Padres prospect starts fast at Triple A in Tucson

As a pure hitter, one of the Padres’ top prospects and a West Virginia native, Jedd Gyorko has a few things in common with former Las Vegas standout John Kruk – who began his career with San Diego before blossoming into a three-time All-Star for the Philadelphia Phillies.

At 5 feet 10 inches and 195 pounds, Gyorko also shares a somewhat similar body type with Kruk.

"You know, you look at him and you look at that body and you say ‘I don’t know.’ But he just hits," Tucson manager Terry Kennedy said. "I believe he’s our best hitter in the organization.

"He gets hits, he drives in runs and he’s got a feel for the game. I think the guy will hit anywhere, even in the big leagues."

San Diego’s second-round draft pick in 2010 out of West Virginia, the 23-year-old Gyorko (Jerk-oh) led the minors in hits with 192 last year, his first full professional season.

He batted a combined .333 with 25 home runs, 114 RBIs, 119 runs, 47 doubles and a dozen stolen bases for Single-A Lake Elsinore and Double-A San Antonio.

Gyorko then led the Arizona Fall League with a .437 average, eclipsing the likes of Washington Nationals phenom Bryce Harper.

"It definitely gives you confidence to know you can play with some of the best players in baseball," Gyorko said Tuesday before going 2-for-4 in Tucson’s 9-3 loss to the 51s (37-28) at Cashman Field.

Starting this season with San Antonio, Gyorko batted .262 with six homers and 17 RBIs in 34 games before getting promoted to Triple A for the first time May 17.

Gyorko has been on a tear for Tucson (21-44), hitting .357 with seven homers and 23 RBIs in 26 games.

"I knew he’d hit better here because good hitters hit better as they go up higher," Kennedy said. "(Pitchers) are around the plate, and you don’t have to worry about guys being wild."

While Gyorko’s bat appears to have him on the fast track to the majors, it’s not entirely clear which position he’ll play when he gets there.

He won the Brooks Wallace Award as the nation’s top college shortstop and manned third base in the minors until this year, when he has split time between second and third.

"(The Padres have) started him at second base now because they have such a need for that," Kennedy said. "He can play there. It depends on how it shakes out up there."

While Gyorko shares some similarities with Kruk, Kennedy compared him to former four-time National League batting champion Bill Madlock, a career .305 hitter.

"I don’t know if he’ll hit for as high an average, but he reminds me of (Madlock) because he moves the ball around," he said. "He’ll hit 15 to 20 homers and drive in 80 to 90 runs. He’ll be a good, solid guy in your lineup that’s a threat."

■ NOTES – The Blue Jays granted the request of outfielder Vladimir Guerrero to be released from his minor league contract. The 37-year-old nine-time All-Star hit .303 (10-for-33) with four RBIs in eight games for the 51s. Pitchers Evan Crawford and Aaron Laffey were promoted to Toronto and pitchers Brett Cecil and Ronald Uviedo were called up to Las Vegas from Double-A New Hampshire.

Contact reporter Todd Dewey at tdewey@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0354.

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