I hate to pile on, but I bet that at some point, at some ballpark, a fan who doesn’t know the Royals very well will turn to someone and ask if Johnny Giavotella is the bat boy.
At 5’8″ and 185 pounds, it’s not an outrageous question, until you end up seeing him on the field.
But despite that small stature, Giavotella rapped out nearly 200 hits as a pro in 2011, including 44 at the big league level.
Giavotella started 2011 with a solid April, hitting .296, though most of his hits were singles. The power picked up in May, as he added six doubles and two homers. After two months in Triple A, Giavotella had a respectable .285/.354/.367 line in 229 plate appearances.
Then, as the weather heated up in the midwest, Gio’s bat heated up, and then some. In June, he hit .398/.431/.610 with 14 doubles in the month alone. Then, in July, he hit .383/.430/.570. By this point, the Royals were trotting out Chris Getz on his quest to surpass a .605 OPS and fans started to get restless.
Finally, Giavotella’s huge summer was rewarded with the everyday job at second base for the Royals after he made his debut on August 5. He went 2-3 with a double against Detroit in that first game, batting ahead of Mike Moustakas in the lineup.
I bet if you’d asked any Royals fan where Johnny Giavotella would hit in 2011 that “ahead of Mike Moustakas” would end up at the bottom of the list of answers. The Royals themselves were probably surprised. While looking at Giavotella’s overall minor league line of .338/.390/.481 and asking why it took so long to call him up seems like a natural reaction, his first two months were good but not great.
The Royals had been advancing Giavotella a level each year after drafting him out of New Orleans. My guess is that they didn’t expect to be in a position to bring him up until perhaps September but likely 2012. His bat forced their hand. For a time, he led all of professional baseball in basehits.
In Kansas City, Giavotella held his own, but had some struggles. His numbers look like a slight upgrade from Getz at this point, but everything he’s shown in the minors suggests that he’s going to be able to hit much better than Getz and could be a strong part of the Royals lineup. He had some pop as a rookie, going for extra bases on 15 of his 44 major league hits in 46 games.
That’s encouraging. The Royals have seen their share of players who can hit in the minors and get to the majors and do little. A little power from Giavotella suggests that he’s driving the ball, and to see the particular hits, that seems to be the case. He’s going to hit gap to gap with an occasional homer, though 15 might be as high as he goes. Making contact and driving the ball will earn Gio a regular paycheck for a long time.
He’s capable of making good plays at second base, but he may never be any better than average. He’ll make highlight plays one moment, then boot a routine play. If he can make the plays he should, he’ll be very valuable. If he doesn’t, he’ll likely be a bat who needs to come out late in close games for defensive purposes. Down the line, the Royals may find themselves in a position where Giavotella starts the game and Christian Colon jumps in to play defense after the seventh or eighth inning.
Giavotella recently had surgery to repair a torn labrum muscle in his hip. Most likely, he’ll be under no risk of missing any part of spring training, as he should be recovered by late December or January. He’ll be the everyday second baseman in Kansas City again, and, with no other prospect pushing him, will be there as long as he’s healthy. Down the line, Colon may be an option at the position but any other players who might push Gio are far down the ladder.
And I’d be remiss if I didn’t again point out the similarities between Giavotella and Boston’s Dustin Pedroia.