Kelly Johnson

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.

Kelly Johnson Career Statistics

15 thoughts on “Kelly Johnson”

  1. THANKS GOD.

    Dan Kolb demoted.

    Raul Mondesi dumped.

    Brian Jordan reduced in playing time.

    It may have take until the end of May for all of these wonderful things to finally happen but HALLEJUAH.

    Now we just need some more bullpen help and this team will GET there. getting Mike Hampton back will be huge.

    The other question now becomes Horacio Ramirez. It seems Kyle Davies is for real and he can throw strikes. If he holds up, then Ramirez becomes the weak 5th starter…however, I can live with that if the offense now picks up and we can improve the bullpen more.

  2. Does anyone have Kelly’s splits against LHP/RHP? It would be interesting to know how he’s handled lefties in the past.

  3. Yeah, those splits would be nice. When was the last time the Braves gave a left-handed position player a full-time job?

  4. And by that, I mean someone they brought up through the system, not an established or semi-established guy like Drew.

  5. I don’t think Klesko got at bats against lefties as a rookie, so it might be Justice. I can’t remember how he came up in 1991 — did he make the club out of spring training and platoon, or did he come up during the year and start as a regular?

  6. Justice started out playing first base, moving to right when Murphy was traded.

    Game Log

    Unfortunately, this doesn’t list his positions. Murph was traded August 3. My recollection was that Justice started out being platooned with Cabrera but it doesn’t look like that. It looks more like he started off playing every day, then went into a slump and Cabrera (or Tommy Gregg, another lefty) started playing more. Justice certainly played everyday when he moved to right.

  7. But actually, the answer to your question is “late 1998, when they stopped playing Graffanino and gave Keith Lockhart the second base job full-time”.

  8. If Langerhans is now the everyday right fielder, which one does Jordan platoon with? Can Jordan still play right? He’s still got good wheels and a good glove, but his arm isn’t that good anymore.

    I wouldn’t be shocked to see Jordan in the 4-hole playing left the next time Atlanta faces a lefty (which won’t be in the Washington series, by the way), with Langerhans hitting eighth in right.

  9. I was wondering that myself, but in stories today Bobby says that Johnson is the left fielder and that Jordan and Langerhans will share right. I’d guess, from what I’ve read, that Jordan will play there all the time against lefties (except when he’s hurt) and they’ll split evenly against righties. Maybe Langerhans will come in late for defense.

  10. I’m so excited I could spit! An actual prospect with no “proven veteran” competition. The cynic in me says that it’s only due to financial constraints (and even that it may be short-lived), but I still think it’s great.

  11. How is it that Mondesi gets jettisoned (and rightfully so) yet Jordan still gets just as much playing time as before? Jordan has been worse than Mondesi. It really makes no sense to me. At all.

  12. I think there are a few reasons:
    1 – Jordan has looked pretty good on defense, and Mondesi has not… this includes Mondesi’s continued insistance on overthrowing cutoff men to show off his arm, and you know that had to really eat at Cox.
    2 – Jordan is more willing to play part time. Mondesi would be a sulking, innefective bench player.
    3 – If he’s healthy, Jordan at least has the potential to tear up left-handed pitching. Mondesi appears to have the potential to beat out weak grounders from time to time.
    4 – Bobby Cox loves Brian Jordan. This may be the most important reason.

    Number 5 would be that Mondesi is more expensive, so if he were to retire it would save more money. But I don’t think anybody expects that to happen. I don’t think he should anyway. I don’t like the guy, but they gave him the contract, and they should pay the guaranteed portion of it.

  13. Can’t say that I really agree with 1. Jordan hasn’t looked especially good on defense.

    Don’t really agree with 2, either. We don’t know what Jordan would do if forced to actually play part-time. That hasn’t really happened yet.

    I think the days of 3 happening are probably over but I suppose we’ll see. He hasn’t looked so hot vs. LH this year, small sample size granted.

    It really all boils down to 4. Bobby Cox and Jordan’s past with this team. As we see today, RH on the mound and whaddayaknow Brian Jordan starting in RF.

  14. Yes, but are you seeing it on TBS or ESPN?

    I pick TBS. Not only are the announcers better, but they were spending time on the lineup card while ESPN was talking about “the Washington crowd”.

  15. How do you figure Jordan has been worse than Mondesi. Jordan has atleast been hitting the ball hard from time to time in big situations. Plus he’s manufactured some runs with his take no prisoners sliding technique.

    Jordan has been far more useful than Mondesi and his defense has been better, whether you agree with it or not.

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