Second base is without a doubt the position the Royals have the most unanswered questions about. Johnny Giavotella, Yuniesky Betancourt, and Chris Getz all have very legitimate shots at making the 25-man roster out of Spring Training. One will win the starting job, one will be the back up, and one will be sent to Omaha or released. It’s not particularly a deep position within the organization, but it contains a few names that are worth keeping an eye on.
5. Tony Abreu- (Reno – Dbacks) age 27
The Royals signed Tony Abreu, a switch-hitting IF, to a one-year minor league contract with an invite to Spring Training this past December. He spent all of last season in Reno (the Dbacks AAA affiliate), where he .292/.335/.429, though he has a career line in parts of three big league seasons with the Dodgers and Diamondbacks of .251/.279/.309. He showed a little bit of power last season (10 HR, 26 doubles), but failed to earn a big league promotion. For his career he’s hitting left-handed than right-handed, but not by much (.255 to .241), and has almost a 4:1 K/BB ratio, which doesn’t bode well for him.
His value though lies in his versatility on the defensive side of it all. In the majors, he’s played 49 games at 3B, 38 games at 2B, and 22 at SS; though in the minors he’s played 531 games at 2B, 105 at SS, and only 28 games at 3B. His defense itself leaves a lot to be desired (career dWAR of 0.03), but as a guy off the bench who can play twice a week and occasionally pinch hit, he holds some value.
Grade: C-. Tony mainly provides the Royals with organizational depth this season with the potential of playing in a handful of games in Kansas City this summer barring injuries. His value lies in his utility-ness (submit that one to Webster’s) and his ability to switch-hit. He’ll be in Omaha for sure.
4. Rey Navarro- (Northwest Arkansas) age 22
Up until this past season, Rey Navarro was a primarily a SS in the Diamondbacks organization (the Royals acquired him 2010 for Carlos Rosa). After becoming a member of the Royals, he was switched over to the other side of the bag, however. After a hot start to his season that started in Single-A Wilmington, hitting .285 with 8 HR and 7 triples in 72 games, he was promoted to Double-A Northwest Arkansas. He cooled off a bit after the promotion, but maintained a decent ability to get on base (.332 OBP) and a 2:1 K:BB ratio. He is a high contact middle infielder, which is why I am fairly high on him.
Grade: C+. I see Navarro starting the season in Northwest Arkansas. Though if he starts the season off on the right foot like he did in 2011, he could quickly earn a call-up to Omaha. As far as his position, I’m not quite sure though. It all depends on if the Royals plan to keep Christian Colon at SS for another season. Rey’s ceiling may be as a Tony Abreu-type player, given the fact that he is also a switch hitter and has the ability to play all over the field.
3. Chris Getz- (Royals) age 28
More affectionally known as “Getzy”, Chris Getz will find himself this Spring competing for a spot on the 25-man roster. Last season, Getz struggled to stay consistent. He was above average in May and June, hitting .274 and .292. He cooled off quickly after that though, hitting .233, .217, and .235 in the remaining three months of the season; thus losing his job to the Royals organizational hitter of the year, Johnny Giavotella.
After Gio’s call-up, Getz was relegated to Utility duty, backing up at 2B, SS, and 3B. He would occasionally pinch run in the later innings of close games for Billy Butler due to his speed (84% career SB rate).
Grade: C. If Getzy is on the 2012 Opening Day roster, it will be as a UTIL player. His defense is sub-par (as well as his arm) and his bat is not good enough to make up for it. But a speedy, left-handed hitting utility infielder who is regarded as the best bunter on the team could be of value as Ned plans to make more in-game substitutions this year.
Christian Colon- (Northwest Arkansas) age 22
SS Christian Colon was the Royals first round pick (4th overall) out of Cal-State Fullerton in 2010. Regarded as a slight reach, but one of the safest picks in the draft, Colon signed quickly enough that he was able to get in 60 games at Wilmington where he hit .278/.326/.380 with 17 extra base hits while playing exclusively at SS.
He spent all of the 2011 season at Double-A NW Arkansas, where he was solid, but unimpressive, hitting .257 with 24 extra base hits. The most exciting thing was his nearly 1:1 K:BB ratio (51:46). His advanced plate discipline and ability to consistently make contact have put Christian on the fast track to Kansas City.
Due to his slower speed (as far as shortstops are concerned) and lack of range for the position, I see him moving to 2B full-time this season (he played 15 games at 2B in 2011).
Grade: B-. Colon has a real chance at making an appearance at the K this September if his transition to 2B goes smoothly. He has the ability to become a steady player at the big league level, but he most likely won’t be a star. He is very comparable to Orlando Cabrera.
1. Johnny Giavotella- (Kansas City) age 24
Although Gio’s debut in Kansas City left a lot to be desired, he absolutely killed it in Omaha last season, hitting .338/.390/.481, including 34 doubles, 9 HR and a 57:40 K:BB ratio. Putting up numbers like that will always get a player recognized, earning him the Royals’ George Brett Hitter of the Year award, a spot on the Topps AAA All-Star team, and a promotion to Kansas City.
Johnny’s bat is what got him here and it’s going to have to be what keeps him here, as his defense leaves a lot to be desired (-0.6 dWAR) and he’s not particularly quick on the basepaths (though Doug Sisson will probably change that). His line drive stroke though is too sweet to overlook. Some of those deep gap doubles will turn into HR’s as his pitch selection improves.
Grade: B-. To me, Giavotella is one of the most exciting young players on the roster right now. He’s a “lightning in a bottle” type of player who gives everything he’s got for all 9 innings. I’m not sold on his defensive staying power yet, but if he can come close to replicating what he did in Omaha last year, his bat will be more than enough to keep him around.
Next time – Moving our way across the diamond: Shortstops