Prospect Profile: Dan Johnson

There was a time in recent Oakland A's history when it appeared that power-hitting first basemen grew on trees within the organization. From Mark McGwire to Troy Neel to Jason Giambi, the pipeline of sluggers to the first base bag in Oakland was strong. When Giambi left the A's to sign with the New York Yankees after the end of the 2001 season, many figured it was only a matter of time before the A's had yet another All-Star caliber slugger at first.

Dan Johnson, Career Statistics

Year

Team

Lg

Age

AVG

OBP

SLG

AB

H

2B

3B

HR

BB

K

XBH

ISOP

BB/K

2000

NEB

NCAA

21

.368

.482

.849

152

56

8

1

21

38

31

30

.481

1.23

2001

NEB

NCAA

22

.361

.507

.752

230

83

13

1

25

63

49

39

.391

1.29

2001

VAN

NW A

22

.283

.354

.494

247

70

15

2

11

27

63

28

.211

0.43

2002

MOD

CAL A

23

.293

.371

.500

426

125

25

1

21

57

87

47

.207

0.66

2003

MID

TEX AA

24

.290

.365

.504

538

156

26

4

27

68

82

57

.214

0.83

2003

SAC

PCL AAA

24

.250

.250

.500

4

1

1

0

0

0

0

1

.250

-

2004

SAC

PCL AAA

25

.299

.403

.534

536

160

29

5

29

89

93

63

.229

.96



For awhile, A's prospect Jason Hart appeared to be the front-runner in the competition to replace Giambi. However, after a down year at Sacramento in 2001, the A's brass decided to trade Hart for Carlos Pena, whom they considered to be one of the top first base prospects in all of baseball. Pena began the 2002 season as the A's starter at first base, and started off the season by slugging seven homeruns in the first month. However, a big slump in May put Pena in the A's doghouse and he was sent back down to AAA. Pena was eventually traded for Ted Lilly and the A's turned over the first base job to Scott Hatteberg. While Hatteberg is a fine hitter, he does not hit with as much power as a traditional first baseman.

There is a slugger within the A's organization who is poised to bring the thunder back to the A's first base spot: Sacramento slugger Dan Johnson. Johnson, a seventh-round draft pick out of the University of Nebraska, has been a steady, if not spectacular performer at every level he has competed at since arriving in Lincoln. Since joining the A's organization in 2001, Johnson has steadily risen one level each year. And at every level he has been at, Johnson has compiled better numbers then he had at the level before.

Johnson's 2004 campaign was best of his young professional career. He began the season competing for playing time with defending PCL MVP Graham Koonce. While Koonce had a decent season for the RiverCats, Johnson quickly established himself as one of the premier first base prospects in AAA. The left-handed hitting slugger crushed 29 homeruns, 29 doubles and five triples, while having his batting average hover around .300 all season. Johnson, like most of the A's top prospects, displayed good plate discipline, as he amassed 89 walks and a .403 OBP. Johnson, like many sluggers, is vulnerable to the strike-out; however, Johnson works the count well and sees a lot of pitches per at-bat.

Johnson was well rewarded for his prolific 2004 season. He was tabbed as the 2004 PCL Most Valuable Player, the 2004 PCL Post-Season Most Valuable Player, and the Oakland A's 2004 Organizational Player of the Year. At the end of the RiverCats' championship run, Johnson was promoted to Oakland for a September call-up. Unfortunately, he was unable to play during those final two weeks of the season, as he was battling a case of vertigo. Johnson will have a chance to put a punctuation mark on his 2004 season, as he is competing in the Mexican Winter League this off-season.

Johnson isn't likely to be handed the starting job at first base in Oakland in 2005, the way that Bobby Crosby was given the shortstop job in 2004. Unlike Crosby, Johnson is not a strong defensive player and he will have earn the A's trust on the defensive-side of the ball. However, he is likely to share significant playing time with both Hatteberg at first and Erubiel Durazo at designated hitter in 2005. Both Hatteberg and Durazo wore down at the end of the 2004 campaign, so look for Johnson to be used to give those two regular rest. And if Johnson starts to hit like he did in AAA, he may win a starting job in Oakland out-right. At the very least, Johnson is likely to be the top candidate for a starting spot at first in 2006, when both Hatteberg and Durazo will be free agents.

Johnson is a Minnesota native with a solid build. He stands at 6'2'' and weighs 220. Although he hits left-handed, Johnson is a natural right-hander and throws with that hand. Johnson will never win any track races, but he has decent speed for a first baseman, as his five triples will attest. He has a long, powerful swing, which can sometimes cause him to get a slow jump out of the batter's box, making him vulnerable to hitting into double-plays. Johnson played 14 games in leftfield for the RiverCats in 2004, but his range in the outfield was fairly limited. His future will be at first base or DH.


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