Mar 5, 2013; Surprise, AZ, USA; Kansas City Royals second baseman Johnny Giavotella (9) grounds out during the third inning against the Oakland Athletics at Surprise Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

The Kansas City Royals And Second Base

Thanks to a torrid spring, Chris Getz earned the Kansas City Royals starting base job.  Getz has hit .390/.453/.521 this spring to easily outpace the .267/.283/.400 line Johnny Giavotella put up.  Without a doubt, Getz had a better spring than Gio and this news hardly came as a surprise.  Getz is a known commodity.  We know that he’ll hit around .260 with limited walks and limited strikeouts.  For his career, Getz has made contact with over 90% of the pitches he has swung at (last season’s 92.9% would have ranked him second among qualifying major leaguers if he had enough PA to qualify) so we know that a large majority of the time, Getz will put the ball in play.  When he does put the ball in play, we know Getz will not hit for much power, though he did have a career high .085 ISO (batting average-slugging%) last year.  Our own Michael Engel wrote about how Getz’s track record and consistent play makes the Royals more comfortable with Getz.

Mar 16, 2013; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Kansas City Royals base runner Chris Getz (17) slides into second base in the eighth inning during a spring training game against the Chicago Cubs at HoHoKam stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jennifer Hilderbrand-USA TODAY Sports

This article isn’t so much about Chris Getz as it is about the Kansas City Royals.  I’m sure that many of you who follow the Royals remember Frank White.  The eight Gold Gloves, ASG appearances, and World Series ring make White an adored member of the Kansas City community.  I’m sure that those of you who watched Royals games on a regular basis as recently as a couple years ago got to listen to White broadcast games.  He wasn’t the most exciting broadcaster in the world, but he got the job done and provided a few insights into the game and some stories from the Royals’ glory days.  Prior to last year, the Royals released him from broadcasting duties because he was supposedly too negative about the team.  Now, I’m not the one to make judgement on whether or not the Royals were right to fire him, but the whole debacle really underscored an unsettling motif.  Throughout their history, the Kansas City Royals haven’t been good at 2B.

Name the best Royals second baseman since Frank White.  I’ll give you a second if you want to look it up.  If you said Jose Offerman, you are correct.  Despite the fact that he only logged three seasons in Royal blue and spent most of 1996 manning First Base, Offerman wins this “competition” thanks in large part to his fantastic 1998.  The second best?  Try Mark Grudzielanek.  Not that I have any problem with Grudzielanik, mind you.  The guy played well in his three years for the Royals, winning a Gold Glove along the way.  It’s just that he’s been the second best second baseman the Royals have had for 23 years.  That’s a long time.

There are a lot of problems with Johnny Giavotella‘s game.  His defense will probably never be league average, he hasn’t hit at the major league level, and he doesn’t have the same stolen base prowess as Chris Getz (though Gio did have 65 SB in five minor league seasons and is 8-10 in stolen bases for his Major League career), but this is a guy who hit .323/.404/.472 in Omaha last year and .338/.390/.481 the year before.  Gio can hit.  There’s nothing in Giavotella’s batting profile to suggest that his major league performance is the real Gio.  Detractors can point out that Getz actually hit 11 home runs for Chicago’s AAA affiliate while batting .302/.366/.448.  This is a fair point so I’ll present a table with a few major leaguers and show how their minor league batting stats compare to their stats in the majors.

Minors K% Majors K% Minors BB% Majors BB% Minors ISO Majors ISO
Alex Gordon 19.6% 21% 12.5% 9.9% .263 .170
Evan Longoria 18% 19.8% 10.9% 11.1% .241 .240
Buster Posey 13.6% 14.7% 13% 9.3% .200 .189
Starlin Castro 11.5% 14% 6.2% 5.2% .123 .128
Chris Getz 9.6% 11.1% 9.6% 6.9% .096 .059
Gio 10.5% 17.8% 9.8% 3.7% .139 .097

One of these things is not like the other.  The average strikeout rate increased 2.6% from the minors to the majors among these six players.  If you factor out Gio, the average increase drops to 1.7%.  The average walk rate dropped 2.7% from the minors to the majors.  Factoring out Gio brings the drop to 2.0%.  That’s how profound of an impact Gio’s numbers had on this admittedly small sample size.  If you look across baseball you will find similar trends.  Minor league statistics, particularly ones which deal with plate discipline and power, translate well to the major league level.  That’s because most players don’t become different players upon donning a major league uniform.  They retain the same skills that they had as minor leaguers.  Their pitching is tougher, sure, which explains the difference in these stats.  However, the difference in Gio’s stats stand out like a sore thumb.  He strikes out more often than he should and doesn’t walk as much.  Now, the Royals have publicly stated that 1000 at bats is around how long it takes to evaluate a major league player.  Has Johnny just not had enough seasoning.  If not, why don’t they let him play?  This is a guy who could hit .300 with power for the Royals.  Forget his defensive shortcomings, Johnny Giavotella could be an impact bat.  Granted all prospects have a chance to fail, but Gio proved more in the high minors than Mike Moustakas, Lorenzo Cain, or even Chris Getz ever did.  Gio has a chance to be a good player at a position that the Royals have historically lacked good players.  Unfortunately, it doesn’t appear that he’ll get that chance.

Tags: Chris Getz Johnny Giavotella Kansas City Royals

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