Minor League Ball Gameday, August 2

Chris Johnson - Scott Cunningham

Good morning prospect watchers. Let's get down to business.

***Yesterday's Minor League Ball Gameday thread.

***It is really hard for me to believe that Atlanta Braves third baseman Chris Johnson is hitting .346/.384/.471. More power to him (no pun intended), but when he was a prospect I didn't think he would be anything close to that good. Jeff Sullivan wrote an article about Johnson at Fangraphs yesterday which got me thinking about him.

Digging through some old reports, I found this comment from the 2010 Baseball Prospect Book, which was a good summary of my analysis of Johnson at the time.

Chris Johnson has some pop in his bat, but his unimpressive strike zone judgment holds his offense back. His OPS was just +3 percent in the Pacific Coast League last year, and he looked overmatched in his major league time, granted a 22 at-bat sample is tiny. On the positive side, he's a solid defender at third base, with decent range and a very strong throwing arm. I think Johnson can hit .250 with 15 homers as season in the majors, but his OBP would be below average and his overall production would be substandard for a corner player. Unless his plate discipline takes a huge leap forward, I think he's destined to bounce between Triple-A and the major league bench jobs. Grade C.

Jeff points out Johnson's unsustainable .426 BABIP this year. But he also points out that, with a minimum 1500 plate appearances, Johnson's career .364 BABIP ranks fourth all-time, behind three players you might have heard of named Ty Cobb, Shoeless Joe Jackson, and Rogers Hornsby.

Jeff runs through more numbers, but here is his conclusion:

As with all things, the Chris Johnson truth lies in the in-between. He is neither as good as his BABIP, nor is he probably as average as an average BABIP. It's a matter of degree of regression, and that's not something we can easily predict. For Johnson, with his .364 career BABIP, he's been worth 1.0 WAR per 600 plate appearances. The one time his BABIP was normal, he came in below replacement-level. How much he sinks is a matter of some interest to us. It's also a matter of extreme interest to Johnson, since his BABIP looks like it'll determine the course of his career. So far, at least, so good. So astonishingly good.

I don't know what else to say really, other than Johnson has turned out to be much better than I thought he'd be.

***The Colorado Rockies have promoted 2013 first-round draft pick Jonathan Gray to High-A Modesto.

***Putting the Rockies and Braves themes together, Chad Bettis made his big league debut yesterday, giving up six hits, five walks, and five runs in five innings. I will have a Prospect of the Day piece for him soon.

***Miami Marlins prospect Andrew Heaney made his first start for Double-A Jacksonville yesterday, throwing six shutout innings on three hits,a walk, and three strikeouts. Dakota Smith takes a look at him over at Fish Stripes.
Heaney now has 0.80 ERA (not a typo) in 68 innings this year, with a 69/18 K/BB and 48 hits allowed.

***Yankees prospect Dellin Betances threw 2.1 shutout relief innings yesterday for Triple-A Scranton, giving him 3.09 ERA with an 84/36 K/BB in 70 innings on the season. However, his relief numbers by themselves are even better: 1.57 ERA since moving to the bullpen, with a 59/20 K/BB in 46 innings and just 26 hits allowed. Command is still an issue, but relief work is obviously his future.

***The Yankees made additional news yesterday by signing outfielder Leonardo Molina out of the Dominican Republic for $1,400,000. As was long-rumored, the Chicago Cubs picked up outfielder Eloy Jimenez for double that, $2,800,000. Jimenez was considered the top position player in the international market by most experts this spring, with a complete set of tools. Molina is no slouch, featuring excellent speed and defensive skills. We'll have to see how their bats pan out.

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