In all of the excitement about the Atlanta Braves trading for a player the caliber of Justin Upton, not to mention the buzz about him playing with his brother in the same outfield, many might have forgotten the other player the Braves got in the deal. No, it wasn’t the famed ‘player to be named later’. Chris Johnson was more than a throw in for this deal to go through. He will be one of the major factors that make it a great deal for a few years to come.
It looks like the Braves might be planning a platoon role with Johnson right now. Juan Francisco, who would be the other half of that platoon, has great pop and certainly has torn the winter leagues to shreds this off-season, but he might be better relegated to an off the bench role as the team’s main left handed pinch hitter. Chipper Jones suggested the same in a recent article on the Braves official site. He also suggested that Johnson might make it very hard for Fredi Gonzalez to platoon him.
Will he though? If we look at the numbers there is little doubt. Last season with time split between the Houston Astros and the Arizona Diamondbacks, Johnson’s stats look pretty darn good. He had a .281 AVG, .326 OBP, .451 SLG, .777 OPS and hit 15 homers while driving in 76 runs. If you think those home-run and RBI totals don’t look grand, think about it being through only 136 games. Projected over a full season, that would be more like 17 homers and 90 RBI.
I think Francisco should have a huge role on this Braves team. To be a main pinch hitter that could strike fear in the minds of opposing managers is no small task, nor is it less meaningful than a full time third baseman. It might at times, especially late in the season and in the postseason, be more meaningful. I don’t pretend to know the mind of Gonzalez as he works this team into what it will look like on a daily basis. I do assume that Chipper Jones knows a little about third base and baseball all around. If he says it’s probably best for Johnson to be there every day at third, that’s good enough for me when the numbers more than back it up.