Jedd Gyorko, INF, St. Louis Cardinals
Who could have predicted that Jedd Gyorko, who was set to serve as a utility infielder when the 2016 season got underway, would have ended up leading the team with 30 home runs? After being acquired in exchange for Jon Jay at the Winter Meetings last December, Gyorko got the start at shortstop for the Cardinals on Opening Day as both Jhonny Peralta and Ruben Tejada were injured.
Though Aledmys Diaz quickly replaced him at that position, Gyorko would go on to spend extended time at first base (eight starts), second base (39 starts), and third base (28 starts) as he proved to be one of the Cardinals’ most effective hitters. Gyorko was especially fearsome after the All-Star break, leading the National League with 23 home runs over that period.
He also dominated against his former team, hitting six homers in seven games against the Padres.
Gyorko’s .243 batting average and .306 on-base percentage weren’t ideal, but his .495 slugging percentage was enough to make him an effective member of the starting lineup. That was a pretty big step forward for a player who received a kick-in-the-pants demotion to Triple-A in 2015 and had been in major need of a change of scenery after failing to live up to the contract that the Padres gave him.
Despite his success in 2016, it looks as if Gyorko will go into the 2017 season as a backup once again. That didn’t stop him at all last season, though, so it will be fun to see if he can prove himself as a perennial power threat next spring.