The news of Chase Headley’s thumb injury on March 17 hit San Diego Padre fans like a punch in the gut. Many Padre fans have been very pleased with how the team had played so far this spring and the overall depth of the team. That optimism, however, was dealt a major blow when it was revealed that Padres third baseman Headley would miss about a month with a small fracture in his left thumb.
There would be little to no disagreement in calling Headley the Padres best and most indispensable player. In 2012, Headley hit .286 to go along with 31 home runs and leading the National League with 115 RBI. The aforementioned numbers won Headley the silver slugger award, all the while playing gold glove third base.
While Headley’s injury is a major blow to San Diego, it may open the door for one of the Padres top prospects, Jedd Gyorko to make an immediate impact starting opening day. There were three schools of thought this spring when it came to Gyorko. He would either start at second base from the outset of the season, platoon with Logan Forsythe at second base or Gyorko would return to Tucson, the Padres class AAA affiliate where he could refine his skills at second base, something he has diligently worked on all spring. The last option could have allowed the Padres to have more ‘options’ on Gyroko in years to come. However, with Headley out and the announcement today that the Padres utility man Forsythe has been placed on the 15-day disabled list today, could a late change of plans be possible?
Gyorko, who starred and played collegiality at West Virginia University, was the Padres second round pick in 2010. Although he played shortstop for the most part in college, the Padres moved Gyorko to third base upon his arrival to the organization. At every stop in the Padres minor leagues Gyorko has proven one thing over and over again. He can hit and hit for power.
Last year, splitting his time between the Padres affiliates class AA San Antonio and class AAA Tucson, Gyorko hit .311 to go along with 30 home runs and 100 RBI. After the impressive 2012 season, the Padres knew they would have to find a way to get Gyorko’s bat into the lineup in 2013.
San Diego Padre manager Bud Black made it clear from the outset of spring training to Gyorko that he would be playing second base this season. While Gyorko is not totally unfamiliar with second base (he played 47 games there last year in the minor leagues), many felt he would have a long way to go to play the position at the major league level. However, the Padres have been pleased with his progress enough to seemingly let him work out the nuances of the position on baseball’s biggest stage.
While Gyorko was probably on target to be in the Padres opening day lineup even before Headley’s injury, this latest development means that not only will Gyorko be in the lineup opening day, but he will also be counted on for his bat in the middle of the lineup earlier than would have been expected.
The Padres now have a decision to make. Would they possibly consider playing Gyorko at third base primarily until Chase Headley is able to return? If they did indeed make that gutsy move it would allow the Padres to start Alexi Amarista at second base. Amarista has been outstanding this spring. In 69 plate appearances Amarista is hitting .328 and slugging .500.
The Padres once thought enough of Amarista that they dealt reliever Ernesto Frieri to the Los Angeles Angels for Amarista and pitching prospect Donn Roach.
The Padres could still have veteran Cody Ransom in the mix at third base to give Gyorko a day off or allow him time at second base before Headley returns.
An opening day infield consisting of Yonder Alonso at first base, Amarista at second base, Gyorko at third base and Everth Cabrera at shortstop actually is quite formidable. It is also very young, but yet exciting.
The power that Gyorko is capable of bringing to the second base position reminds some of Dan Uggla, Ryne Sandberg or Jeff Kent. Of course, those are very early projections, especially for a rookie but maybe his start at second base could wait. Just one more month.