Tampa Bay Rays Add Infield Depth with Kelly Johnson

By Bryan Lutz
Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

The Tampa Bay Rays were one of the better teams last season, seeing as they had the best run differential in all of baseball. In 2013, however, it’s playoffs or bust for the talented American League East squad. One of their biggest weakness remaining was their vacancy at second base, but now that void has been filled by Kelly Johnson.

Johnson, who played for the Toronto Blue Jays last season, is a bit of an enigma. When it appears that Johnson is no longer a viable option as a starting infielder, he has a phenomenal season, which is good news for the Rays. It hasn’t been determined if Johnson will actually start at second base yet, seeing as Ben Zobrist’s could play a majority of his games there. However, I am willing to bet that Joe Maddon will shuffle his infield accordingly to the pitching matchup, similar to what he did with Jeff Keppinger and company last season.

If there is only thing that Rays fans can expect out of Johnson, it’s that he will get his fair share of walks, which is something Maddon and the Rays lineup does plenty of. Johnson had a 10.7% walk percentage last season, matching his career average. As always, the Rays will not win games because of their offense, figuring it will be league average at best. But their fates rest on the arms of their pitching staff.

In closing, the Rays’ infield is shaping up pretty nicely, even if Johnson will be used as a utility man. At the end of the day, however, I see Zobrist being used in the outfield with Johnson at second. And if the Rays get a good version of Kelly Johnson – the one that had a 5.0+ fWAR in Arizona – they should be playing October baseball in 2013.

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