Where Do We Go From Here: Chris Johnson (by Smitty)

You could make an argument that in each of his first two years with the team, Chris Johnson’s performance has been the Braves’ biggest surprise.

Chris Johnson was brought over in the Great Justin Upton Heist of 2013. The Braves felt Juan Francisco was in need of a right handed platoon partner to help replace Chipper Jones and tricked the D-Backs into including CJ in the deal. Remember all of the cute “He’s from the same town as Chipper,” stories?

In 2013, the New CJ was arguably the team MVP. He hit .321 and finished second for the batting title. That’s pretty good for a guy that was to be a platoon player and first bat off the bench. At age 29 he seemed to be coming into his prime and ready to be more than just a platoon/role player.

Seeing this performance, the Braves felt like they needed to buy out his arbitration years and locked him in through 2018. Of course, Johnson then went on to have the worst season of his career.

In 2014, the Eww CJ was terrible. He hit .263 and only got on base 29 percent of the time. His approach at the plate and constant temper tantrums became his hallmark and over shadowed his improvement in the field (only six errors compared to double digits in previous seasons.) Now this extension looks bad and was one of the reasons Frank Wren was shown the door.

I’m not sure it is time to cut bait on Johnson just yet. Is he as good as his 2013 numbers? Probably not. I also don’t think he is as bad as the 2014 numbers indicate. I think it is reasonable to think he was exposed a little in 2014 and didn’t make the adjustments. It would also be wise for the Braves to find a serviceable back up that can handle righties. Johnson crushed lefties to a tune of .395/.435/.553 in 2014 (compared to .231/.256/.533 to righties—that’s B.J. Uptonian).

I also wonder if Johnson’s performance is tired to his attitude. When he gets frustrated, the throws things at Terry Pendleton, sulks and seems like an ass. If he can learn to keep his cool, maybe he would relax and put the ball in play more. Who knows?

If Johnson can put up numbers somewhat closer to his 2013 mark, he may have some value come July for a team in contention. However, the Braves have little organization depth at third base and may elect to ride it out with Johnson. When you are rebuilding, you can afford to be patient.

78 thoughts on “Where Do We Go From Here: Chris Johnson (by Smitty)”

  1. JC’d from previous:

    I was looking at their careers this morning. To me those are two different arguments.
    Edmonds: truly excellent hitter who could also play a little defense (I had not realized just how good a hitter Edmonds was)

    Jones: the best defender of his generation, maybe the best defensive outfielder of all time, who could also hit a little

    Andruw is to Edmonds defensively as Edmonds is to Andruw offensively: no contest.
    I don’t know if the voters will break the arguments down like that; I hope they will. But the perception of Edmonds is that he is a great defensive player, when really he’s only an above average defensive player, just as Andruw is only an above average hitter.

    Two very different cases. Both guys are on the fence.

    All of this is true. Still, how Edmonds fares will be indicative of what we might expect for Andruw. Centerfielders have a notoriously difficult time getting into the Hall. If Edmonds gets support, we can at least talk about Andruw’s case as “the Ozzie Smith of CF.” If Edmonds doesn’t break 10% there’s no hope for Andruw.

  2. “When you are rebuilding, you can afford to be patient.”

    That’s the truth, Smitty. Good write-up.

    Still wish we’d just gone year-to-year with this guy.


    That’s the truth, too.

  3. When you have an offensive game like Paul O’Neill or Orlando Cepeda, you’re allowed to act like a barking baby with a dirty diaper once in a while. But CJ…

    Here’s hoping we see more CJ line drives & fewer meltdowns.

    Typo: He slugged 314 vs. righties–plenty brutal.

    Edmonds: Like a lotta players in his era who put up eye-popping stats (folks like Carlos Delgado & Juan Gonzalez), his offensive numbers won’t be taken completely seriously. It’s a conversation that’ll never end.

    A terrific player & underrated in his time. (I never liked him, mostly because he always seemed to be preening & posing, but whatever…) He was a good CF who made some highlight-worthy catches, but he played a relatively deep CF. As a defensive force, he was nowhere near Andruw.

    Honestly, though, I don’t think either will get into the HoF.

  4. I’m honestly not sure why Edmonds’ defensive perception was as high as it was. He was a very good defensive CF, maybe the best in the AL during his time with the Angels (don’t really remember who else would’ve been in that conversation at the time), but the thought that a lot of people seemed to be entertaining at the time that he was every bit as good and perhaps better than Andruw defensively was borderline nuts. Was it all on the basis of that one (admittedly) ridiculous play where he made a diving catch on the warning track with his back to the infield? Can 80 percent of a player’s defensive reputation stem from one play? Because that catch was absurd and was probably more famous than any single catch Andruw ever made, but I can’t help but feeling that Andruw would’ve been able to catch that ball without leaving his feet.

  5. I’m honestly not sure why Edmonds’ defensive perception was as high as it was.


  6. Thanks for that link Hap! Not only was that an amazing catch, it was great to hear Skips voice. I got a little nostalgic and was reminded of how much I miss him.

  7. @6 When I think of Andruw, that is what I think of first. That play made me fall in love with baseball.

  8. @6

    That play is famous in our circles, and is probably every bit as good as the Edmonds play, but it didn’t have national media suggesting it as the greatest catch of all-time like the Edmonds one did. For better or worse, everyone remembers the Edmonds one, but I think few people outside of Braves fans remember the Spiderman catch.

  9. My 2 fave Andruw moments:

    In 2000, I went to a weekend Braves/O’s series in Camden Yards & saw Andrew make a catch where he robbed a HR over the CF fence. I swear he ran half the outfield to jump up & snag that ball. I had crap seats, in the uppers along the LF line, but I had a pretty good view of the whole thing. It was in the late innings of a Braves blowout & I never heard about it again, never saw a replay, but it was one of the greatest catches I ever saw.

    Another time, I went to a Braves/Phils game at The Vet, 1997, very humid summer night game & I saw Andruw hit one into the upper-deck in dead-CF in that old, concrete dump of a ballpark. I was sitting in box seats along the 1B line just beyond the dugout & the crack of the bat sounded like something you’d hear at a rifle range. You can find game stories about it via Google, but again, never saw a replay of that shot. Still, I’ll never forget the moment that ball settled into the uppers—-just wow.

    For sheer talent, Andruw was amazing. One moment he’d be Willie Mays, another he’d be Mickey Mantle.

  10. I do not love this signing. Outman will be asked to get 1-2 batters out once every 3 games and he’s walk prone. Relievers are a crapshoot and I guess a good pun is as good a gamble as any. Nevermind…Chip Caray. Oh dear, we’re screwed. I suggest to mute the TV when Outman is pitching.

  11. I’m willing to let Prof. McDowell have a chance at working with Outman.

    Now THERE is someone who needs a good superhero nemesis – Captain Two-Bagger, Evil Nemesis of Outman!

  12. Heh. I have an entire year of being able to wake up and say “John Smoltz is in the HOF and Curt Schilling isn’t.” (And note, John Smoltz is by far my least favorite “golden era” Brave.)

  13. @mlbbowman: The #Braves will DFA Tyler Pastornicky to create a spot on their 40-man roster for today’s three signings.

  14. Outman gets lefties out. I like it. Still another arm that could be an asset around the trade deadline. It is somewhat comical that he’s another former Tommy John victim

  15. This would’ve been the perfect type deal for us

    @JonHeymanCBS: josh johnson #padres deal is official. $1M guarantee, heavy ($6-7M) on incentives. worth the gamble imo.

  16. It’ll be funny if Outman is good, and it’ll be funny if Outman is bad. For that reason, I have wanted a chance to root for him since I knew of his existence. Good signing.

  17. Tyler Pastornicky DFA’d. Not upset, but still in shock that Constanza has a 40-man spot.

  18. 15 – Ububba, those are good Andrew moments. Both of ’em……..(you know the rest)

  19. 25 — That’s hilarious considering Smoltz’s opinions on topics that won’t be discussed here.

  20. I understand Schilling’s comments. I think being conservative cost me a shot at professional baseball. That along with skill speed and ability.(-:

    Btw, I m still on pain medicine after a 2 hour arthroscopic shoulder reconstruction surgery. If you ever need shoulder surgery and the doctor says all he needs to do is shave bone spurs, get a second opinion. I have 2 failed surgeries on my left to make me suspicious of bone spur removal. I went to a shoulder specialist in Indianapolis this time and I have a much greater hope for success. Recovery is 12 weeks though, so my comments will be a little limited.

  21. With Smoltzie being the first TJ surgery pitcher to make the HoF, maybe the Braves are onto something after all…

  22. If you split Steph Curry into two players, one pure ball handler and one pure shooter, you’d get Jeff Teague and Kyle Korver.

  23. @33- I was thinking about going after Slugman to replace Johnson. Only problem is that this can have different meanings. Garrett Anderson was the ultimate Slugman when it comes to the bad connotation

  24. Winter sucks. Come on, spring training.

    Has anyone heard any rumors regarding where the Braves may relocate their spring training site?

    Also, it sure would be nice to plug our future centerfield hole with a couple of hotshot prospects.

  25. Curt Shilling is playing the R-card: the Republican card. Shameful.

    Well, at least he’s better off than libertarians like McGwire, Bonds, Palmeiro, and Clemens. Those guys will probably never get in despite eye-popping numbers and it’s strictly because of their politics.

  26. Just in case anyone missed it, a Pierzyski quote from his intro presser:

    “I’ll do whatever it takes to help my team win. If you need me to fight the guy, I’ll fight the guy. Whatever it takes.”

    Let’s hope he and Johnson don’t ever get mad at each other. Is this the “Braves Way” we’ve been promised?

    Mr. Nice Guy, indeed.

  27. The cultural shift with the impending stadium relocation has the club considering the Pigeon Forge/Gatlinburg area.

  28. @46
    Most teams spring facilities are now located in Southern Fla, not Central Fla, and those still left could be relocating next year meaning longer travels to others facilities. Braves contract up after Spring 2016 at Disney.

  29. @48 – Makes sense but it would be a shame. I have great memories of driving through the orange groves to tiny little towns around Tampa and Orlando on spring training trips. Cheap hotels, cheap tickets, cheap beer. Sigh….

  30. City of Palms Park, built in 1993 for the Red Sox, right in the heart of beautiful downtown Fort Myers is now hosting junior college games and amateur travel-ball tournaments. (It also happens to be walking distance from my home.)


  31. @51, you understood I was joking, right? Was taking a dig at Schilling, not at any political party.

  32. Not a political comment, but Schilling is just wrong about Smoltz. According to Wikepedia, Smoltz has supported extremely conservative politicians (Ralph Reed was mentioned) and considered running for Congress as a Republican. It wasn’t his politics that kept Schilliing out (sportwriters aren’t notoriously left-wing as a group by any stretch); it just wasn’t his time and there were better choices.

  33. The Braves just traded Kyle Kubitza, because you can never have too few hitting prospects. That said, we got someone back who looks pretty good, per Martin Gandy:

    “R. Sanchez is 17 y.o. throws 94-95 mph fastball already with a 70-75 mph curve – both potential to be plus pitches. Looks like a steal.”

  34. Becoming very confused with this offseason. That being said apparently a lot of folks love this trade for us.

  35. @60 I doubt Kubitza would turn out to be anything significant and he will be 24. At least I don’t think he would be any better than Chris Johnson at best. Turning him into one of the better prospect in the game (pitching or hitting) is a good deal I believe.

    Of course, it does seems like we are stockpiling pitching prospects like gold. Somebody has to hit, right? Right? We need more power bats. We haven’t developed many power bats in the last decade.

  36. Clears another 40-man spot, too. Assuming they go through with the Pastornicky DFA, there’s now room for the Toscano deal to become official.

  37. Is Ricardo still 5’11? (fair question for a 17 yo) Any concern he won’t stick as a starter?

  38. Clears a 40 man. Kubitza was below the secondary Peterson on the 3B charts? Not sure.

  39. Kubitza didn’t seem to have much value for us, and to turn him into that… well, that’s pretty dang good.

    Where does Ricardo slot into our prospect lists?

    At this point, you seriously have to think that we’re building up one of the better farm systems in baseball again. If Wren’s biggest indictment was leaving the cupboard bare, then the new regime is doing their best to undue his work. I hope it works out.

  40. Kiley McDaniel has Peterson a bit behind Kubitza, but Sanchez ahead. We did good if Sanchez is a 50.

  41. BA has Sanchez well above Kubitza and Peterson. Also, they slot Peterson above Kubitza because he fits the more traditional corner IF mold of potential to hit for power. It will be interesting to see how this works out.

    For a team that is supposedly going a new direction in hitting mentality, Kubitza history of taking walks looked good, but I keep reading that he has a tendency to strikeout a lot, too. Is this correct? Also, does anybody know how Peterson measures up defensively and at the plate other than power potential. I’ve looked at his stats but that doesn’t always tell the full story. Anybody have an inside scoop on comparisons of the two?

  42. @69 “If Wren’s biggest indictment was leaving the cupboard bare…”

    He did. And I’m glad we have something resembling a farm system now. But Wren also put several very good teams out on the field. The Johns had better start on that half next off-season.


    Correct about Kubitza. His strikeout rates in the minors ranged from 20% to 30% of his plate appearances, and in that range skewed much closer to 30%. 20% is Freddie Freeman. 25% is Chris Johnson. 30% is BJ Upton. Don’t know anything about Dustin Peterson–but he’s pretty young, right? He should have another year or two to get comfortable before we decide how he is with the strikezone.

  43. we seem to be following the Mets’ blueprint of stockpiling elite SP prospects and not worrying about acquiring any hitting prospects…
    and copying the Mets scares the bejeezus out of me.

  44. @73

    I think the plan is to use them to trade for established hitting. Our track record of developing pitching is a lot better than it is hitting.

  45. The best part about the Schilling bit is that his twitter handle is @gehrig38

    (By the way–he was joking, apparently.)

  46. Sounds like we got the better end of this deal for Kubitza. I liked him as a prospect, not to be a star 3B but to possibly platoon with Johnson. He has a tremendous walk rate, so that’s something. I’m not sure he has anything over Jace, though, so he may have been redundant. From the Angels perspective, they get a guy who could potentially be on the 25-man next year, and they’re trying to win immediately with their bloated salaries on that team.

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