Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Johnny G. and Being Underrated

In what could one day be regarded as the best draft in Royals history, perhaps the most interesting pick may have came in the second round. It was 2008, and Dustin Pedroia was posting dominate numbers in a season that would see him when the MVP award. For the year he would post a .326/.376/.493 line with 17 homers, 83 RBIs, 20 steals and gold glove defense.

Pedroia was drafted by the Red Sox in the second round of the 2004 draft as a 5-9, 180 pounder. Four years later the Royals were on the clock and like other teams, were in search of the next Dustin Pedroia. So in the second round of the 2008 draft the Royals picked 5-8, 185 pound Johnny Giavotella.

Let's see what Baseball America had to say about the two players as they developed through the minors.

"his instincts and make up are excellent." 2005 on Dustin Pedroia
"team captain as a sophomore, first time in 11 years his coach did that." 2009 on Johnny Giavotella

Pedroia was rated as having the best strike zone judgement in Eastern League in 2004. Of course Giavotella has consistently been praised for his plate discipline. Baseball America has had this to say on the subject: "Very good batting eye, should rack up high on base percentages thanks to advanced pitch-recognition skills." -2009

Pedroia has consistently been praised for his extraordinary hand eye coordination, while Giavotella's strength comes from his lightning quick wrists. Both were projected as high average and on base guys with good gap power. Although the most interesting thing may be how of the two Giavotella was hinted at as having the more power potential due to his aggressive swings.

When Pedroia was drafted he was assigned to the South Atlantic League and after just 12 games promoted to high-A Sarasota. In fourty-two games in 2004 he posted a .357/.435/.535 line. After Giavotella was drafted he spent sixty-eight games in the Midwest League where he posted a .299/.355/.421 line.

In 2009, Giavotella struggled to a line of .258/.351/.380 line in Wilmington, but in 2010 he broke out in Northwest Arkansas. In his frist stint in double-A. Gio sizzled the competition psoting .322/.395/.460 line with 9 homers, 65 rbis, and 13 stolen bases. Pedroia in his first stint in double-A hit .324/.409/.508. Now I should say that Pedroia reached double-A a season earlier than his counterpart, but the numbers are similar.

After struggling in triple-A as a twenty-one year old, Pedroia returned to face the International League competition as a twenty-two year old. In 111 games he posted a line of .305/.384/.426 with 5 homers, 50 RBIs, and just one steal. Also, it should be noted that entering the season scouts had begun to express concerns about Pedroia's arm, speed and range.

Now Giavotella has already battled the concerns over his own range and reports are that it has improved from below average to at least an adaquete level. Like Pedroia, Giavotella has long been considered a below average runner, but good on the base paths thanks to great instincts.

Thus far in Giavotella's first triple-A campaign he is bruising the opposition. Through June 21st he has a .321/.377/.445 line. He also already has 5 home runs, 50 RBIs, and 7 steals. The numbers definitely compare between the two players.

The two major differences between the two players is that Pedroia played shortstop for much of his minor league career, while Giavotella has been strictly a second basemen. The second difference is that Pedroia was consistently about a year younger at every stop than Giavotella was.

Obviously, virtually no one expected Pedroia to become a future MVP. I remember Sports Illustrated even describing Pedroia as less exciting than the rest of the rookie crop, but that he would be a pesky player at the bottom of a strong Red Sox lineup.

Most Royals fans envision Giavotella as an offensive minded second baseman that could be an on base machine from the two-hole. This will be an important role for him, given the mashers that could be on deck and in the hole behind him. The Royals will need a couple of high on base guys hitting in the leadoff and second spots.

If Gio can continue to play average defense at second base then there isn't any reason why Royals should be pumped when he arrives in Kansas City, which according to some scouts he is ready for at this very moment.

Watching Giavotella last year in Northwest Arkansas I can attest to the fact that he is a gamer. He is a dirtball in its finest sense. He hustles. He plays with fire. He plays with intensity. He leads men. Sounds a lot like number 15 for the Red Sox.

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