Kansas City Royals 2012: Johnny Giavotella Is the Royal Answer

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Kansas City Royals 2012: Johnny Giavotella Is the Royal Answer
Ed Zurga/Getty Images

In November of 2009, the Royals made a trade that was supposed to buy them some depth in the infield. Mark Teahen, who had played both at 3B and in the OF for the Royals, was traded for Chris Getz and Josh Fields. Fields was a reclamation project of sorts, as he was once a top prospect for the White Sox who failed in replacing Joe Crede. But as history shows, he was only in the organization for one year before he became a free agent.

The Mark Teahen/2B experiment was tried, and Luis Hernandez, Willie Bloomquist, Tug Hulett, and Ryan Freel all shared time backing up at multiple positions. The position these players have in common is that they played 2B.

With Gordon being injured and Jose Guillen going down later in July, Teahen went back to playing 3B. That opened a place for a utility player Alberto Callaspo. Callaspo played in 74 games for the Royals in 2008 Callaspo saw significant playing time after Teahen was pushed off of the position. Though Callaspo hit .300 with 73 RBI’s, his defense was…well awful. His dWAR (Defensive Wins Above Replacement) was an -1.5.

Needless to say, the Royals wanted to improve their defense up the middle and move Callaspo off of 2B. Chris Getz was presumably the hole filler at 2B.

After posting an .302 BA with 11 HR and 24 2B’s in AAA, Getz was promoted and though he only posted a .261/.324/.287 line (BA, OBP, and Slugging %), Getz did have 25 SB and posted 1.5 WAR with his oWAR (Offensive Wins Above Replacement) being 1.2. Just incase you were wondering, his dWAR was 0.3 that year.

The feeling about Getz was that Getz would be an automatic defensive upgrade at 2B while having some upside as a base stealer. That did not happen as Getz hit a lousy .237 in only 248 PA’s. On top of that, he didn't’t even crack ten extra base-hits (only 9 2B’s). As for Getz’s defense, dWAR says that Getz was -0.3 in 2010.

Tim Umphrey/Getty Images
Chris Getz is one of many players who have tried to fill the need at 2B

 

 

Getz slightly improved in 2011, hitting .255 in 429 PA’s. Though he had 21 SB’s, Getz only produced another 9 extra-base hits (6 2B’s, 3 3B’s). Getz was at least better than average on defense according to his dWAR of 0.3.

Getz’s ability, or should I say inability, to hold the fort down at 2B in 2011 led to Johnny Giavotella’s call up. Giavotella made it really easy for GMDM to call him up. He was raking in Triple A, hitting .338 with a .390 OBP, 34 2B’s and 72 RBI. His OPS was .871.  Two years of raking in the minors (.322/.395/.855 in AA in 2010) earned Giavotella his first crack at the majors at 23 years old. 

Unfortunately, that didn’t translate into instant success. Giavotella hit .247 in his rookie campaign with a .273 OBP. His defense was a below average -0.6 according to dWAR.

That being said, he actually proved to be an instant power upgrade over Getz. He had 15 extra base-hits in just 187 PA’s. Just to do the math for you just about one out of every 12 (11.8 to be exact) at bats for Giavotella was an extra base-hit. Compare that to Getz’s rate of one out of every 42 at bats.

Clearly from an offensive standpoint, Giavotella is an upgrade at 2B and not as big of a drop off defensively. It’s also clear that the Royals want him to start at 2B next year. So obviously that puts Chris Getz as a backup to the infield.That was before the Royals signed Yuniesky Betancourt to come be a backup infielder.

 

I can imagine what Getz would be thinking after the signing: “They really brought this guy back?!?! At least I can play third…right? I mean I've played 2 games with the Royals at 3B in my career so I can back up Moose at 3B. Yes!!!”

 

Forget that idea. The Royals signed Kevin Kouzmanoff this past weekend to a minor league deal as an insurance policy at 3B. If anything happens with Moustakas early on (injury, Kila Ka’aihue syndrome, etc….) then Kouzmanoff most likely will be the guy.

Unfortunately for Getz he’ll probably be optioned to AAA for this year. Fortunately for the Royals this means Johnny Giavotella gets his chance everyday to be the guy.

And he should. The former 2nd round pick has proved in the minors that he can be a threat at the minor league level. He helps usher in the youth movement that Dayton Moore as longed talked about. Which leads us to one of the first moves that Dayton made this off-season when the Royals traded away Melky Cabrera, who led the Royals with 102 runs or just above 7% of the Royals total 730 runs. Alex Gordon is second on that list at 101, followed by Jeff Francoeur at 77.

I liked the Cabrera trade and am excited for what Jonathan Sanchez will do next year, but the hole that Cabrera is leaving is a big one. Insert Johnny Giavotella.

Presumably, Giavotella seems like the best fit for hitting in the 2 hole. He hit 6th and 7th the most last year where he hit a combined .205 in the 6th and 7th spot in the line up.Though the sample size is very small, he did hit better in the 2 hole last year. In 5 games (22 PA) batting 2nd, Giavotella hit .286 with 5 extra base and a .985 OPS. Small sample size, but he seemed comfortable in that part of the lineup.

Ed Zurga/Getty Images
Johnny Giavotella most likely will hit infront of Eric Hosmer in 2012.

 

I also can’t think of who would fit better there with the lineup the Royals currently have. Cain seems more of an leadoff hitter, but with Gordon their he will probably hit 8th or 9th. Salvador Perez mainly hit 7th or 8th, and I don’t see him getting much higher than 7th. Your 3-6 hitters are Hosmer, Billy Butler, Francoeur, and Moustakas. Alcides Escobar’s bat still is only average at best, so he’ll either be 8th or 9th.

 

The Royals traded away Cabrera with the expectation that Giavotella can slide right in and put up consistent numbers right away. We'll find out this year if he can. Helping set the table for a future MVP candidate isn't a easy thing. Then again, maybe it will be because he'll get pitches to hit because pitchers either don't want to face Hosmer or have runners on base against Hosmer.

If you’ve read anything I’ve written before, then you’ll know that I believe (and still believe) that the biggest need the Royals have is front of the rotation pitching. I still believe that the Royals need to add the likes of a Roy Oswalt or Edwin Jackson in order to contend for the AL Central crown.

Though that may be the biggest need the biggest question may come from an offensive standpoint. If the Royals are going to be as good or better offensively next year, then Johnny Giavotella has to be a quality hitter in the 2 hole.

The Royals have been looking for a quality 2B ever since Mark Grudzielanek got hurt in the 2008 season. Since Grudzielanek they have had 11 different players play 2B. Giavotella is the 12th. It's clear what the Royals are looking for at the position: a quality bat with that can play at least average defense.

The answer and player the Royals have been looking for may be Johnny Giavotella. And if the Royals are to succeed next year, then they will need him to be the answer to their woe’s at 2B.

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