If you've been keeping up with the minor league stats and news lately, you've seen that NWA 2B Johnny Giavotella has been on an absolute tear. Essentially since Moose left for Omaha, Johnny G has been crushing the ball, capped by a 4-5, 1 2B, 1 HR performance last night against the Tulsa Drillers. After that game, his line climbed to a nice .306/.380/.422. I took some time and dug up the stats on Johnny G to see how they've changed over the year and created this recent push.
Johnny just turned 23 on July 10 and was drafted in the second round in 2008 out of the University of New Orleans. His ranking as a Royal prospect took a bit of a dive this year, but with the talent emerging around him, it's easy to understand.
The easiest place to look to dig into his progression as a AA hitter is at his monthly splits. Johnny started the year off strong by hitting .324/.427/.392 in April. It was clear that he wasn't a power hitter, but he had a nice average and OBP going for him. In May and June, his numbers dropped to .254/.301/.342 and .284/.389/.389, respectively, before he took off with his July line of .365/.420/.514. He has similar splits to Moose, with roughly a .05/.07/.09 stat advantage at home.
Johnny's been helped out by some good fortune and some strong hitting lately, as his BABIP has been a staggering .403 in July. What's apparent, however, is that something has changed in the way Johnny's hitting the ball lately. His GB%, LD%, and FB% month-to-month have been:
April: 58.8 GB%; 23.5 LD%; 17.6 FB%; 3 GIDP
May: 51.5 GB%; 19.4 LD%; 29.1 FB%; 8 GIDP
June: 35.6 GB%; 24.1 LD%; 39.1 FB%; 2 GIDP
July: 36.4 GB%; 24.2 LD%; 39.4 FB%; 0 GIDP
It's instantly apparent that Johnny altered his hitting strategy about a quarter or a third of the way through the season. The drop in GB% resulted in a jump in flyballs, which partially explains why he's hit three times as many home runs in his last 7 games than in the rest of the season so far. It's also helped him to hit into fewer (or no) GIDPs, which helps the team as a whole. I know, small sample sizes are great and all, but it gives you an idea of how he's changing his hitting. The drop in LD% in May could potentially also correspond with the drop in his stat line, though I don't have the data to back that up.
Interesting point to note: Johnny is hitting just .172 on fly balls, which is understandable, and .213 on grounders. His line drives are the key part of his batting game, as he hits .795 and slugs .973 on them.
While Johnny is hitting more home runs lately via his increased fly ball rate, the most important factor in his hitting is the roughly constant line drive percentage he's putting up. Last year (in Wilmington) he had a 47.2 GB%, 17.4 LD%, and 35.0 FB%, leaving him with a .262/.352/.382 line in almost 500 ABs. In '08 (with Burlington Bees), those numbers were 45.5, 16.3, and 37.8, which gave him a .303/.360/.427 line. The jump in LD% this year has instantly added a jolt to his game and offseason work must have helped him to hit the ball more squarely to take advantage of these rips.
Though he may never be a superstar, Johnny Giavotella has really progressed in his hitting lately. I won't go into defense, but he seems to be neither good nor horrible with +3 runs in 2008 and -3 runs in 2009 at Burlington and Wilmington, respectively.
Stats from MinorLeagueSplits.com