Key Stats: Chris Johnson hit .351 with runners on base last season. That was great. What wasn’t great is that he only started 90 games because the Astros waited too long to cut their losses with Pedro Feliz and that 70% of Johnson’s at-bats were while he was hitting 6th or further down in the batting order. If Johnson’s numbers were projected over a 162 game season, he would have had 20 home runs and 94 RBI. And that doesn’t take into account what will happen if the Astros move into a better part of the order.
Skeptics Say: Johnson hit .414 in limited action in June. He sizzled in July with a .359 average. That went down to .306 in August. And it went down further to .267 in September. For good measure in his three October games, Johnson hit just .182. Perhaps he hit a wall or perhaps teams began to find a hole in his game. The numbers indicate that he has difficulty with off-speed pitches and lefties. Johnson will have to adjust.
Peer Comparison: Johnson wasn’t the only rookie third basemen in the NL Central that teams turned to for help in the second half. Pedro Alvarez of the Pirates had his moments too and should be snagged up before Johnson on draft day. Johnson is a former 4th round pick who will be 26 on Opening Day. Alvarez was taken 2nd overall just three years ago and will be 24 on Opening Day. Where a player is drafted is not always the best indication of how well they were perform as we know in all sports, but more good players come from the first round than the fourth. It is pretty close according to the numbers.
Alvarez – 9.6% BB Rate, 34.3% K Rate, 0.31 BB:K, 14.8% Line Drive Rate
Johnson – 4.1% BB Rate, 26.7% K Rate, 0.16 BB:K, 24% Line Drive Rate
Both players have glaring weaknesses. Alvarez’s strikeouts are a huge problem – projected over a full season he would have had the third highest strikeout percentage in baseball. Likewise, Johnson would have been in the bottom five for walk rate if he had enough at-bats to qualify. Lucky for both players, they are on teams that will rely on them, so they both should stay in the lineup through struggles.
Lineup Outlook: Toward the end of the season, Brad Mills was hitting Johnson fifth. It is unlikely that Hunter Pence or Carlos Lee will be moved from the third and fourth spots, so Johnson figures to hit fifth again. That all could change if Brett Wallace starts to hit like some scouts believe he can. Wallace did not do much in his time last season and the Astros may even have Lee become the perminant first baseman. Assuming that Johnson remains in the fifth spot, he is a candidate for 100 RBI.
Projection: Chris Johnson is more than just a fantasy football legend.
77 R 23 HR 92 RBI 5 SB .286 AVG .810 OPS
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