The Kansas City Royals position players have been lacking this season, especially on offense. While their is plenty of blame to go around for the team's struggles, part of the problem is that the team has basically punted two positions this season that most people identified as weak last winter: 2B and RF.
I'm still doing everything in more to not discuss Jeff Francoeur, so we'll talk about second base today. Kansas City second baseman have generally been dreadful, hitting a combined .245/.276/.372 on the season. Chris Getz has received the majority of the starts and has been some kind of awful, hitting .216/.247/.338 in 80 plate appearances this season.
Getz played the lion's share of games at second base earlier this season, but manager Ned Yost has been splitting the starts at second base the past ten games. Getz has started five of the last ten games at second, with Elliot Johnson starting four and Miguel Tejada starting one.
Granted, some of Johnson's increased playing time was due to Getz battling allergies, but Johnson seems to have earned himself more innings at second. If Getz continues to hit 50 percent below league-average, the calls for Johnson to start more often at second base will start to grow loud.
Whether Johnson deserves that promotion or whether people (like me) are simply tired of Getz and want change for change's sake is up for debate. Neither player should really be a starting second baseman on a team that has hopes for the playoffs, and I'm not sure Johnson is actually an upgrade over Getz. So I don't think this is a decision that will have a big impact either way.
Johnson has certainly looked better than Getz of late. The PTBNL in the trade with the Tampa Bay Rays went 2-3 on Tuesday night against the Baltimore Orioles, raising his overall hitting line to a still fairly pathetic .259./286/.370. He also made a nice diving stop at second base to save a run in the bottom of the eighth.
Just because Johnson has played better over the past two weeks doesn't mean he's going to provide more value to the Royals over the course of the season. Johnson and Getz have provided similar value offensively and defensively to their teams, and are projected to give the Royals similar value for the rest of 2013.
Our fearless leader wrote a nice write-up on the switch-hitter when he was announced as the last part of the Wil Myers/James Shields trade; re-reading the piece and comparing the two players stats shows how similar the two players are. Getz has accumulated 1389 plate appearances in his career and produced 1.5 fWAR, while Johnson has .6 fWAR in 557 plate appearances. ZiPS believes Johnson will be worth .3 fWAR the rest of the season and Getz will be worth .1, but Steamer thinks Getz will be worth .4 fWAR and Johnson .1.
The two players are a little different offensively, but neither can be confused for a quality hitter. Getz makes more contact than Johnson but also has less power. Neither hitter has an above-average walk rates, and both have hit around 30 percent below league-average for their careers.
Both Johnson and Getz have been average or slightly above-average defenders over their career. Johnson played most of his innings at shortstop for the Rays, and finished one-run above average defensively, according to the Fielding Bible. Based on the fact that Johnson can handle shortstop and the limited sample of games I have watched him play, I would guess Johnson has a little more range than Getz at second, but I don't think it's a large advantage either way.
Elliot Johnson and Chris Getz will likely provide very similar value to Kansas City this season, so I don't think it's particularly important how Yost decides to use each player. Yost could start Johnson a little more while Getz is slumping, then start Getz more once he starts to snap out of it.
But I don't think handing the starting second base job to Johnson will solve any of Kansas City's issues at the position. Dayton Moore and the front office will need to look for outside solutions to upgrade second base if the team is still in contention during the summer. Every other option, including starting Johnson, appears to be patchwork.