I know many of us are concerned with how the Royals’ starting rotation will look in 2013. It’s the most important issue, and if they acquired no position players and only starting pitching this offseason, most would call that wise, including me probably.
But that doesn’t mean this team has no holes in the lineup. It does. So, instead of giving you another starting pitching post, I’ve decided to talk about a position that concerns me moving into 2013 (actually two positions concern me, but my concern for right field is simply an understanding that Jeff Francoeur is terrible and holding a place for Wil Myers).
I’m a little concerned with how the second base situation will work out. Mike Vamosi recently wrote that he feels the Royals will continue to give Chris Getz opportunities at second base, not because Vamosi feels he deserves it but because Getz is beloved by Ned Yost and Dayton Moore. I think a fairly solid argument that Getz DOES NOT deserve to hold a position by himself exists. He’s a lifetime .257/.314/.316 hitter and even in his “bounce back” year last season, he only hit .275/.312/.360. He does have a decent glove at second base, but nothing that makes up for his very weak bat.
So, let’s look instead at the candidates who could potentially contribute. We know Getz can’t, or at least should only be used to platoon; that’s been proven. Johnny Giavotella was supposed to be the guy who unseated Getz, who brought offense to the second base position. That, of course, has not materialized, and I’m almost ready to write him off completely. Because if Giavotella can’t hit, he can’t play. He’s had 376 PA in the major leagues for a slash line of .242/.271/.340. That is nowhere near close to acceptable. He strikes out way too much, doesn’t walk enough, and if you watched him play at all looks overmatched by big league breaking stuff. So, as of right now, I’m not pulling for Johnny anymore.
I am, however, pulling for everyone’s favorite 29-year-old rookie, Irving Falu. This guy can play. Sabermatricians will hate him because he relies on a high BABIP to be successful. In 21 big league games last season (91 PA), he hit .341/.371/.435 with a .382 BABIP. He rarely walks, but he doesn’t strike out that often either. He puts a lot of balls in play, but in those 21 games, he had a 34.7 percent line drive rate. That means he was hitting a lot of line drives. It’s a small sample size, but I would love to see him get a chance in Spring Training to both make the club and see significant time at second base.
Tony Abreu also received some time at second base late in the season, but to me, he’s just a poor man’s Falu. He walks less and strikes out more. He also relies on a high BABIP, but even more so than Falu. In AAA last year, AAA mind you, he walked 3.1 percent of the time and struck out 15.2 percent of the time. That’s incredible. What’s even more incredible is that he did it while hitting .322. His BABIP was .365. In his major league time, he was considerably less effective with a BABIP of .298 and a batting average of just .257.
Right now, I’m thinking the answer is probably a platoon, Getz against righties and Falu against lefties (that is if Falu doesn’t win the starting job outright in Spring Training). Falu’s a switch hitter, but in a very small sample size against lefties last year he hit .385. Getz has, over his career, hit better against lefties, but that’s probably because he has around 800 more plate appearances against righties and only 288 against lefties in his whole career. Clearly, managers attempt to protect Getz against lefties.
Honestly, I’m not thrilled with the situation. I don’t want Getz playing at all, and though I like Falu and think he would make a fine utility infielder, I’m not sold on his ability to hit consistently with his inability to walk. He could certainly have success, and I really want him to. Vladimir Guerrero made a career off the approach Falu has, though he had much more power. If he can keep putting balls in play hard, he should take the starting job and keep it. If he can’t, the Royals will need to figure something out. Either a serviceable platoon situation or bringing someone in who can do the job.
It will be a subplot of Spring Training to follow, and a source of great anger in me if Falu is not even given consideration for a starting job at second base so that Yost can continue his love affair with the continually disappointing Getz.