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Dodgers Leaning Right Toward Reed Johnson

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The Dodgers quest to sign a veteran fourth outfielder might be near an end, as they are close to signing Reed Johnson (reported by both Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports and Dylan Hernandez of the LA Times).  The 33-year old Johnson, who hit .287/.348/.418 in two seasons with the Cubs, set himself apart from the other three outfielders on the club's radar (as reported by Tony Jackson of ESPN Los Angeles yesterday).  Unlike Garret Anderson, Brian Giles, and Gabe Gross, Johnson bats right-handed and has more recent experience in center field. 

Of course, just how good Johnson is in center might be up for debate, but at the very least he is fine on the corners.  Looking at UZR (via Fangraphs) Fielding Runs Above Average (FRAA, via Baseball Prospectus),  and Plus/Minus (via Bill James Online), here is how Johnson fared at all three outfield spots the last few years:

Left Field Center Field Right Field
Year Inn UZR FRAA +/- Inn UZR FRAA +/- Inn UZR FRAA +/-
2007 503.0 +1.6 -1 +2 8.0 -0.7 -1 0 71.2 -1.1 0 +2
2008 124.2 +4.5 +6 +2 563.2 -5.0 -2 -11 23.1 +0.2 0 +2
2009 25.0 -0.7 0 -1 305.1 -0.3 -1 +2 37.0 -0.3 0 0
Totals 652.2 +5.4 +5 +3 877.0 -6.0 -4 -9 132.0 -1.2 0 +4

Manny Ramirez left 33 of his 99 starts last year before the game was done, while Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier were first and fourth, respectively, in the National League in defensive innings in the outfield.  That Johnson appears to be at his best defensively in left field, the position he figures to play the most, is a good sign.

Also, Johnson can hit lefties.  In his career, Johnson has hit .313/.378/.463 against southpaws, including an OPS of .848 or higher in each of the past four seasons.  Against right handers, Johnson has hit just .265/.324/.383 in his career.  Johnson is a good option to have in reserve in case Andre Ethier (.252/.317/.383 career against lefties) needs to take a day off.

I'm not sure what number Johnson will wear with the Dodgers (he wore #9 with the Cubs, after wearing #3 and #37 with Toronto), but he might just wear a target instead.  Since beginning in his career in 2003, Johnson has been hit by pitches more often than just about anybody:

Fewest PA per HBP 2003-2009
(min 1,000 PA)
Jason LaRue 2030 78 26.03
Carlos Quentin 1422 54 26.33
Craig Wilson 1704 62 27.48
Reed Johnson 2862 98 29.20

Johnson was born in Riverside and graduated from Temecula Valley High School.  He played collegiate baseball at Cal State Fullerton, and set the Titans' single-season record for runs scored, with 101 in 1999.  Plus, the man knows what to do with a bat in his hand:

Both CHONE the 2010 Bill James Handbook seem to agree on Johnson's offensive projection for 2010:

  • Bill James: .272/.336/.395
  • CHONE: .268/.335/.384

The Dodgers' 40-man roster would be full with Reed Johnson in the fold, although with two Rule 5 guys (Carlos Monasterios and Armando Zerpa) and two pitchers out of options (Eric Stults and Charlie Haeger), there is still some roster flexibility if needed.  As it stands now, the bench would be decidedly right handed:

  • outfielder Reed Johnson
  • catcher Brad Ausmus
  • one or both of Jamey Carroll and Ronnie Belliard
  • possibly backup shortstops Angel Berroa, Nick Green, or Chin-Lung Hu

So don't be surprised if the left-handed Doug Mientkiewicz makes way onto the 25-man roster come opening day.