After spending five seasons in the major leagues north of the border in Toronto, Reed Johnson brought his game to the North Side of Chicago in 2008. Johnson, a center fielder, was released by the Blue Jays on March 23, 2008, and by March 25, the Cubs signed him to a one-year contract. The signing of Johnson turned out to be a key addition to the Cubs' 2008 season.
Prior to joining the Cubs, Reed Johnson was a productive major leaguer. In five big league seasons, Johnson batted .281 with 114 doubles and a .342 OBP. Reed, a right-handed batter, was also highly effective against lefties, batting .308 with a .371 OBP and .462 slugging percentage against southpaws.
Johnson missed most of the 2007 season with a herniated disc in his back that required surgery. The Blue Jays signed Shannon Stewart to replace Reed Johnson, thinking his best days were behind him—incorrect. Johnson joined the Cubs and instantly became a fan favorite for his defense and all-out hustle. However, he produced at the plate as well.
By the time the Cubs hit their stride in 2008, Reed Johnson found himself in a straight platoon in center with the rejuvenated Jim Edmonds. Johnson played in 109 games, batted .303, hit six HRs, 21 doubles, and 50 RBI. Johnson also continued to have a high on-base percentage, finishing the year at .358.
Against lefties, quite frankly, Reed Johnson crushed them. He batted .333, got on base at a .399 clip, and slugged .449.
For 2009, Cubs manager Lou Piniella has already announced the Cubs will once again have a platoon in center field with Reed Johnson and Kosuke Fukudome. The Fuker will face right-handers, and Johnson will go against lefties with an occasional start against right-handers as well.
Regardless of how many games he starts, Johnson is also highly valuable as a defensive replacement, a pinch hitter, or pinch runner. Johnson is one of those guys every successful ball club needs in order to win championships. My guess is he will be relied on much more heavily than we think right now.
Rolf's 2009 prophecy for Reed Johnson: .282 avg (.302 against lefties), eight HRs, 65 RBI, and six spectacular catches in center field. MARK IT DOWN!!!!
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