Who: Johnny A. Giavotella
DOB: 7/10/1987, Harahan, Louisiana
Weight: 185 lb
Acquired: 2008 Draft – 2nd round
~ Baseball America: #12
~ Royals Prospects: #11
~ Royals Review #13
~ Kevin Goldstein: #9
~ John Sickels: #12 B-
~ Kings of Kauffman 2010 Rankings: #14
I have a feeling that once Johnny Giavotella makes it to Kansas City, the casual fans will love him to pieces. The more hardcore will say “he’s good, but…” though. He’ll catch on as a fan favorite because he can flat out hit. He won’t win everybody over because he’s not the best defender ever. I see him as a right-handed Alberto Callaspo with slightly better range.
He’s really worked at improving his agility, though and has upside to become at least adequate, and his bat will play well at second base.
It’s going to have to – he doesn’t have the speed to play the outfield and he’s undersized for every other spot on the field. John Sickels noted that he’s improved defensively and the bat will make up for his lack of defensive ability. His size and hitting ability have drawn comparisons to Dustin Pedroia, while Dave Gershman says he could be the next Brian Roberts.
Earlier this offseason, MLB.com named Giavotella their #10 second base prospect in the minors. He displays the ability to hit for moderate power, though once he hits the majors his upside for home runs is probably only about 15. He’ll hit a lot of doubles, though, and the folks at the Scouting Book think he could be a #3 hitter someday – and why not? If pressed into that spot in the lineup, he could probably survive if he continues on the path he’s on. For his career, Giavotella has walked 10.4% of the time while only striking out 10.6% of the time. His doubles swing would work well there (though he’d be an ideal #2 batter with that contact and walk ability).
After a rough season in Wilmington (where he still managed to get on base more than 35% of the time), Giavotella broke out in the Texas League. It seems he got a bit more luck in Northwest Arkansas, since his peripheral stats look about the same. He continued the success into the Arizona Fall League where he hit .328/.371/.578/.949 in 16 games.
Aside from his defense (which could at least be overlooked), Giavotella isn’t much of a basestealer. He can steal bases, but he’s not very efficient at it, stealing 49 but getting thrown out 23 times as a pro. If he worked with coaching to improve his reads and his jumps, he could probably get to a point where he wouldn’t run the Royals out of an inning with regularity at least for a few years.
Another matter to consider with Giavotella is the Royals middle infield depth over the next few years. With the acquisition of Alcides Escobar in December, the smart money is on last year’s first round pick Christian Colon to move to second base long-term. The Royals are staring at a situation where they may have three capable players to fill two positions. I’d liken it to the current scenario at first base and DH with Billy Butler and Kila Ka’aihue at the big league level and Eric Hosmer waiting in the wings. In that scenario, Kila’s the odd man out barring injuries. Clint Robinson is even further out of the mix despite deserving a shot for someone.
With Escobar a former top-15 overall prospect and the key to the Greinke trade and Colon as a first rounder, the burden is on Giavotella to continue to produce. Colon will probably be ready for the big leagues in two seasons time and was considered the safest pick to make the majors out of last year’s draft class, so Giavotella may end up shuttled into a utility role. He’d still have value, but playing time would put a low ceiling on his worth.
Depth is never a bad thing. Having Wilson Betemit and Mike Aviles around last year made Alberto Callaspo expendable, and the Royals got Will Smith in return while Callaspo disappeared after. With other shortstop prospects like Humberto Arteaga and Orlando Carlixte coming up in the second wave of talent, the three-headed monster of middle infielders represented by Colon-Escobar-Giavotella may end up providing the flexibility to fill a gap via trade in a potential Royals playoff contender.
Giavotella should spend most of 2011 in Omaha. If he hits and the defense is still solid, he might be a September callup, but going into 2012, he’ll have his target locked on Chris Getz and the second base job.
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