Veteran infielder Jedd Gyorko has been named manager of the West Virginia Black Bears, one of six teams in the newly formed MLB Draft League. Draft League was originally launched in November by Major League Baseball and Prep Baseball Report and will debut this summer with a 68-game schedule, and the list of the six clubs will be filled with players eligible for this year’s amateur draft. The Draft League is intended as a showcase for these prospects to train and play in real-world gaming environments in front of scouts and evaluators as well as receive “educational programming designed to prepare them for careers as professional athletes,” according to today̵
Longtime minor league coach Billy Horton manages Williamsport Crosscutters, and the other five clubs are led by former MLB players – Coco Crisp (Mahoning Valley Scrappers), Derrick May (Frederick Keys), Jeff Manto (Trenton Thunder), Delwyn Young (State College Spikes) and Gyorko. While these other names have been retired for years and had moved into other coaching / leadership positions, Gyorko played just 42 games with the Brewers in the 2020 season. As the media release describes Gyorko and Crisp (who last played in 2016) as “freshly removed from their Major League career”, it looks like Gyorko could hang his jaws up after eight MLB seasons.
“I hope to give these young players experiences and give them knowledge of what the next level will look like and hopefully prepare them for a successful career“Gyorko said in the press release. “I am grateful for the opportunity and look forward to gaining management experience, especially in my hometown where I can spend more time with my family. ”
The news is a bit surprising as Gyorko is only 32 years old and he is coming out of a very productive year. Gyorko hit .248 / .333 / .504 with nine home runs in 135 PA for Milwaukee last season while playing in both cornerfield positions. Back on March 7, MLBTRs Anthony Franco listed Gyorko among his top five picks of the best-remaining free agents back on the market, observing that Gyorko did not draw any publicly known interest from clubs this winter. Gyorko has long been very productive towards left-handed pitching and has further multi-positional versatility given his previous experience as a second baseman and shortstop.
It may be that Gyorko has not completely closed the door to his playing career and may just be taking a season off (as he noted in his statement) this unique chance to manage a team in his hometown. If this is the case for Gyorko, however, he calls it a career after hitting .245 / .310 / .424 over 846 games and 2983 appearances with the Padres, Cardinals, Dodgers and Brewers from 2013-20.
Another round to San Diego in the 2010 draft, Gyorko finished sixth in the NL Rookie Of The Year poll in his debut season, leading to the Padres unlocking him on a six-year deal that was a little over $ 35.5MM in April 2014. While the 2014-15 seasons were something of a struggle for Gyorko, he flourished after a trade with St. Louis, posting a 111 OPS + / 112 wRC + and hitting .259 / .331 / .463 over 1321 PA with the 2016-18 maps. After battling in 2019, Gyorko Brewers captured and delivered yet another productive season, though Brew Crew rejected their $ 4.5MM club option on Gyorko’s services last October.