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Johnny Giavotella has been given two opportunities to show the Royals he can play in major leagues, and he has failed both times. He may not get another shot.
Lots of Royals fans, including myself, had high hopes for Johnny Giavotella coming into this season. Even those who didn't think that Johnny would develop into a very good player hoped that when given the opportunity, he could out-perform the Chris Getz and Yuniesky Betancourt duo. Getz's better than expected season and Yost/Moore's love for Betancourt delayed Giavotella's return the the Major's this season, but Gio has had fairly consistent playing time since Getz's season-ending injury.
Since he has received semi-consistent playing time, Giavotella has struggled to hit and field at an acceptable level. Six weeks of baseball is a small sample, but his numbers have been particularly brutal. This is actually Giavotella's second taste of the major leagues, and each time he has failed to hit at an average major league level. Below are some of Gio's hitting and value statistics from the past two seasons.
Since we are only dealing with 363 plate appearances stretched out over two seasons, it's difficult to make firm conclusions about what these number suggest about his future. It should be fairly obvious, however, that his two stints in the major leagues have been terrible. His career triple slash line is .240/.270/.341, which is horrendous for any position player. His hitting numbers place him 36% below league average as an offensive player, which even gives him credit for his plus baserunning.
Even more disturbing are his plate discipline numbers, which are staunchly different from his minor league plate discipline statistics. In AAA, Giavotella took walks at an above-average rate, and made enough contact to post a below-average strikeout rate. In 418 AAA at-bats this season, Gio actually had a higher walk percentage than strikeout percentage. At the major league level, however, the young second-baseman has a career 3.9% walk rate and a 17.9% strikeout rate. Although the strikeout rate is around average, the walk rate is ghastly; a 3.9% walk rate would be the fifth lowest amongst all major league hitters this season.
I'm loathe to bring up the defensive numbers since the sample size is ridiculously small, the early returns have been poor as well. Bad defensive scouting reports plagued Giavotella throughout his minor league career, and he has done little to alter anyone's perception of his defense. His well below average fielding and hitting has led Gio to accumulate a career fWAR of -.5, placing him below replacement level.
Personally, I don't think Moore and Co. handled Giavotella's development very well. This was the season to play Gio the entire season, especially once it became clear that this team would have no chance to contend. Although Getz performed better than expected, this season is probably close to his ceiling as a hitter. His career high wRC+ of 84 still places him below league average, making him a very replaceable player. Even though Giavotella has struggled as a major league hitter, his minor league numbers and scouting profile suggested that he had the potential to be an above-average hitter at the major leagues, and certainly a better hitter than Getz.
The Royals organization, however, has not shown the same belief in Giavotella that they have in some of their other position prospects. Players similar to Betancourt and Getz would have never blocked some of the other Royals position prospects.To be fair, Giavotella was not as highly regarded as Eric Hosmer or Mike Moustakas, but he still was a fairly highly rated prospect in "The Best Farm System in the History of Whatever." One would expect Moore to give one of his draft picks every opportunity to succeed in the Majors.
It's been hard to shake the feeling that the Royals wanted Gio to prove that he belonged, rather than believing he could play and waiting for him to develop. Less than 200 at-bats a season is hardly enough time to prove one thing or another, but to an organization that may have already made up it's mind, it can certainly confirm previously held beliefs. Given how the Royals have handled Giavotella so far, it's hard for me to picture Gio on the Opening Day roster next season. They have shown their preference for Getz, and his lack of position flexibility makes it more likely that Tony Abreu or Irving Falu will be the extra infielder off the bench.
These past six weeks have been Giavotella's second opportunity to perform at the major league level. Although they have hardly been "fair" shots, it's hard for me to imagine the Royals will give him a third chance to prove himself.