Atlanta Braves new third baseman Chris Johnson

Chris Johnson Will Do Just Fine as the Braves' Third Baseman

Coming into the 2013 baseball season, many Braves‘ fans were worried about the type of production that would come from the third base position after the retirement of Chipper Jones. Since the departure of Martin Prado, many of those worries have turned into legit concerns. But it’s time for the Braves’ faithful to put their hearts at ease, as I believe that third base will be in great hands with Chris Johnson manning the corner.

The Braves acquired Chris Johnson in the trade for Justin Upton, an acquisition that has gone somewhat under the radar. However, Chris Johnson is a name that everyone around Braves Nation will soon know and love.

Johnson came into the league at the end of 2009 with the Houston Astros, but wouldn’t make his impact felt until his first full MLB season in 2010. During his rookie season, he put up a .308 average with 11 HR, 52 RBI, and a .818 OPS. His stats would take a hit during his sophomore season with the Astros, but he would rebound in the first half of 2012, as he accumulated a .279 average while adding 8 HR and 41 RBI. After 92 games with the Astros, he was traded to the Arizona Diamondbacks, where he hammered out 7 more HR and 35 RBI in only 44 games.

So why should Braves’ fans feel pretty good about the acquisition of Chris Johnson? Let’s compare the full 2012 stats of Chris Johnson, Chipper Jones, and Martin Prado.

  • Chris Johnson - .281 AVG., 15 HR, 76 RBI
  • Chipper Jones – .287 AVG., 14 HR, 62 RBI
  • Martin Prado – .301 AVG., 10 HR, 70 RBI

Chris Johnson’s stats from a season ago are nearly identical to that of Chipper Jones and Martin Prado. A matter of fact, he amassed more HR and RBI than both Jones and Prado, with Prado edging him out in batting average.

What does that mean for the Braves going forward? It means that Braves’ fan shouldn’t expect much of a drop-off – if any – from their new third baseman. Johnson has more power and run producing ability than Chipper did at the end of his career, and more than Prado has had during any point in his career. With the way Johnson ended his 2012 campaign, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him reach 20 HR and surpass 80 RBI in 2013.

Johnson will have to compete with Juan Francisco in the Spring for the full-time job, and it could very well develop into a platoon at third base. However, I believe that Johnson will come out of Spring Training penciled in as the starting third baseman. If he is, I don’t believe Braves’ fans will have much to worry about. A matter of fact, I think the Braves might have just found themselves a diamond in the rough with Chris Johnson.

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Tags: Atlanta Braves Chipper Jones Chris Johnson Juan Francisco Martin Prado

  • liquidphoenix

    This is a horrible comparison of stats. Johnson had 80 more plate appearances and got 1 more HR than Chipper. Prado was never expected to be a power bat and was rarely, if ever, used in a traditional “run producing” spot in the line up so the RBI stat is shaky at best. This is just an example of cherry picking stats to make them say what you want to hear. I’m not saying that Johnson won’t be good (and I hope he is), but don’t lie to yourself just to feel better.

    • Nick Singleton

      I understand your criticism of the stat comparison, but I didn’t cherry pick them to make myself feel better, and I never implied that Johnson is a better player than Chipper or Prado. The stat comparison was meant to show that Johnson’s stats of a season ago were similar to both Chipper’s and Prado’s, that there shouldn’t be much of a drop-off when it comes to the offensive production at third base, and that Johnson is a better player than many give him credit for. Chipper’s durability and Prado’s spot in the lineup doesn’t change the fact that Johnson did and could have the same type of production that the third base position gave the Braves a season ago.

      • liquidphoenix

        True, you never said that Johnson is better than Chipper or
        Prado. You did, however, say that third base “will be in great hands”, and that “Chris Johnson is a name the everyone […] will soon know and love.” Let’s examine Johnson using the 3 stats you bring up, Avg/HR/RBI, and see what we should expect. I believe there are 3 ways you can reasonably look at this: career numbers, 2012 total numbers, and post-trade 2012 numbers.

        Avg/HR/RBI (PA)

        Career: .276/33/171 (1318)

        2012: .281/15/76 (528)

        2012 D-Backs: .286/7/35 (160)

        If we take these and extrapolate a 162 game season (614 Plate Appearances) we get:




        Out of these, I’d gladly take the 2012 D-Backs numbers. I think everyone can agree that Johnson will not extend his D-Backs RBI numbers over a whole season (134 RBIs? Nope.) But if we’re going to love him, let’s compare these numbers to a league average.

        .288/25/89 (All qualifying* NL 3B in 2012)

        So, IF Chris Johnson continues his 2012 D-Backs production
        he will be a league average 3B. That’s not bad, no complaints for a player at a reasonable price. To say that he is a “diamond in the rough” and we will “know and love” him is exaggeration. There are a lot of unexplored variables in play as well, including player maturation, ballpark factors, divisional pitcher differences, and of course the small sample size of his time with the D-Backs (160 PA). How each of these come into play is why we watch the game, and I want them to each fall our way, but we should be careful not to sensationalize his performance to more than it is. 3B will not be a strong position for
        us this year, and that’s hard to accept as a Braves fan, but we have an exciting team with strengths all over the field. We will be fine with an average 3B.

        *For everyone’s clarity, qualifying means having had at least 3.1 PAs per team game (3.1 * 162 = 502.2 PAs)

        • Nick Singleton

          I don’t think Johnson will turn into any kind of superstar, and would never put him up there with the top tier 3B in the NL (which there are a lot of). But I don’t believe saying that 3B will be in good hands was an exaggeration. As you said, this team is strong all around, and I think that people will love having a player who could put up .270 – .280/15/70 at the 8th spot in the order – especially after they have had to deal with the likes of Pastornicky, Alex Gonzalez, and Paul Janish occupying that spot over the past couple of years.

          Also, saying that a player will become someone that Braves’ fans “know and love” doesn’t necessarily mean that he has to be a superstar. Sure, hometown fans love superstars, but that’s a given. Braves’ fans have loved a number of players over the years who haven’t put up mammoth stats, even minimal role players like Matt Diaz, David Ross, and the defensively atrocious Brooks Conrad.

          The “diamond in the rough” that Braves’ fans will come to “know and love” is more of a reference to Johnson being a relatively unknown player who gains respect and fans in Braves Nation as he performs above the expectations that they will set for him.

        • Stephen Robisch

          Remember Johnson most likely won’t be hitting any higher than seventh in the order. So if you are implying that the Braves get a .288/25/89 guy hitting out of the seventh spot, I’d take that all day long.