The St. Louis Cardinals’ new super-utility player will provide needed rest for the team’s middle infielders throughout the 2016 campaign.
Jay had an injury-riddled season in 2015, and with the Cardinals’ outfield loaded with Randal Grichuk, Stephen Piscotty, Matt Holliday, Brandon Moss and Tommy Pham — the 30-year old became expendable. So, the Cardinals shipped Jay over to the San Diego Padres for super-utility man, Gyorko.
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Peralta and Wong simply ran out of gas in 2015. Peralta, in particular, hit a wall. Jhonny started off the 2015 season as a spark plug for the Cardinals’ offense slashing .298/.355/.473 with 13 homers and 46 RBI in the first half of the season. The second half was a different story. Peralta sputtered after the All Star break hitting just .243/.306/.325 with four homers and 25 RBI. Peralta’s power faded. The shortstop’s OPS plummeted to .631 after flashing an .828 OPS in the first half as Peralta only managed 11 extra-base hits after pounding out 33 before the break.
To say that Peralta has been a workhorse for the Cardinals would be an understatement. Over the last two seasons, the 33-year old has played in 312 total games — tops in the National League among shortstops during that time. It’s time to get the man some rest, and Gyorko can ensure that Peralta gets to watch a few more games from the dugout in 2016. While Gyorko has played the bulk of his career at second base, he’s shown that he can handle shortstop just fine after playing 29 games there last season.
The fact that Gyorko has more experience at second base is a major plus. As I said, Wong needs some rest too. Here are Wong’s first and second half splits from last season:
Wong’s numbers tailed off similar to Peralta’s in the second half of 2015. I expect Kolten to get more rest in 2016, but probably not quite as much as Peralta will need. The 25-year old Wong should be able to handle the workload a bit better than the 13-year veteran.
One aspect of Gyorko’s game that might affect Wong’s playing time is his splits against left-handed pitchers. Gyorko slashed .282/.358/.445 with an .803 OPS against lefties in 2015. For his career, Gyorko sports a .776 OPS with 13 homers in 331 at bats against lefties. This is an added benefit for the Cardinals as Wong really struggled against southpaws last season. After hitting .315 with a .790 OPS against left-handers in 2014, Wong dipped to a .229 average and a .552 OPS in 166 at bats against lefties in 2015.
Not only can Gyorko provide some rest for Wong, but he can be a spot-starter against lefties in 2016.
Gyorko stormed onto the scene with the Padres in 2013 when he blasted 23 homers in 486 at bats. Most people probably don’t remember that Gyorko actually finished 6th in Rookie of the Year voting that season ahead of sluggers like Nolan Arenado and Evan Gattis. Gyorko is an intriguing player and, much like Jason Heyward, the word “potential” always comes to mind.
Gyorko finished 2015 strong with 14 homers in his final 299 at bats. This season will be just the 4th in the bigs for the 27-year old, so the best could be yet to come.
Baseball-reference.com projects Gyorko for 16 homers, 57 RBI and a .241 BA in 2016, but those projections assume that he gets 430 plus at-bats. I don’t see Gyorko reaching quite that many at bats with the Cardinals this season. Still, if he can reach double-digit homers while providing that extra rest for Peralta and Wong, the trade will have worked out beautifully for St. Louis.