The Braves continued their offseason shopping spree by agreeing to a contract with Kelly Johnson for the 2016 season. Reports have Johnson scheduled to make $2 million, with another $1.5 million possible in incentives.
This will be Johnson’s third stint with Atlanta. He was with the team last year before being traded to the Mets. Johnson was drafted by the Braves in the 1st round (38th overall) in the 2000 draft. He made his debut in 2005 when the ‘Baby Braves’ took the team by storm and led Atlanta to another division title.
Last season Johnson made 24 starts in left field, 15 starts at first base, six starts at third base and two starts in right field. Johnson also played one game at second base. Johnson’s versatility made him valuable for the Braves to bring back again. He is expected to get some playing time perhaps platooning with Adonis Garcia at third base this season.
However, Johnson is one of those left-handed hitters that does not necessarily struggle against lefty pitchers. Last season for Atlanta Johnson hit .292 against the southpaws and .272 against right-handers. Most of his time was against right-handers (158 at bats) compared to only 24 at bats against lefties. In his career, Johnson has hit .272 against left-handed pitchers and .244 against right-handers.
Garcia hit .277 for the Braves last season in 198 plate appearances. He hit 10 home runs and drove in 26 runs, but his on base percentage was only .293. The right-handed hitting Garcia hit .328 against left-handed pitchers.
The Braves may also go with a platoon at second base with Jace Peterson and Gordon Beckham. Peterson, a lefty hitter, hit .251 against right-handed pitchers last season and only .190 against left-handers. The right-handed hitting Beckham is a bit like Johnson, as he’s hit about the same against left-handed pitchers (.241) that he has against right-handers (.243).
With the Braves in a rebuilding mode, there is a chance Johnson could be used again in summer trade. One of the pitchers the Braves got in the Johnson trade last July is John Gant, who is already getting rave reviews from the front office as a potential contributor in 2016 or 2017 in the rotation or bullpen.
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