Kelly Johnson is a jack of all trades. Sometimes he plays first base with the taco glove. Other times he trades that mitt in for a smaller one to handle the double play turn at second base. At times he needs to make sure his reflexes are top notch when he heads over to the hot corner. He even owns a big old floppy glove that he uses when he plays in the outfield. He can do a little bit of everything. He's also somewhat of the same as a hitter. Sometimes he brings power, sometimes speed, and at other times both. What should you be doing with Johnson now that he will done the Yankees cap for the first time? Let's start by talking about that vaunted flexibility.
Here are the games played marks for Johnson from 2013.
First base: three games
Second base: 22 games
Third base: 16 games
Outfield: 53 games
* Note these are games played, not games started.
The above means Johnson should be good to go at second and outfield in pretty much every league with some other setups also awarding him third base eligibility at the start of the year. Where will he play once the 2014 season begins? It sounds like he could start at third base for the Yankees (Scott Sizemore and Eduardo Nunez are also there, but come on now). The bottom line is that Johnson will have tons of value because of his flexibility, something that really boosts his outlook in AL-only leagues.
As an offensive performer, there's a lot going on.
Johnson hit .287 in 2008. He hit .284 in 2010. Then, uh oh time. The last three seasons Johnson has failed to bat .240. In fact, it's been pretty ugly with marks of .222, .225 and .235 (hello Mark Reynolds). A a result of the last three years, his career average has dropped to .253. Obviously he's not likely to hit .280 again, and there's a very real possibility that he will fail to even meet the league average (it was .253 last season). Why the struggles?
Strikeouts are now a huge part of Johnson's game (at some point in this piece don't I have to make a “Johnson” joke – something about his ability to go deep? I'll just leave it there). His K-rate has been at least 24.3 percent the past three seasons. Not good, not at all.
His BABIP has been .277, .292 and .276 the past three seasons. His career mark is .305 but his rolling three year average suggests a return to his career average is less likely than a 50/50 proposition in 2014.
One positive? From 2010-12 Johnson had a line drive rate of at least 20.4 percent each year. Last season that mark dipped all the way down to 15.2 percent. It will go up in 2014. Maybe that league average batting average is doable.
Johnson is a lefty swinger. He will now play half his games in Yankee Stadium which, according to Park Factors at Fangraphs, was the third best park in baseball for left-handed home run hitters. That's a nice bonus for Johnson who has, and you may not realize it, hit at least 16 homers each of the past four seasons. When you're talking about a third baseman or outfielder that's not exciting, but when we're talking about a second base eligible player that's a nice level of power.
Johnson has also been very consistent with his HR/F mark the past four seasons. Look at the numbers: 15.6, 13.8, 13.7 and 12.9. The only issue here is the up and down offerings in the fly ball category. Here are his marks the last four seasons: 38.0, 40.3, 33.7 and 46.1. If things break right for Johnson he could hit 25 homers in 2014 (if he's able to combine a high fly ball rate with a strong HR/F ratio). Twenty though is probably a safer target if he plays daily for the Yankees.
Johnson always steals a handful of bags. From 2010-12 he stole 13, 16 and 14 bases. That number dipped to just seven last season. It's tough to think an aging player, he'll be 32 on Opening Day, is going to all of a sudden discover the fountain of youth on the base paths, but a season of 10 thefts is certainly doable for Johnson.
I've never done about 98 percent of the events in the Winter Olympics so maybe I'm not qualified to write what I'm about to write, but I just don't get figure skating. Do you? Now they've also added ice dancing? It's on like 18 hours a day too which is the craziest part. I'm also a bit confused why the Olympics now looks like the X-Games Part II. I'm sure the Olympians from Greece would love the fact that gold medals are now dependent on a backside 720. Crazy.
No let's get back to curling, shall we.
Would you take a 15/10 season from your second baseman? How many hit both those marks in 2013? Try two (Brian Dozier and Jason Kipnis). Johnson could certainly get there in 2014.
Would you take a 20/10 season from your second baseman? No second baseman did that in 2013. Johnson could get there in 2014.
Add in the multi-position eligibility and the favorable home ballpark, and Johnson is a great target in AL-only leagues. As for his value in mixed leagues, it's likely as a middle infield option. The reason for this being twofold. (1) While it looks like Johnson will see work all over the field for the Yankees, it's not a lock that he will get 500 at-bats this season. (2) Even if he's able to be productive in the counting categories, Johnson is likely to drag your fantasy squads batting average down. A solid add in pretty much any league, if things break the right way, and you deploy Johnson smartly, you could find yourself with a pretty solid fantasy player in 2014.
By Ray Flowers