If second baseman Johnny Giavotella doesn’t earn a spot on the Opening Day roster for the Kansas City Royals, will he get another opportunity? If Giavotella can’t beat out Chris Getz, will any other team have any interest in him? Will he ever be more than a dreaded AAAA-type player?
The Royals selected Johnny Giavotella in the second round in 2008. He has hit at every level in his 5-year minor league career, producing an impressive slash of .308/.380/.443/.823. He has shown a good batting eye, walking 238 over those five years and only striking out 252 times. His bat was supposed to carry him to the majors despite a suspect glove.
Those sparkling numbers just haven’t translated with the Royals in the majors. In 99 games, over 2 seasons, Giaovetella’s slash line has been dismal – .242/.271/.340/.611. The patience he displayed in the minors is no where in evidence with the parent club. He has struck out 67 times and struck out 14, nearly a 5-to-1 ratio. If Giavotella is to make the Opening Day roster, he is going to have to show that he can put up numbers similar to his minor league stats against major league pitchers.
Last week, I wrote that for teams with veterans, Spring Training stats are basically worthless. For established players, the spring games are for preparing for the regular season and honing their skills. This is still true, but for younger players trying to earn a spot on the roster, or players in direct competition for the same roster spot, they do need to show results in the spring games to prove their worthiness. This is Johnny Giavotella’s situation.
Giavotella is in direct competition with Chris Getz for the Royals’ second base job. It is not that Getz is so much better than Giavotella at the plate even with the latter player’s struggles at the big league level. Getz’s bat is as powerless as any in the majors with a career .316 slugging percentage, and a very mediocre .257 batting average. Getz does offer plus speed but even that pales to the minor league production stats Giavotella accumulated in the minors. Giavotella has to completely out perform Getz at the plate this spring to make up for his sub par glove and defensive range. Giavotella has to out shine Getz this spring in a big way because there is little possibility that the Royals keep two players who can only play second on the roster. The Royals bench will be made up of a back-up catcher, either George Kottaras or Brett Hayes, a fourth outfielder, most likely Jarrod Dyson, and probably two utility players. Miguel Tejada, Elliot Johnson, and Irving Falu are candidates. Johnson would probably have a leg up because he can play outfield. While possible, it is highly unlikely the Royals would keep two second basemen in a platoon situation as opposed to another utility player that can play a number of positions. It just doesn’t make sense.
Because Giavotella is considered a poor defensive player, despite his hard work to improve, the Royals have to be completely convinced he is going to hit consistently in the majors. Kansas City knows what they have in Chris Getz and they are not going to be comfortable turning over the second base job to Giavotella unless he proves beyond a doubt he can match his minor league production. If he can’t beat out Getz, will he get another chance with the Royals? If the Royals sour on him because he can’t beat out Chris Getz, will any other team give him a chance? That just may be the case.
The whole idea of AAAA players just shows how big a difference there is in pitching between AAA and the majors. How can a player hit so well in AAA but fail so badly in the majors? The answer is simply the pitching is so much better. Some players just can’t ever make that adjustment. It would only be to the Royals’ advantage if Giavotella can figure things out. It would be great to have a second baseman with a little pop at the bottom of the line-up. It would lengthen and strengthen the batting order. If Johnny Giavotella can’t impress in a big way this spring, he may never get another chance and that would be a shame for both the Royals and Giavotella. The Royals could live with a below average glove at second if the bat was productive. The problem for Giavotella is time to impress is running out and this may be his last opportunity.