CSS Button No Image Css3Menu.com

Baseball Prospectus home
Click here to log in Click here for forgotten password Click here to subscribe
Strength of Schedule Report
<< Previous Article
Premium Article Collateral Damage Dail... (07/05)
<< Previous Column
Fantasy Article Fantasy Beat: Henderso... (06/27)
Next Column >>
Fantasy Article Fantasy Beat: Shields'... (07/10)
Next Article >>
Premium Article Future Shock: Don't Yo... (07/05)

July 5, 2012

Fantasy Beat

Is Elliot Johnson for Real?

by Jason Collette

the archives are now free.

All Baseball Prospectus Premium and Fantasy articles more than a year old are now free as a thank you to the entire Internet for making our work possible.

Not a subscriber? Get exclusive content like this delivered hot to your inbox every weekday. Click here for more information on Baseball Prospectus subscriptions or use the buttons to the right to subscribe and get instant access to the best baseball content on the web.

Subscribe for $4.95 per month
Recurring subscription - cancel anytime.

a 33% savings over the monthly price!

Purchase a $39.95 gift subscription
a 33% savings over the monthly price!

Already a subscriber? Click here and use the blue login bar to log in.

The running joke these days is that the Mayans may have been right when they predicted the world would end on December 21, 2012. It is not so funny when you consider Bryan LaHair is an all-star this season and Albert Pujols is not. Trevor Plouffe has 18 home runs this season, which is as many as Adrian Gonzalez, Ryan Zimmerman, and Dustin Pedroia combined.  A quick look at the shortstop leaderboard for TAv shows Jose Reyes and Troy Tulowitzki in the first two spots. Wait, that is the 2011 board. Certainly those two high-dollar players are near the top of this year’s leaderboard too, though. Let me reset the filter… there we go: Asdrubal Cabrera, Jed Lowrie, and Elliot Johnson are the top three? Is this damn thing broken? Ankrom? Pease??!! This cannot possibly be right, can it? Hot damn, it is.

Cabrera being on top is not that much of a surprise considering he had the fourth-best TAv for the position last season. Jed Lowrie has shown talent before but merely had trouble staying healthy in Boston while also struggling to find consistent playing time; neither issue has surfaced in Houston. Elliot Johnson, on the other hand, is a giant head-scratcher.  The undrafted free agent from the hotbed of baseball known as Thatcher High School in Arizona has had a surprising season for the Rays, whose hitters have mostly been fantasy disappointments in 2012.

This surprising season comes on the heels of Johnson finishing 36th in TAv for shortstops last season at .226, which is 51 points lower than his current TAv of .277. He has a higher batting average than Jimmy Rollins and Erick Aybar.  He is on base more frequently than Rollins, Aybar, Ian Desmond, and Yunel Escobar.  His slugging percentage is above that of Jose Reyes, Rafael Furcal, and Alexei Ramirez.  He has more steals than Alcides Escobar, Cliff Pennington, and Derek Jeter. All of those players went for $10 or more in expert fantasy auctions, and Elliot Johnson was drafted in none of them. How is this undrafted fantasy player doing this?

It is difficult to make any kind of definitive judgment with Johnson as he has but 405 career plate appearances in the majors, and most of them have come in a reserve capacity. He did, however, spend a significant amount of time in the minor leagues, playing parts of 10 seasons and accruing 3,735 plate appearances, including five seasons at Triple-A in which he hit .261/.325/.416 and was 68-for-85 on the basepaths.

It was only the rash of injuries that hit the Rays in May that opened up playing time for Johnson as the Rays struggled to find players to fill the 25-man roster. While we’re dealing with small sample sizes, let’s look at Johnson’s running major league totals at 50 plate appearance intervals:






Last 50





Last 100





Last 150





Last 200





Last 250





Last 300





Last 350





His triple-slash stats and BABIP, in graphical form:

Now his walk rate, strikeout rate, and Isolated Power rates:

As we can see, it’s been over Johnson’s last 150-200 plate appearances that he’s really picked up steam. Yet, over his last 50 to 100 plate appearances, he seems to be returning to his previous levels that left him relegated to the bench and even designated for assignment at one point in his time with the Rays.

Still, StatCorner shows metrics for plate behaviors, and Johnson has definitely had a change in approach this season:























Even though Johnson is seeing fewer strikes this season than last, he is being more aggressive and attacking the strikes he does see while making slightly better contact with them. He is also chasing more pitches out of the zone but is making better contact with them as well.

One of the factors holding Johnson back is his inability to hit lefties. He is listed as a switch-hitter, but the .182/.249/.265 slash line in 191 career plate appearances against lefties screams otherwise. In an ideal world, Johnson and Sean Rodriguez would become a true platoon, as Rodriguez has a career reputation of hitting lefties very well while struggling against righties. This season, Rodriguez has hit neither lefties nor righties, which has led Joe Maddon to go with the hot hand in Johnson despite the downgrade defensively.

Taking everything into account, if you are struggling at middle infield and see Johnson’s number on the free agent pile, I’d think twice before plugging him into your lineup. The overall numbers are acceptable, but he appears to be trending back toward his true talent level of a replacement level player that is best used in spots and not as a starter.  Conversely, should you already own him, this would be a great time to test the waters and see what you can get for him.

Jason Collette is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Jason's other articles. You can contact Jason by clicking here

2 comments have been left for this article.

<< Previous Article
Premium Article Collateral Damage Dail... (07/05)
<< Previous Column
Fantasy Article Fantasy Beat: Henderso... (06/27)
Next Column >>
Fantasy Article Fantasy Beat: Shields'... (07/10)
Next Article >>
Premium Article Future Shock: Don't Yo... (07/05)

Baseball Prospectus News: Subscription Price...
Fantasy Article Deep League Report: Week 25
BP En Espanol: La politica de Big Sexy
What You Need to Know: Dingers For Everyone
Short Relief: Noise
Banjo Hitter: Randy, Rickey, and Teams on th...
Cold Takes: The Politics of Big Sexy

The Lineup Card: Nine All-Star Snubs
Premium Article Transaction Analysis: El Caballo Rides Out E...
Premium Article Future Shock: Don't You Forget About Me
Fantasy Article Resident Fantasy Genius: Thome Trade Tests A...
Premium Article Collateral Damage Daily: Thursday, July 5
Premium Article The Prospectus Hit List: Thursday, July 5
What You Need to Know: Thursday, July 5

2012-07-13 - BP Fantasy Podcast: Episode 12: The Triumvir...
2012-07-10 - Fantasy Article Fantasy Beat: Shields' Plummeting Groundball...
2012-07-08 - BP Fantasy Podcast: Episode 11: Better Late ...
2012-07-05 - Fantasy Article Fantasy Beat: Is Elliot Johnson for Real?
2012-07-03 - BP Unfiltered: $12M Goes A Long Way These Da...
2012-06-30 - BP Unfiltered: The Little Things By A Little...
2012-06-29 - BP Fantasy Podcast: Episode 10: Look At Anot...

2012-07-24 - Fantasy Article Fantasy Beat: Lester's Losses
2012-07-16 - Fantasy Article Fantasy Beat: Scherzer's Unique Season
2012-07-10 - Fantasy Article Fantasy Beat: Shields' Plummeting Groundball...
2012-07-05 - Fantasy Article Fantasy Beat: Is Elliot Johnson for Real?
2012-06-27 - Fantasy Article Fantasy Beat: Henderson Alvarez's Nightmare ...
2012-06-19 - Fantasy Beat: The Magnificence of R.A. Dicke...
2012-06-11 - Fantasy Article Fantasy Beat: Trumbo, the New Pujols?