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St. Louis Cardinals: Jedd Gyorko Alters 3B Conversation

Just 5 days ago I advocated the idea that the Cardinals should trade for Josh Donaldson, should he come available. I’m not backtracking on that. If the opportunity to grab an MVP-caliber player presents itself then the Cardinals must certainly make a play. However, Jedd Gyorko has emerged as a formidable option at 3B and should remain there in the near term. His presence eliminates any urgency to burn valuable prospects on a marginal upgrade. What I’m trying to say here is; enough with the Todd Frazier talk.

Down Goes Frazier

During the offseason and into this young campaign, there has been plenty of interest (from fans) for the team to go after Todd Frazier of the Chicago Fire—I mean White Sox. While Frazier is a nice player and would bring an elite HR profile to the lineup, he isn’t the cure-all that some fans seem to think he is. In fact, he is a bit redundant for this team because Jedd Gyorko is an EXTREMELY similar player. At the risk of being cliche, Jedd Gyorko is a poor man’s Todd Frazier. Don’t believe me? Here is how their offensive numbers average out over 162 games, courtesy of Baseball-Reference.

Jedd Gyorko and Todd Frazier profile very similarly on offense.

Is Frazier the better player? Sure, but the the gap is much smaller than people seem to think. Frazier’s power profile has grown in recent seasons, but with a swing adjustment last year, so has Gyorko’s. I want to make note of the doubles. Much has been made of Gyorko’s 9 two-baggers last season. While he isn’t a huge doubles hitter, this was still a big outlier compared to his career in San Diego. On the flip side, Frazier’s 43 doubles in 2015 was the exception rather than the rule with him. I tossed out those two seasons and the 162-game average for doubles during all other full seasons is this: Jedd – 26, Todd – 27. Yet again, the gap narrows and so far the players had 4 and 5 doubles, respectively, in a similar number of plate appearances.

Frazier will give you a few more walks, likely from teams pitching around his power, and probably more homeruns (though we have yet to see what kind of HR total Gyorko can achieve across 600 PA’s). Overall, the offensive numbers run nearly parallel.

But Frazier is a WAY better glove, right?

No so fast. I understand the line of thinking, that Frazier’s natural position is 3B and Gyorko is a 2B playing out of position, therefore Frazier should be the better player. Let me first point out that Gyorko is not a natural 2B. After being drafted in 2010, Gyorko played 3B in the minor leagues. However, with Chase Headley at 3B in the majors and the Padres wanting to accelerate Jedd’s bat through the system, he began shifting to 2B in 2012, where he would become the MLB starter in 2013. A SS in college, there is a strong argument that his natural position is on the left side of the infield. A few weeks ago I pushed for Greg Garcia to get the biggest share of innings at 3B because of defense, admittedly I am backing off of that in favor of a man named Jedd.

Now on to some numbers. Here is a quick look at the Fielding Pct, Total Runs Above Average per year (a catch all stat to show defensive contribution), and Range Factor per 9 innings. For reference, the league average for RF/9 since 2011 is 2.55.

Jedd Gyorko and Frazier are very close defensively

Now, Frazier has far more innings logged at the position, which is why I chose ratios and averages rather than counting stats such as errors or defensive runs saved. Neither player is exceptional at the position, but neither is going to hurt you by playing there every day. And that is my point. Although Frazier may stand 5 inches taller than Gyorko, he is not head and shoulders above him on the baseball field.

Contractually Speaking

Jedd Gyorko is signed through the 2019 season, making a bargain $6M salary this year, climbing to $9M next year, and topping out at $13M in 2019, with a $13M option for 2020. (Courtest of Spotrac). Frazier is making $12M this season and set to become a free agent at season’s end. A major concern among fans is not just what to do at 3B for 2017, but 2018 as well. Frazier would not solve the 2018 issue. Gyorko can continue to be a reasonably priced, productive fallback at 3B for the next few years.

We saw the massive hauls that the White Sox got for Chris Sale and Adam Eaton. Granted Frazier is not on the level of Sale and lacks the contract control of Eaton, but the prospect price will be high. Why on Earth would we trade top prospects for a rental player that is only slightly better than the guy we already have?

The Bottom Line

I’ve been impressed with Gyorko so far. I was at the game on Friday night against the Reds and saw him make a couple nice plays at 3B. Notable was a barehanded play coming in on a slow roller. The play was cleanly executed and the throw beat the runner to 1B. Sure, Jedd is kind of like your buddy on the slow pitch softball team – except he can catch up to big league fastballs – but he will surprise you with an athletic play from time to time. Another factor is that, at least for now, his hot bat fits nicely in the cleanup spot. This will serve the team well while other hitters begin to find their footing – as they have started to do recently. I’ve also really liked seeing the power he has displayed to the opposite field.

Now, if Donaldson becomes available via trade then yes absolutely John Mozeliak should go get him. If they want to spend big bucks on Manny Machado after the 2018 season then I would encourage that. But in the now, there is no reason to acquire Todd Frazier, not when the solution at 3B only required a quick trip to the Gyork Store.

Thanks for reading. Follow me on Twitter for more Cards talk.

Rusty Groppel
I'm a diehard Cardinals fan that feels privileged to write about his favorite team in this corner of cyberspace. I'm also the bass player for the best damn band in the 618, Tanglefoot. Check us out some time.
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