Reed Johnson is another local boy returning home by signing with the Dodgers. The Temecula Valley High School graduate was born in Riverside and played college baseball in the renowned Cal State Fullerton program. (Trivia question: What Fullerton player has the most plate appearances in the majors? Answer after the jump.) The Toronto Blue Jays drafted him in the 17th round of the 1999 draft and he played in their organization until he was released during 2008 spring training. Johnson wasn't out of work long enough to collect unemployment checks as he was picked up by the Chicago Cubs two days later and spent the last two seasons with them.
The Dodgers signed the 33-year old Johnson with the intent of him being the team's fourth outfielder. His most likely roles are defensive replacement for Manny Ramirez, spot starter in the outfield, and right-handed pinch-hitter.
Johnson has major-league experience at all three outfield positions, but as a frequent part-time player, has only amassed about one full season's worth of time in CF, slight more than one season in RF, and about two seasons in LF, therefore his UZR ratings, particularly outside of LF, may suffer from small sample sizes. Is Johnson really an extraordinarily great LF, below-par RF and a lousy CF? I imagine the truth lies somewhere in between those points.
As a batter, Johnson's results have been uneven, but one thing he does do consistently well is hit left-handed pitching. His career triple-slash line against them is: .313 / .378 / .463 / .841 in 1027 plate appearances, so don't be surprised if he gets some starts in RF against the tough lefties, giving Andre Ethier the occasional game off.
Johnson is one of only five batters to have hit both a leadoff and walkoff home run in the same game, having done so on June 15, 2003; the others are Billy Hamilton (1893), Vic Power (1957), Darin Erstad (2000), and Ian Kinsler (2009).
He also has led the league in an offensive category; his 21 HBP in 2006 led the AL that season. He does have a propensity for being hit by pitches, getting plunked at a rate of once every 29.2 PA. This somewhat helps make up for his low 5.3% career walk rate. However the broken foot he suffered last year was not the result of an errant pitch, but of his own foul ball.
Contract Status (details here)
Johnson has a guaranteed one-year contract for $800,000, with incentives that could add $250,000 to his salary.
|2010 Projections - Age 32 Season|
I can't see Johnson and his guaranteed contract not being on the roster to start the season, and he will last the season unless he takes a Brady Clark type nosedive at the plate. I will guess that he hits .275 / .339 / .415 with 131 PAs.
What are your predictions for Reed Johnson (BA/OBP/SLG and Plate Appearances)?
(Statistics courtesy of baseball-reference.com and fangraphs.com)
Trivia answer: The manager of the Dodgers' AAA affiliate in Albuquerque, ex-Dodger Tim Wallach.