May 032013

by John Viril—

Omaha 2B Johnny Giavotella is running out of time. He’s been crushing AAA for his third straight season (currently .323/.391/.471). He’s had three trials in Kansas City over the last 2 seasons. He’ll turn 26 on July 10.

Johnny Giavotella still hasn’t established himself as a major league player. Instead, his repeated failure to hit in Kansas City makes him look like a AAAA bat. And, an offense-first player like Giavotella needs to hit to win a big league job.

Yet, it looks like the baseball Gods are about to give him one more chance. Current Royals 2B Chris Getz is playing like…well….Chris Getz. Getz is what he is: a guy who will play a solid second base, do the little things to help the club, and yet still end up being a liability at the plate. Getz is batting a mere .227/.250/.364. The slugging percentage is a career high, but he’s just not getting on base. With Kansas City looking like it can be a contender, the Royals cannot afford to bleed runs in front of leadoff man Alex Gordon.

The writing is already on the wall. Elliot Johnson has replaced Getz in the lineup the last 2 starts after hitting a home run against Tampa Bay on Wednesday—if you include Thursday’s abortive snow-day. If Getz’s job were secure, one good game from a utility player wouldn’t put him on the bench.

Unless Getz turns it on, Giavotella will get his shot.

The question is what will he do with it. Unfortunately, his triple AAA stats don’t really look any different than they have in the past. In fact, Johnny Giavotella is striking out much more often than last season. His K rate has jumped up from 9.6% in 2012 to 16.4%. While he’s also shown a marginal improvement in isolated power (ISO .156) his outrageously high .372 BABIP suggests Giovotella might have regressed at the plate rather than improved.

I think the key to his struggles are explained by his low walk rate in MLB vs. the minor leagues. In the minors, Giavotella consistently walks over 10% of his PAs. In the major leagues, his career walk rate is a mere 3.7%. Combine that with his anemic .114 ISO, and it looks like major league hurlers are forcing him to hit bad pitches. The weak contact has turned a guy with minor-league gap power into the second coming of Tony Pena Jr.

GM Dayton Moore will need to make a decision soon. Giavotella has no track record of MLB success and will require time to establish he belongs in The Show. Moore has to find out well before the trade deadline whether he will have to look for a 2B.

A 2013 playoff spot could depend on Moore making the right call.

 Posted by at 11:24 pm

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