KANSAS CITY, Mo. – You could almost hear the moans from Royals fans across the area when manager Ned Yost announced that Chris Getz had indeed beat out Johnny Giavotella for the second-base job.
Many fans have been pulling for Johnny G to win the job for close to two years. But as was the case last year, Getz held off the challenger again in spring training.
Getz’s numbers clearly were better (.372 average, .426 on-base) than Giavotella’s (.267 average, .283 on-base), but I doubt the competition came down solely to offensive numbers.
The Royals are fairly certain that Giavotella could out-hit Getz, at least marginally, if given the everyday job. But the Royals also know it’s not an absolute certainty.
And while the gap defensively between the two isn’t as huge as some might think, it’s enough to outweigh the risk of having Giavotella hit poorly again at the big-league level and cost the Royals a few games in the field.
Giavotella isn’t horrible in the field, but he is handicapped a bit by his size. He is listed at 5 feet 8, but that is generous, and the Royals always have been concerned that his small stature cuts down his range not only right to left, but vertically as well.
Maybe the Royals could live with that the range issues. But Giavotella has hit a pedestrian .242 in 99 major-league games through two seasons, and he hasn’t wowed anyone this spring training, either, at least not enough to suggest he’s ready now to attack major-league pitching.
Granted, no one is claiming Getz is the guy to ignite the Royals’ offense.
Royals fans have grown impatient with an everyday player such as Getz who has just a .257 career average and who has become a Trivia Quiz in terms of power. He hasn’t homered in 918 major-league at-bats, the longest active homerless streak in the major leagues. And that’s tough to live with in the American League, a bomber’s league that already exposes the Royals’ power shortages.
But the Royals will live with Getz’s soft offense because he won’t embarrass them in the field, and he’s without question smoother around the second-base bag than Giavotella. Getz works well with shortstop Alcides Escobar, and the Royals believe there is an intangible working in Getz’s favor, too.
“He handles the infield pretty well,” general manager Dayton Moore said. “He does a lot of the little things in terms of leadership. He knows when to come in and chat with the pitcher on the mound. He talks constantly with the other infielders. He’s a good quarterback in the infield.”
Getz, of course, does have the obvious limitations. He does not have great range, either. He has average range. And he doesn’t have great speed. He has above-average speed.
But he’s probably the best option the Royals have at this precise moment at second base, and that speaks a bit to the overall weakness at the position in the organization.
The Royals do not have a rising star at the second-base position in the upper levels of the system, unless you consider Christian Colon, a first-round pick in 2010, that guy.
Colon, though, has been primarily a shortstop in the minors, and he has made only modest gains at the plate in three minor-league seasons. He hit .289 with five homers and Double-A last year, earning a promotion to Class AAA Omaha.
Colon likely will stay put at shortstop at Omaha now that Giavotella has been optioned there, and both will have to give up some playing time to Irving Falu.
As for Getz, don’t be surprised if he gives up some playing time as well, especially to Elliott Johnson, who is just as athletic as Getz, if not more. And Johnson, a switch-hitter, has infinitely more pop in his bat – he has 10 homers in 476 big-league at bats.
Johnson also had 18 steals last year for Tampa Bay in mostly a utility role.
Then there’s Miguel Tejada (if he makes the team), who likely could spell Getz at second against certain left-handers.
The Royals clearly considered the Getz-Johnson-Tejada combination less risky than handing the job to Giavotella, who is beginning to run out of chances to prove he belongs in the big leagues.