Prospect of the Day: Johnny Giavotella, 2B, Kansas City Royals
Royals second base prospect Johnny Giavotella has been on a tear for Triple-A Omaha. He's hit .500 in his last 10 games, but his hot streak stretches back to the beginning of June. Since June 1st, Giavotella has hit .401 with 19 doubles, seven homers, 13 walks, and 21 strikeouts in 187 at-bats. How long will it be before he joins Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas in Kansas City?
Giavotella was drafted by the Royals in the second round in 2008, from the University of New Orleans. He jumped directly from college ball to full-season ball and performed well, hitting .299/.355/.421 in 68 games for Burlington in the Midwest League after signing. He hit .258/.351/.380 in 133 games for High-A Wilmington in 2009, stealing 26 bases and drawing 66 walks, then thrived last year in Double-A, hitting .322/.395/.460 with 61 walks for Northwest Arkansas. He's having another excellent year in the Pacific Coast League this year, hitting .340/.394/.485 so far with 35 walks and 51 strikeouts in 394 at-bats.
Overall, Giavotella is a career .304/.375/.437 hitter with 187 walks and 206 strikeouts in 1905 plate appearances.
Giavotella is a 5-8, 185 pound right-handed hitter, born July 10th, 1987. Scouts have a lot of respect for his hitting skills: he makes contact, has a good feel for the strike zone, and has impressive bat speed, giving him solid gap power. He handles fastballs well and lays off breaking stuff he can't handle. He showed some weakness against outside pitches early in his career, trying too hard to pull them, but he's adapted and shows few weaknesses at the plate now. He's fully locked in against PCL pitching and doesn't have much left to learn about hitting in the minors. His running speed is merely average but he'll show some aggression on the bases and is a fair basestealer.
The knock on Giavotella has always been his defense. Early in his career, scouts gave him subpar, if not downright negative, ratings for his range, hands, and even effort on defense. He's worked hard to correct his deficiencies over the last two years, and while he'll never be a Gold Glove candidate, improvement is notable, at least statistically. His fielding percentage has improved every year, from .955 in his pro debut to .980 so far this year, and his range factors are getting better as well. He's more agile than he used to be, turns the double play more effectively, and simply makes fewer mistakes.
Giavotella doesn't have a lot left to prove in the minors, and he offers a lot more offensive potential than Chris Getz. He's earned a shot in the majors and we could see him in Kauffman Stadium at any time, though how much of an opportunity he gets will depend on how the Royals decide to balance their offense and defensive needs. If he can be even average with the glove, his bat can carry him into a regular role.