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In Michael Massey, the Royals see shades of the past

The struggling second baseman brings a sense of deja vu

MLB: Detroit Tigers at Kansas City Royals Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports

If you’re ever in the market for property in the greater New Orleans metro, you could probably do worse than the Talbot Realty Group. The commercial real estate agency has operated in the New Orleans metro since 1967. It also offers a subtle connection to the Kansas City Royals. A realtor on the Talbot team attended Jesuit High School in New Orleans before attending the University of New Orleans. While there, he played baseball.

He posted a .966 OPS his freshman year and followed it up with a 1.173 mark in his sophomore season. Then, in his junior year, he slashed .354/.470/.591 with 10 home runs and a 17.79% BB%. The standout second baseman in college would go on to be drafted in the second round of the 2008 MLB Draft. He was selected 49th overall — 11 picks after current Royals pitcher Jordan Lyles. The baseball future seemed bright for Johnny Giavotella at that time, and he would go on to have great success in the minor leagues as well. He was a key piece of the record-setting 2011 farm system that featured Eric Hosmer, Wil Myers, and Mike Moustakas.

Giovatella dominated the minor leagues, culminating in a 2011 season that eventually helped him earn a promotion to The Show. In 2011, a then-23-year-old Giavotella slashed .338/.390/.481 for Triple-A Omaha. Over 110 games, he walked 7.9% and struck out just 11.3% of the time. The success in Omaha led to his promotion in August of that season, where, unfortunately, he didn’t have quite the same success.

Over his first 46 games in the majors, Giavotella slashed .247/.273/.376. Those struggles led him to start 2012 in the minors. He dominated at the plate there once again but struggled in the majors after a second promotion. That pattern continued for the entire duration of Giavotella’s career in Kansas City. He started every single season from 2011-2014 in Omaha where the results were promising. Yet, every single season from 2011-2014 he was promoted to Kansas City and struggled immensely. In all, he played in 125 games for the Royals with a .612 OPS before he was traded in December 2014 to the Angels for Brian Broderick. Broderick never appeared in a game for the Royals.

Michael Massey’s struggles feel eerily similar

Back to 2023 now, the Royals once again have a promising young second baseman struggling in the major leagues. Michael Massey was a 4th-round pick by the Royals in 2019. The lost 2020 season due to the global pandemic caused Massey to take a different path through the minor leagues than his predecessor in Giavotella. Even still, he reached Omaha in 2023 and dominated pitching there all the same.

The success from the minor leagues hasn’t translated to the majors. Many called for Massey to break out this season (myself included) and it simply hasn’t panned out so far. Over 45 plate appearances this season, Massey has not drawn a single walk. He’s struck out 40% of the time and has a pathetic slash line of .116/.111/.140. A look at the advanced Statcast metrics doesn’t offer much hope either.

Sure, Massey is barreling baseballs and hitting them hard — but that doesn’t matter when you rarely hit the baseball. He often looks lost at the plate, swinging at numerous uncompetitive pitches. The game plan at the plate looks ineffective, if it’s being applied at all. Much of Massey’s value at the plate in the minor leagues was his ability to walk, hit for average, and play sound defense. As mentioned before, the walks are completely gone and the ability to hit might as well be. Something isn’t right for Massey at the plate.

It’s unlikely we see the second baseman in Kansas City for much longer. If he survives the remainder of the current homestand, it’s probable that he makes a trip to Omaha when the rest of the big league club departs for Los Angeles later this week. For a player with such potential, it’s a shame to let him waste away struggling at the plate. The confidence looks gone and he needs a chance to get right and fix his approach at the plate.

What does that mean for the major league lineup? It would be nice to see prospects Nick Loftin or Maikel Garcia get the call-up to replace the struggling Massey. Loftin, in particular, has been off to a scorching start of the season for Omaha. Entering Sunday’s games, he’s slashing .302/.326/.628 over his first 10 games. CJ Alexander is another option. He was praised in the spring by Royals legend George Brett and has started strong in Omaha as well with a .908 OPS in 11 games. Nicky Lopez is already on the Royals’ roster and would likely take over second base every day.

Hopefully, Michael Massey can turn things around and get back on track. He’s too good of a player to fizzle out entirely as he’s done. For the Royals' sake, it would be nice to see a quick fix so that Massey can become a regular contributor like we all hoped he would be.