What’s On Second?
Spring Training starts in about a month. Barring injury or a terrible performance, the Kansas City Royals lineup is pretty much set, except for second base. Like last year, Chris Getz and Johnny Giavotella will compete for the job at second. But this year, Tony Abreu and Irving Falu could be in the mix as well.
Going into Spring Training, Getz is the likely favorite, despite an injury-filled 2012 and only playing 61 games at second. While the Royals praised Getz’s ability to drive the ball, he hit only 10 doubles, three triples and no homers with a .275/.312/.360 average and a 0.4 WAR in 210 plate appearances.
But the Royals were more concerned about his defense, where he had a .983 fielding percentage at second and a 4.43 RF/9. The league average fielding percentage was .983 and the league RF/9 was 4.63, making Getz a league average second baseman. If he keeps that up, he’ll be the Royals starting second baseman. If he stays healthy.
Many fans would like to see Johnny Giavotella at second, but so far he hasn’t done enough to win the job. He struggled last spring and started the season in AAA Omaha. He played 21 games with the Royals in May and June before coming back for good in August and September after Getz suffered a season-ending thumb injury.
In the Minors, Giavotella played well offensively, but needed work on his defense. But in 189 Major League plate appearances, Giavotella hit seven doubles, one triple and one home run with a .238/.270/.304 average and a -0.6 WAR. Giavotella played 45 games at second, with a .967 fielding percentage and a 4.23 RF/9. the league average fielding percentage was .983 and the league RF/9 was 4.63, which made Giavotella a below average second baseman. He’ll get an opportunity to win the second base job, but unless he starts hitting Major League pitching and his defense improves, Giavotella will start the season in Omaha.
Tony Abreu was a Spring Training non-roster invitee last year and got called up in August after the Royals released Yuni Betancourt. Abreu saw limited playing time, appearing in 22 games, 11 of those at second. In 74 plate appearances, Abreu hit two doubles, one triple and one home run with a .257/.284/.357 average and a -0.2 WAR.
With a small sample size of 11 games at second in 2012, it’s better to compare Abreu’s career playing second. In four seasons at second, Abreu has a .975 fielding percentage and a 4.59 RF/9. The league fielding percentage was .984 and the league RF/9 was 4.77, which at best makes Abreu a utility infielder. Seeing the most games Abreu played at second was 25 in 2007, the League tends to agree. If he makes the club, it will be as a utility infielder.
A possible dark horse at second is longtime Royals farmhand Irving Falu. In 24 games with the Royals last year, Falu played 14 of those games at second. In 996 games over his Minor League career, Falu played 315 of them at second. The most games he played in a season at second was 63 with Omaha in 2009, so even in the Minors, Falu was a part-time second baseman. He’ll get his opportunities in Spring Training, but it’s a long shot for Falu to make the Opening Day roster, much less as the Royals starting second baseman.
Second base was a weak position last year and it will be again in 2013. If the Royals can get league average offense and defense out of second, they’re in good shape, as far as second base goes.