I’ve been talking up Johnson so much this year that it seems odd at this stage to be writing a player analysis. But here goes.
Johnson, a first round pick in 2000 as a shortstop out of a Texas high school, really made his mark in Macon in 2001, hitting .289/.396/.513. While his 23 homers and 22 doubles were attention-grabbing, more important might have been the 71 walks, atypical in the Braves organization at the time and a sign that he might not be just another tools guy. He struggled at Myrtle Beach, like many have, losing average, walks, and power, and his defense had grown so questionable that he was going to have to move off of shortstop. He played better, but not spectacularly, in Greenvile in 2003, and it was unclear if he could make it offensively as an outfielder.
He took a step back up last year in a repeat of Greenville, playing mostly left field, hitting a solid .282/.350/.468. But it was this year that it really came together for him. In spring, he played third base when Chipper and Marte weren’t and had a power and walks spike, hitting .263/.364/.526. And in Richmond it continued, with added batting average, .310/.438/.581. One thing that’s happened is that he’s controlled the strike zone very well, not only walking 34 times in 182 PA but only striking out 22 times, a big reversal for him. You saw some of that today; he didn’t get a hit but worked the count well and didn’t swing at bad pitches.
Hits lefty (somehow I’d gotten the idea that he was a switch-hitter) and seems to have good outfield instincts. Better than Chipper’s, for certain. He might have centerfield wheels, but with Andruw and Langerhans around that’s not a concern and he can focus on playing left. A low-percentage basestealer in the past (32 steals, 28 caught stealing when we have data) he’s upped that part of his game too, going 7 of 8 in Richmond. Filled in at third when Marte was hurt, and even played a game at short once.