Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Howdy Elliot!

Earlier this season, the Braves looked like they had a wealth of depth in the middle infield.  In addition to their unquestioned starters, Ramiro Pena provided excellent numbers off the bench to go with valuable defense.  In the minors, there was last year's opening day starter at shortstop, Tyler Pastornicky, and defensive wiz Paul Janish.

But baseball has a way of destroying depth with unmatched quickness.  First, it was Pena's shoulder.  Recently, it was Dan Uggla going all Blind Guy McSqueezy.  That brought Pastornicky back from Gwinnett.  At least, it did until Jason Heyward decided that his presence was unacceptable and decided to murderball him.  The middle infield depth was reduced to Janish and Ryan Gosling's brother to go with Andrelton Simmons.  

So, it wasn't all that surprising that the Braves claimed a middle infielder.  What was surprising was that they passed on others for him.  

The Royals waived Elliot Johnson, a super utility guy who they just acquired in the offseason in the James Shields/Wil Myers trade.  He came up to the majors with the Rays in 2008 and played in 200 games in three seasons.  The majority of that came in 2012 when he hit .242/.304/.350 with 18 steals.  After the trade, he came off the bench with a fair bit of regularity for the Royals, but he only OPS'd .458 in the process.  He was 14 for 14 in steals, though.

Johnson has some value.  He has played everywhere except behind the plate and on the mound.  He's a good base-runner with 38 steals in 52 attempts and a career 2.4 BSR.  And that's the end of the "Johnson has some value" narrative because after defensive flexibility and base-running, there comes the bat and Johnson has yet to have much to provide there.  A career .212 hitter with a .580 OPS, Johnson is not a post-hype sleeper who had stellar minor league numbers.  He's just a light-hitting backup.  You might call him a scrapper.  

As a depth pickup, Johnson helps.  Just not a great deal.

Gotta wonder why the Braves passed on Ryan Roberts for him.  Possibly Frank Wren was stuck on the idea of adding a backup infielder capable of batting left-handed as Johnson can switch-hit.  That's the only reason I can come up with.  Oh, well, all the same...Howdy Elliot!

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