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positional-preview-second-base | December | 2007 Articles

2007 Archives

Positional Preview: Second Base

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Kelly Johnson received significantly more media coverage than the average unproven youngster with a .241 career average last year. After the Braves cut ties with Marcus Giles, the outfielder fresh off Tommy John surgery made the shift to second base to fill a gaping hole. Scouts and analysts generally had only good things to say about the former top prospect, however Atlanta's fan base was overwhelmingly negative towards the choice. Needless to say a year later Johnson has proven himself a capable replacement both with his glove and even more so with his bat. Despite a rather large slide at the plate to end the season, Johnson finished with a very impressive line of .276/.375/.457. His .832 OPS placed him fifth out of all major league second basemen in that category, behind only Chase Utley, Jeff Kent, Placido Polanco, and Robinson Cano. He showed a great combination of power and on base ability that makes him one of the elite offensive second baseman in baseball today. One of the big questions going into next year is where he will hit. If last year is any indication, he could be spending most of his time in the number two hole against right-handers and back a little farther against left-handers. However, Johnson has the on base skills to be an effective leadoff man and Yunel Escobar seems to have the skills more in tune with what Bobby Cox has traditionally looked for in a number two hitter. I have a feeling that Johnson will be spending a good amount of time in the leadoff spot next year. All of these numbers were put up during his first season at a position he had never played before. He was originally drafted as a shortstop, however moved to the outfield due to defensive concerns very early in his pro career. After working extensively on the transition to second during the off-season, Johnson become proficient enough that he was able to hold his own at the previously unfamiliar position. His defense is however still one of the weaker points of his game and his struggles are especially noticeable when he is forced to play the ball on a backhand. He showed good range and instincts in his first year so a lot of the mistakes should start to go away with experience at the position. I really have to applaud everyone involved in moving him to second. He was effectively forgotten by most after his Tommy John surgery. Johnson was thrown onto the scrap heap of once promising prospects whose careers had been ruined by injury. Then the Braves took that forgotten prospect and turned him into one of baseball's elite second basemen in one off-season. What can we expect next year though? Bill James has him down for .282/.384/.473 with 19 home runs. Again, I find this very reasonable and I've predicted a .285/.385/.485 line with 20 home runs.

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