When the Kansas City Royals announced that they had signed shortstop and now utility infielder Yuniesky Betancourt fans were shellshocked to say the least. But what was the base of their discomfort with having Yuni back on the Royals roster? In 222 games over the span of two seasons with the Royals, Betancourt batted .253 with 20 home runs, 39 doubles and 105 runs batted in. A good show of power from the shortstop position in a ballpark that does not help batters with power. Last season with the Milwaukee Brewers, he batted .252, with 13 home runs, 27 doubles and 68 runs batted in. So over the last three season he has show consistent power and been a good run producer from a position that does not always require these kinds of statistics, for example Alcides Escobar. Yet fans are still skeptical of Yuni’s defense which has been spotty throughout his career but not having to play as the everyday shortstop could help him be a more popular player with fans while he is in the field. But the big question is where and when will Yuni play for this Royals team?
Undoubtably he will be able to step into the utility role to give shortstop Alcides Escobar and third basemen Mike Moustakas their time off but that is not where Yuni will get the most of his playing time. Second base is where Yuni will make his mark in 2012 since the Royals are so thin at that position and truly do not have someone to play everyday. Royals young second basemen, Johnny Giavotella, has not yet shown in either his time at Kauffman in 2011 or in the early stages of Spring Training this year that he is ready to be a full time Major League ballplayer. Chris Getz has also shown that over long periods of time that he is both lacking in the field and also not consistent with the bat, though he does have the speed that the Royals like on the base paths. But to be a good base-runner you have to get on base which Getz has not shown he has been able to do on a consistent bases. Shortstop, Alcides Escobar, is still developing as a hitter and will definitely, over the course of his career, show that he is a defensive first player. This being said, the Royals cannot afford to have both of their middle infielders struggle with the bat. Being such a young team at the plate, the Royals line-up will not be able to give outs away and with Getz/Giavotella that may be what they are doing. But now they have Yuni.
The fact that we know what he is and know what he can do is a big advantage for Betancourt. We know that he will be consistent with the bat and showcase himself with a little bit of power. The one knock that people have given Yuni over the course of his career is his lack of range at the shortstop position. If he is given the nod at second base then he will in turn be a better defensive player because the range will not be suspect and therefore able to be exploited like it was when he was an everyday shortstop. The chemistry that both he and Escobar can develop over the course of the season up the middle could be a big plus for a team that will already be great defensivley.
So with all this said, Giavotella will have to improve his Spring Training stats and show the Royals that he is ready for the big league role or he will find himself back down in Omaha to develop his game more. Chris Getz will probably make this team as a back up because he can be a filler and also has speed that he can showcase will on base. But Yuniesky Betancourt came into the season as the utility player and has both earned and fallen into the de facto starting second basemen.
So Giavotella to AAA Omaha, Betancourt would be my starting shortstop while being able to play third base and shortstop to allow Moustakas and Escobar days off and Getz will fill his spot on those days. That is what I would do but what the Royals will do to fill their only hole in the field is still in question and only time will tell.