Time to Give Up On Johnny?

Denny Medley-US PRESSWIRE

If he has not already, the Royals' Johnny Giavotella is on the verge of losing an opportunity to be the team's regular second baseman.

We have seen 376 Johnny Giavotella major league plate appearances and, quite frankly, it has mostly been a ghastly experience. No one believed that the former second round pick would be anything more than even an average defender, but many thought that Giavotella would hit. Could he hit enough to justify his glove? That was the real question.

However, in addition to, at best, marginal fielding (that may be stretching it, by the way) Johnny has mostly flailed at the plate as well. A triple slash of just .242/.271/.340, an OPS+ of just 67, a wOBA of .254, wRC+ of 55....pick an offensive number, there are not any good ones. He slugged just .304 in 2012, robbing Johnny of the one positive thing we scrounged around to find after the 2011 season: he had more power than Chris Getz.

Still, here we are just 376 plate appearances into his major league career. Is it time to offer arbitration to Chris Getz? Should the Royals peel a few bills off the free agent bank roll for an upgrade at second? I am willing to listen on those and other options for second base because, despite gaudy AAA numbers, Giavotella has yet to pass the eye test.

As part of this discussion, I thought it might be interesting to take a look the all too often used approach of looking at past players who have struggled early. Let's survey players who played the majority of their early years at second base, came up since 1970, compiled at least 300 plate appearances in their first three season and were, shall we say, dismal early on.

Using OPS+ as our tool (imperfect as it may be, but it was an easy search and it's Monday), we find that the immortal Tom Lawless was worst with an OPS+ of 51 from 1982 through 1985. A surprising number two on the list was Brandon Phillips, whose OPS+ of 52 in his first 453 PA's came via a triple slash of .210/.251/.317. Hmmm...

According to this search, there were 36 second basemen who were worse early (offensively) than Giavotella. Among those were former Royals Frank White and Terry Shumpert. Lagging just a short distance behind Johnny was our pal Chris Getz and just in front of him is another player we often hear mentioned when talking about Giavotella: Marcus Giles.

To be honest, one through thirty-seven on this list is not exactly a who's who of great second basemen. Other than Phillips, Giles and White, and maybe Luis Castillo, a lot of these names are recognizable but mostly as journeymen. There is a lot of Al Newman, Garth Iorg, Billy Ripkenish names on the list and, glancing very quickly and using an ever fading memory (I'm old, you will be too someday), most of those guys got, you know, field a ball with regularity.

Are you done with Giavotella? Do you give him more time and, if so, how much?

The prospect hound in me says that one should through some more regular plate appearances Giavotella's way to be certain those minor league numbers are just a mirage. The 'let's-get-this-team-winning-soon' part of me thinks that maybe the Royals' offense might become good enough that they should go defense first at second. Given that Irving Falu and Tony Abreu combined will cost about what Chris Getz will, should Kansas City duct tape second base together for 2013 and hope that Christian Colon takes a step forward?

This discussion, almost certainly, is a probably third in priority this off-season behind the starting rotation and when/who Wil Myers displaces Jeff Francoeur, but it is an issue. With 40 man roster and arbitration concerns looming, it is also an issue that Dayton Moore will be forced to address, at least in part, very soon.

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