These fans got autographs from Johnny Giavotella just in time, as he's now in minor league camp. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-US PRESSWIRE

Johnny Giavotella Among Latest Camp Cuts


Chris Getz is going to be the starting second baseman. Again.

Johnny Giavotella (along with Jarrod Dyson and Vin Mazarro) was optioned to Triple A Omaha. Cody Clark, Irving Falu, Tony Abreu and Zach Miner were shifted to minor league camp.

Giavotella’s demotion is the standout move, as he was projected to be the everyday player at that position in 2012. After a strong 2011 in Omaha, he hit .247/.273/.376 in 187 plate appearances for the Royals. In 44 spring at bats, he was hitting .250/.276/.318. Coming off of hip surgery in the offseason may be causing problems, or it could just be a slow start. Whatever the case, Chris Getz and Yuniesky Betancourt will handle second base at the start of the season.

The reason cited by Ned Yost was Giavotella’s defense. In doing so, he suggested the Chris Getz and Yuniesky Betancourt are better defensive options. I can’t suggest that Giavotella is going to contend for a Gold Glove Award at any point, but Getz has been below average defensively over the span of his career, and has had negative defensive runs saved figures every season as a big leaguer according to the Fielding Bible*. Betancourt, at least at shortstop, is even worse both statistically and by reputation. Perhaps in a less demanding area like second base, he can handle it defensively (or at least better than at shortstop), but neither could be a significant upgrade defensively, especially considering that Getz won’t hit (if more than 1000 major league plate appearances is any indication). Giavotella rated as losing one run defensively by John Dewan’s calculations in 46 games.

*Getz looks better by Baseball-Reference’s defensive measurements, coming in at +6 runs above average for his career, but the Fielding Bible metrics take into account the context of the game when the play is made and how fielding performance is relative to the average fielder. It doesn’t seem to take into account plays that should have been made but weren’t, instead factoring in only the plays made. In other words, if Getz can’t make a play on a ball that a typical second baseman can get to, does it really help save a run?

Yost acknowledged that the 44 at bat sample by Giavotella isn’t reliable, but believes he can hit. It’s not clear how much more someone can improve their defense in the minor leagues, and an extra month or two isn’t going to be enough time to make such a change in fundamental skills that Will Carry over.

If only spring stats were taken into account, yes, I can see how Getz and Betancourt would be favored. Getz has hit better in Surprise producing a line of .276/.313/.310 in 29 at bats. Betancourt put up a .233/.283/.395 line in 43 at bats but with a guaranteed contract and supposed position flexibility, it means Giavotella, with options, ends up out of the running.

I fully expect Getz to return to his typical levels of production, which means weak contact, not making it on base, and no power. He’s changed his stance, sure, but how often do 28-year-old players (with no track record of exceptional production) make one adjustment and change who they are as a hitter? Not often, I’m afraid. Is his defensive strength so much greater that it justifies him hitting .254/.315/.307 while Giavotella ends up learning nothing about hitting big league pitching in Omaha? I think not. Giavotella’s the best player for the position and he fits within the long-term framework of the organization. It’s of no benefit to him or the Royals to have Giavotella in Omaha.

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  • jim fetterolf

    The blogosphere goes wild with Getzophobia:) My take is that Gio is hurt, which causes him to suck even worse than usual with the glove and slows down his already questionable bat speed. Getz is only an average defensive second baseman, but according to baseball reference’s Rtot/yr that made him 22 runs better than Gio last year and his about 3/4s of a chance less of range. If Gio doesn’t out hit Getz by about fifty points, he’s a net loss.As for Getz’ change in stance, swing, and approach, he has long used a 2-strike approach, which is good for contact, bad for power.  He’s changed to a load and stride swing and is showing a little more pop this spring.Competition motivated change for him. We’ll have to see how it works.
    I understand that Getz snark is a requirement of the trade, but Gio had his chance and blew it, like he did when he was called up last year to face September pitching. Let’s hope that his hip is bothering him rather than that he is just a Four-A player, in which case we need to hope Christian Colon gets his hitting in order, as he’s the next best hope. Getz has the job by default until the Royals can find an at least average major league second baseman to replace him.

  • michael.allen.engel

     @jim fetterolf Jim, sorry but B-R feels incomplete to me in their defensive ratings for the reasons I mention in the post. 
    It’s not Getz snark for snark’s sake. I simply don’t think he’ll ever be more than a replacement player. Gio will be I believe. But what does he learn in Omaha at the plate? He can learn to hit the Daniel Cabrera’s of the world who can’t cut it in the big leagues. Maybe he’s not going to be a major league hitter – but we can’t know that if he’s not trying to hit true major league pitching. 200 plate appearances isn’t his “chance” to blow. Less than 50 appearances in spring isn’t a “chance” to blow. And Getz can make his two strike approach the way to go all he wants but a weak chopper on a two strike pitch is still a weak chopper. 
    And maybe Gio’s hurt still or getting back into his rhythm. He probably didn’t do any offseason workouts aside from rehab. I just think he should be given the shot to show that he can’t cut it when he’s not hitting much worse than the other two options (and seems to be turning it around). 

  • JohnJParent

     @michael.allen.engel I’m left wondering if this isn’t more than simply buying an extra month or two or service time on Giavotella? Getz has shown, both in Chicago and in KC, that he’s not the answer. Betancourt isn’t either. Guys that hit like Giavotella did in the minors generally figure it out in the big leagues as well, but the Royals had other options and Giavotella’s slow spring provided just enough cover to make optioning him out justifiable. It smells like a financial move to me.
    Can someone help me out though? Why is he referred to as “Gio” when his name should be shortened to “Gia”? (I assume it’s a masculine/feminine thing, but it still doesn’t make sense.)

  • michael.allen.engel

     @JohnJParent It’s mostly one of those “it just is” kind of things.
    As for the service time, that might be part of it. It does smell like, whatever the real reason, that they are finding a reason to make the move. If it was Gio’s to lose, then Getz would have to vastly outperform him. Since that didn’t happen, maybe they just didn’t see Gio as the sure case coming into spring (though my impression was that this was the case…not the first time I’ve misread the Royals). 

  • jim fetterolf

     @michael.allen.engel Agree that Getz is a replacement player and think that Gio, so far, has been well below replacement. It’s not that Getz is good, it’s that Aviles, Betemit, and now Gio were/are so bad. Gio had his shots and showed a very bad glove and didn’t outhit Getz against the same pitching that Sal Perez hit .331 and Moose added 80 points against, or this spring pitching that Cain is hitting .500 against. Basically the pro-Gio folks are saying that, regardless of performance, Gio should be given a long chance. What the Royals are saying is that Gio needs to get better with the glove and earn the chance. What I think is he better get busy or Colon may pass him on the depth chart.
    If Gio’s hurt, which is what I think, a hip impacting both hitting and fielding, Omaha is a better place for rehab than the K, so I look at this as less a demotion than a rehab assignment.
    As for “snark”, it’s just a matter of me seeing the same stuff everywhere I read. Pine Tar had a similar piece by Clint Scoles, and about half the posters on the KC Star and are beating the same horse. I complimented Marcus on actually posting on Danny Duffy tonight. I expect Royals Authority to have a Getz rant tomorrow.  Even had a few folks on Judging the Royals make some noise about the third best glove and third best bat at second in spring training not winning the job outright.As for Getz’ change of hitting, I heard it all last winter about the “worst outfield ever”, so will trust Seitzer until Getz shows me different. You might remember that Escobar also changed swing and approach mid-season, as did Billy. Starting to look like a trend to me.

  • LastRoyalsFan

     @jim fetterolf I like the “Getzophobia” diagnosis.  I think the strong feelings about him are because Getz is the poster child for the debate between stat guys and scouting guys.  He has been tagged by Ned Yost and others with the infamous “gritty” tag.  Since the scouting guys can’t point to any specific quantifiable performance they rely on intangibles to defend their support for the guy which drives the stats guys nuts.
    I think the answer lies in the comments here.  You are right in that Giavotella didn’t play his way onto the roster this spring, but the question is why. He may well be rusty after the offseason spent rehabbing his hip instead of intense conditioning (I really have no idea).  I also believe the opportunity to save service time also played into the decision.  He and Getz both have options, but the clock isn’t running yet on Gio.  If he has a ‘miraculous’ improvement in Omaha and we see him in early June we’ll know this was the case.  As a second round draft pick you’d think the Royals are invested in him.  Time will tell.

  • jim fetterolf

     @LastRoyalsFan Good post, Last, but I would suggest that Johnny Giavotella has little time to get it together with first round draft pick Christian Colon also in the mix and blocked by Escobar at short.
    As for the why on Gio, a bad hip impacts both swing and fielding, so that is the charitable reason for his performance and a likely one. A couple of months at Omaha will clarify things and Gio will have the chance to earn his way back up, but, with ground ball pitchers Hochevar and Mendoza in the rotation, Gio’s glove has to get a lot better.

  • eric.akers

     @michael.allen.engel I personally don’t mind him being sent down. If you can’t beat out Getz and Betancourt, does he really deserve to play yet. According to Yost, he believes Gio will hit, so it seems that they realize he is the better hitter, but if he can’t turn the double play or do the defensive things that the “replacement level” player Getz does, then maybe he needs more time to focus on those things somewhere else.  I am at the point where I want the guys to win their positions or force a called up, like Hosmer, than give the guy a spot.  I want our guys to learn these things in the minors rather than in the majors like we have been doing for so many years.  He may have little to learn at the plate in AAA, but that seems to have no factor in his demotion at this time.  I think we will be seeing Gio again maybe in two months.