July 29, 2012
Astros Cash in Johnson for Prospects
The Diamondbacks have had a tough time finding production from third base this season, ranking 27th in aggregate positional OPS. The incumbent starter Ryan Roberts—traded to Tampa Bay earlier in the week—failed to build upon a breakout season. In recent days, Kirk Gibson has taken to using a platoon of Willie Bloomquist and Ryan Wheeler; a distress signal if I’ve ever seen one.
The good news is that Johnson is an upgrade. The bad news is that he isn’t all that good. Johnson’s value stems from his bat. He strikes out a quarter of the time despite only displaying league-average pop. Johnson doesn’t walk, fields poorly, and doesn’t steal enough bases to make up for his other flaws. It’s no wonder he ranks near the bottom of the positional totem pole in every value metric (Roberts, by the way, happens to have a better WARP score than Johnson this season).
If there is a glimmer of upside with Johnson it comes from his platoon splits. He’s had reverse splits throughout his career, which is both unusual and typically unsustainable. If Johnson can improve against lefties and maintain against righties then he’ll be more tolerable. Right now, tolerable is a step up for the playoff-thinking D’Backs. —R.J. Anderson
Acquired OF-L Marc Krauss and IF-S Bobby Borchering from the Diamondbacks for 3B-R Chris Johnson. [7/29]
Krauss, a player with extreme secondary skills, is potentially the prize here. Currently batting .283/.416/.509 for Double-A Mobile, Krauss has drawn 73 walks against 346 at-bats, and 46 of his 98 hits have gone for extra bases. He reminds some scouts of a poor man's Adam Dunn; he's an unathletic bat-only type who strikes out at an alarming rate (91 Ks this year). The question is, can you be Adam Dunn without 80-grade power? Krauss' power is more of the 60-grade variety, and the fact that he's doing what he's doing while repeating the Double-A level adds to the red flags. He's the kind of player where all you can do is move him up and see if he keeps hitting, but there's a potentially sizable playoff here as either a left-fielder or first baseman who fits in the middle of a lineup for a rebuilding team.
Three years after being the 16th overall pick in the draft, Borchering remains a boom-or-bust type of talent. He was having the best year of his career at Visalia, batting .277/.340/.534 in 81 games, but like Krauss, there's the grain of salt that comes with him repeating the level. After joining Krauss at Double-A following a mid-season promotion, he has struggled mightily in his first exposure to upper-level pitching, batting just .130/.183/.208 in 21 games with 27 strikeouts in 82 at-bats. Still just 21 years old, Borchering has intriguing offensive upside. He's a switch-hitter with plus power from both sides, but his development has consistently been undone by a miserable approach; he expands his strike zone, chases breaking pitches, and has whiffed 440 times in 394 career games. Originally drafted as a third baseman, Borchering has struggled with his defense. He has possibly found a home as a decent corner outfielder, but like Krauss, he needs to hit to have value. —Kevin Goldstein
Kevin Goldstein is an author of Baseball Prospectus.