When Atlanta Braves’ general manager Frank Wren traded away Martin Prado and Randall Delgado to the Arizona Diamondbacks, everyone thought the big acquirement in the transaction was Justin Upton. The other player in that trade was Braves’ third basemen Chris Johnson. Upton proved early on that he was an impressive pick-up when the Braves went on their early season run, but Johnson quietly accrued an excellent batting average and people made sure not to bring it up too soon.
They knew that while big-money left fielder Upton was earning every penny of his salary, Johnson was merely hot; he was playing over his head, he couldn’t possibly keep up that pace. But they were wrong. As the season dragged on, Johnson proved time and time again that he was a starting player in Major League Baseball.
Upton proved a streaky hitter. In April, he hit .298 with a whopping 12 home runs. In May, he hit near the Mendoza line (or soon to be the Uggla line, though it would have to be set much lower), with only two home runs. In fact, in the months of May, June and July, he only hit four home runs in total.
Johnson on the other hand was always consistent and always reliable. At the end of the year, he fell just short of the NL batting title, hitting .321 with some power too and showcasing 12 home runs and 34 doubles.
It’s a tough call as both had huge moments during the season. However, when Upton often proved unreliable, Johnson was always there to drive that clutch that run, or get a leadoff hit late in the game. Hopefully as time goes on both players will progress even further and who knows what each players’ ceiling is. As for 2013, I think Chris Johnson proved to be the more valuable acquisition.