Veteran infielder Jedd Gyorko has been named as manager of the West Virginia Black Bears, one of six teams in the newly-created MLB Draft League. Originally launched back in November by Major League Baseball and Prep Baseball Report, the Draft League debuts this summer with a 68-game schedule, and the rosters 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 proper game environments in front of scouts and evaluators, as well as receive “educational programming designed to prepare them for careers as professional athletes,” as per today’s league media release.
Longtime minor league coach Billy Horton manages the Williamsport Crosscutters, and the other five clubs are managed 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/managerial positions, Gyorko just played 42 games with the Brewers in the 2020 season. Since the media release describes Gyorko and Crisp (who last played in 2016) as “freshly removed from their Major League careers,” it would seem like Gyorko could be hanging up his cleats after eight MLB seasons.
“I am hoping to provide these young players with experiences and give them knowledge on what the next level will look like and hopefully prepare them for successful careers,” Gyorko said in the press release. “I am thankful for the opportunity and look forward to gaining managerial experience, especially in my hometown, where I’ll be able to spend more time with my family.”
The news is a little surprising since Gyorko is only 32 years old, and he is coming off a very productive year. Gyorko hit .248/.333/.504 with nine home runs in 135 PA for Milwaukee last season, while playing at both corner infield positions. Back on March 7, MLBTR’s Anthony Franco listed Gyorko among his top five picks of the best remaining free agents left on the market, observing that Gyorko didn’t draw any publicly-known interest from clubs this winter. Gyorko has long been very productive against left-handed pitching, and has additional multi-positional versatility given his past experience as a second baseman and shortstop.
It could be that Gyorko hasn’t entirely closed the door on his playing career, and is perhaps just taking a season off for (as he noted in his statement) this unique chance to manage a team in his hometown. If this it for Gyorko, however, he’ll be calling it a career after hitting .245/.310/.424 over 846 games and 2983 plate appearances with the Padres, Cardinals, Dodgers, and Brewers from 2013-20.
A second-round pick for San Diego in the 2010 draft, Gyorko finished sixth in NL Rookie Of The Year voting in his debut season, which led to the Padres locking him up on a six-year deal worth slightly more than $35.5MM in April 2014. While the 2014-15 seasons were something of a struggle for Gyorko, he blossomed after a trade to St. Louis, posting a 111 OPS+/112 wRC+ and hitting .259/.331/.463 over 1321 PA with the Cards from 2016-18. After struggling in 2019, Gyorko caught on with the Brewers and delivered one more productive season, though the Brew Crew declined their $4.5MM club option on Gyorko’s services last October.