Here’s your chance, Johnny Giavotella

The Royals were likely to call up infielder Johnny Giavotella after the Omaha Storm Chasers season came to an end, but Chris Getz‘s season-ending thumb injury last week gives Giavotella the chance to see if he has what it takes to be a Major League second baseman.

During spring training, a lot of fans expected (and hoped) Giavotella would make the opening day roster. But on March 25 Giavotella was optioned to AAA Omaha and Getz became the Royals second baseman. A lot of Royals fans and pundits were disappointed. But the Royals believed Getz’s defense was superior, his offense had improved and Giavotella needed more defensive seasoning in Omaha.

Giavotella did well in Omaha with a .331/.408/.504 line with five homers, 25 RBI and 152 plate appearances, playing second base. When starter Jonathan Sanchez went on the disabled list with biceps tendinitis, Giavotella joined the Royals May 9.

During his first stint with the Royals, Giavotella played 21 games and split playing time with Getz and Yuni Betancourt. He had an unimpressive .217/.260/.261 line with no homers and six RBI over 73 plate appearances, committing three errors at second base. Giavotella got more playing time at second when Getz went down with a rib injury May 16, but he still split playing time with Betancourt. The Royals sent Giavotella back down to Omaha June 12 when Chris Getz returned from the disabled list.

Giavotella returned to Omaha, ending up with a .323/.404/.472 line with 10 home runs, 71 RBI over 418 plate appearances. He played the majority of the games at second, committing six errors with a .983 fielding average. It appeared Giavotella would be a September call-up, if he was called up at all. Then last Friday, Getz broke his thumb during a bunt attempt and Giavotella was called up for last Saturday’s game against the White Sox.

Plans are for Giavotella to play five to six games a week at second base. So far, Giavotella’s five games since his return haven’t been impressive. His average over the last five games is .167/.211/.167 with three base hits, no RBI with six strikeouts and no walks. In other words, he’s in the lineup, but not really contributing. Of course this is a small sample size and there’s hope his offensive numbers will improve as he gets more playing time.

But what about Giavotella’s defense at second base? To be honest, his defensive numbers this season haven’t been impressive either, with a .949 fielding percentage and a 3.65 RF/9. Compare that to Getz’s .983 fielding percentage and 4.43 RF/9. Even Betancourt had a .975 fielding percentage and a 4.61 RF/9, and we all know how bad an infielder he was. The league average fielding percentage at second base is .983 and the league RF/9 is 4.62. In other words, all three players are just near or below league average. One is no longer with the team (Betancourt), another is out for the year (Getz), and the one who’s left (Giavotella) is below league average in both categories.

Some Royals fans would like Giavotella to be the second baseman of the future and take Getz’s place. But to be fair, Getz played well with a .275/.312/.360 average and only committed four errors at second, despite having an injury filled season. And since Getz is not going to be a free agent until 2015, he’s probably going to be competing for a second base job in 2013, along with Giavotella.

Unless Giavotella has an injury, he’s going to be the Royals second baseman for the rest of the season. And even if his offense improves, his defense will decide if the Royals think he’s their second baseman of the future. Giavotella is being given a chance. It’s up to him to make the most of it.

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