When news broke the Atlanta Braves acquired Justin Upton, fans exploded with excitement. The excitement subsided some with the news that fan favorite Martin Prado was involved in the trade and left many wondering – myself included – who would play third base?
That’s when we learned a third baseman named Chris Johnson was also coming to Atlanta. Fans searched the internet vigorously and are still trying to figure out who the other guy in the Upton trade is.
The former fourth round draft choice of the Houston Astros will have the opportunity to win the starting third base job for the Braves. Johnson will bring some pop to the lineup. Johnson is a career .276 hitter with a .746 OPS. The .777 OPS he posted with the Diamondbacks and Astros last season was higher than Dan Uggla, B.J. Upton and compared similarly to Justin Upton’s .785. Baseball America rated him as the best power hitter in the Astros system after the 2008 season.
Fans may be concerned that in his MLB career, he’s hit at right-handed friendly ballparks in Minute Maid Park in Houston and Chase Field in Arizona. However, he has posted more home-runs, doubles and a higher OPS on the road in his career. I’m not projecting a 25 home-run 100 RBI outburst from Johnson this season, but it’s clear from his time in the minors through the early stages of his MLB career that he can hit.
For the sabermetrics geeks, you will see there are concerns with Johnson. His walk percentage of 5.9 is poor and his strikeout percentage of 25 is very high. On defense, his -9.4 UZR in 2012 and -14.5 in 2011 would be considered poor to awful and is significantly worse than what Chipper Jones posted the past two seasons (-0.1 and -8.0). Don’t expect many “web gems” from the hot corner this season in Atlanta.
As Upton will be formerly introduced as an Atlanta Brave today, Johnson will remain the “other guy” in this trade. But he will likely be the starting third baseman and at the very least see significant playing time at the position. Fans will want to call him Chipper’s replacement, but if he can produce similar numbers to Prado and improve his defense, the Braves organization will be extremely happy to have acquired “the other guy.”