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2019 Community Projections: Jedd Gyorko

What will the first infielder off the bench do in 2019?

St Louis Cardinals v Colorado Rockies Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images

Jedd Gyorko has never had a starting spot with the St. Louis Cardinals at the beginning of the season. Acquired in a trade for Jon Jay, the plan has always been for Gyorko to be the first infielder off the bench. This, to any outsider, would seem to be a bit confusing. Jedd Gyorko has never received more than 500 PAs in a season, and yet has two seasons with 2+ WAR. In the third season, he was a virtually identical hitter to his first two seasons, but UZR can be fickle.

Coming into 2016, Gyorko’s nominal position was blocked by Kolten Wong. But Gyorko was drafted and rose through the Padres minor league system as a 3B, and only landed at 2B, because Chase Headley was good back then. He played under 100 innings at 3B with the Padres and all of it was in 2013, so Gyorko came to the Cardinals as a man with extensive experience at 2B, spot start experience at SS, and a history of playing 3B - just not in the majors.

Each season, Gyorko had a stumbling block to playing time. In 2016, every infielder not named Matt Carpenter had less than 500 PAs due to underperformance, injuries, or because the other guy was hot at the time. Somehow in a field with Carpenter, Kolten Wong, Jhonny Peralta, Matt Adams, and an emerging Aledmys Diaz, Gyorko received more PAs than all but Diaz and Carpenter.

But going into 2017, the plan was for Peralta to start at 3B over Gyorko, which rather quickly fell apart, and Gyorko ended up with what I imagine will remain his Cardinals career high in PAs. He had an identical wRC+ to the year before and played more, so his WAR was higher. Last year, the Cardinals attempted Jose Martinez at 1B, but once that fell apart, Gyorko played enough to get over 400 PAs barely. In the end, Gyorko has been a 2.8 fWAR/600 PAs player for the Cardinals. His defense is better than expected, mostly because I don’t think most of us even realized he was a natural 3B.

So keep in mind that Gyorko has always exceeded playing time from what the original plan was mostly because he is the first line of defense if something goes wrong. That will be the case in 2019 as well.