someone who doesn't have the range that most shortstops have ... it really helps me get in a good position. From there, I try and use a good first step to go get the ball."