It’s time to start talking about the Chris Getz/Johnny Giavotella situation again. For at least two years the more analytical among us stat geeks have been banging the Giavotella drum. The Royals have repeatedly turned a deaf ear or at times made it look like they were giving Gio a shot while never giving him an everyday major league gig. It may not be quite time yet if the Royals still believe in Getz, but a continuation of the season’s beginning should lead to a full time shot for Johnny.
Chris Getz is 29 years old and will turn 30 before the end of this season. He made his debut in the majors for the White Sox in 2008 for a cup of coffee and then got a half season in 2009. The Royals traded for him in 2010 and have tried to make him a full time second baseman, but injuries have made than an impossibility with 118 games in the bigs as his high water mark. Here is the thing though, nobody should really want him to play full time. Last year Getz put up his best offensive year (.275/.312/.360) by having an okay average and below average on-base and power. Fangraphs ranked him overall as the 41st best at his position (by fWAR) in his BEST SEASON with even Irving Falu putting up more WAR in just 24 games, and the age almost guarantees he is not getting any better from this point forward.
On the other hand, Johnny Giavotella will turn 26 in July, which means he is about to enter his peak years of production. Gio has been a consistent hitter at the minor league level. His worst OPS was .731 as a 21 year old in Wilmington’s terrible hitting environment. The consistent minor league numbers have not however translated to the major leagues. His first shot in 2011 came at the end of the year and he managed a very Getzian 77 OPS+ over the last two months of the season. 2012 went even worse.
Last year second base should have been given to Gio at the beginning of the season regardless of which of these two was the better player in the eyes of the Royals. No one expected the team to compete and the most value from second base would have been finding out if Johnny could handle the position at the MLB level. That did not happen. Instead they jerked him around all year and then said told you so and gave the job back to Getz again this year. He didn’t make his big league debut in 2012 until May and he got about half of the starts in that month and hit .239/.300/.304, which is far from great but not untenable either since it looks almost exactly like Alex Gordon’s line in the same month. In June he only got 7 starts, July none, back up in August with 11, and then finally in
September he started almost every game and had his best month of the year.
Going into this year we all knew that Getz would be the starting second baseman despite the “competition” in spring. Getzy can really work the leather according to Ned Yost, but his advanced stats don’t back that up. In fact, he had a negative UZR last year. I don’t tend to trust fielding stats so that is not the end all be all, but at no point have I seen him make really great plays either. Nothing he has done has made me feel he is an elite defender who can make up for his bat with his defense. Don’t get me wrong, I think Getz is better than Giavotella on the defensive side, but I don’t think the difference is all that significant. Getz is average and Gio is a little below average, so I’d rather have the bat that might actually be able to produce at an above average rate.
Now the season has begun and everything is just as it has been. Getz still can’t hit, his first home run as a Royal notwithstanding, and Gio is beating up AAA pitching again. There is a chance that Johnny Giabotella is a quadruple A player who will never translate his minor league success into a valuable big league career. Here’s the rub though, there is a chance that he will. Chris Getz is what he is, a barely above replacement level, injury prone second baseman. Why not start the guy who can be more?