Johnny Giavotella Returns Amidst Confusion

Last night, Johnny Giavotella left Omaha’s game in Sacramento. Lee Warren said there was no apparent injury.

Speculation spread throughout the Royals online fanbase. Was Giavotella being traded? Was Chris Getz? Would there be a package deal in place?

Johnny Giavotella has returned to Kansas City. Photo: Peter G. Aiken-US PRESSWIRE

The craze is understandable. Usually a player isn’t pulled just to get promoted. When a trade is agreed upon, they come out because they aren’t that team’s player anymore. The Royals, as is typical, weren’t saying anything and nothing was leaking out.

This morning, the speculation continued until Dayton Moore went on 610 Sports to talk with Bob Fescoe. He said that “we hope to make a move to get [Giavotella] on the club.” It was just a matter of crossing some T’s and dotting some I’s he said. Again, that suggested a trade may be brewing, as they finalized a deal. More speculation popped up as various prospect packages were brought up.

As it turns out all the speculation was for nothing, as the Royals still have Chris Getz, they now have Johnny Giavotella and Jonathan Sanchez is on the 15 day disabled list to make room. Sanchez has what is being called “bicep tendinitis” though it could just as easily be an excuse to get him a break and figure out how to get him to at least approach improvement.

The day continued with comments that Giavotella would give the Royals another right-handed bat. In the pregame comments, Ned Yost said that Getz will play against right-handed pitching and Giavotella would hit against “some lefties“.

From the sounds of it, it seems that Giavotella may be struggling to find playing time in a platoon situation.

I’ll gladly eat some crow about Chris Getz. I’m not a fan. I don’t think he can sustain the .288/.338/.424 line he’s got right now. He’s played well beyond my expectations and I can’t say anything bad about his hitting to this point in the season. Players have a way of migrating back to what their standard level of production is but for now, I’ll enjoy a productive Getz. By no means will I say that Getz doesn’t deserve to play right now, but the potential usage of Giavotella speaks volumes about how the organization views him.

This afternoon on What’s Wright with Nick Wright, Mark Carman suggested that if the Royals saw Giavotella as a blue chipper in the mold of Eric Hosmer, wouldn’t they have him sort it out in the majors?

To me, that’s a good question.

I think Giavotella can be an everyday second baseman. He’s hit at every level in the minors and has more offensive upside than Getz. He entered spring training as the likely second baseman but struggled and lost the job. I don’t think the Royals view him that way anymore, or if they do, their confidence is shaken. The problem with the potential arrangement is that they learn little about if he can turn into that kind of player. What happens when Yuniesky Betancourt comes off the DL? Irving Falu probably goes back to Omaha, but what about Giavotella? He’ll have to fend off both Yuni and Getz for playing time. I could see a cycle develop where the Royals say they’ll play Giavotella when they think he can hit everyday, but he still doesn’t get into the lineup more than two or three times a week to show that he can hit.

I’m of the school of thought that a player can’t learn much more once they’ve hit their peak at a level. With a .331/.408/.504 line in Omaha in 2012 after a .338/.390/.481 line in 2011, Giavotella has nothing else to prove in Triple A other than his defense, which is said to have improved. Even if his fielding has stayed at the same proficiency, if he can hit, his bat will even out his defensive lapses. One month in Omaha isn’t going to be enough to improve him to the point where he’s a Gold Glover, but it can show that he could be good enough to get by.

The Royals don’t learn anything about him by only hitting him eight times a week. They don’t learn anything by giving him a cameo for another week and a half while Betancourt recovers from his ankle injury.

It’s a difficult spot because Getz is playing well and if you can get good offensive performance from him, you should ride it as long as it lasts before he turns back into a 67 OPS+ player. But Giavotella should see more time than just against “some lefties”. The Royals need to know what they have in him, or they’ll be in a spot where they wait too long and find they have to rely on someone who they discover can’t do the job. Call it the Kila Ka’aihue Conundrum.

But Gio is back and he’ll play tonight, at least. Perhaps the Royals will have one of those good problems going and find themselves with two hot-hitting second basemen.

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  • jim fetterolf

    Gio is coming back to platoon, as Getz’ new stance is weak against LHP, batting .200 against them this year. According to Clint Scoles at Pine Tar Press, who watches ‘Chasers games in Omaha, Gio’s defense is same old, which makes him about a hit worse than Getz per game. 
     
    Royals have a real good idea of what they have in Gio and in Getz, so now the hope is that Colon’s revived hitting sticks or that Tony Abreu can transition to 2B. The good news is that Giavotella’s hip seems to be rehabbed now, so the hope is no repeat of last year’s .255. His MLE has him around a .280 hitter with some pop, so he’ll help til the future player arrives, if ever.

  • michael.allen.engel

     @jim fetterolf 187 plate appearances, with maybe a third to half of those with a hip injury, is enough to tell us who Gio is as a player? I disagree with that notion. 
     
    On August 8 last year, Moustakas had 186 plate appearances and was at .185/.245/.238, so thank goodness they didn’t give up on him and start platooning him, too. If Gio were a 17th round pick, that’d be one thing, but he’s a second rounder. He needs more time. 
     
    Colon may turn out to be the future 2B for this franchise, but he has to show something in Triple A first. Colon has struggled at parts or most of every year in the minors so far at the plate. Gio hasn’t. Colon has to be a Gold Glover to overcome what that may project to at the big league level. 

  • jim fetterolf

     @michael.allen.engel Gio is a very poor defensive 2nd baseman, has been his entire minor-league career and his brief major-league career. With Gio’s iron glove he has to hit like Dan Uggla and has never shown any signs of that. I thought I was being generous using MLE and conceding .280 with some pop. I don’t think that is near enough to compensate for his glove. Opinions might vary.  Royals seem to think Gio is a platoon 2nd baseman, as they are bringing up a supposed prospect to sit on the bench the majority of the time. That suggests they are looking a little deeper on the depth chart. Gio’s glove is what will hold him back.

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