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Chris Johnson, Houston Astros: Can He Maintain His Insane Production in 2011?

HOUSTON - AUGUST 31:  Third baseman Chris Johnson #23 of the Houston Astros fields a ground ball against the St. Louis Cardinals at Minute Maid Park on August 31, 2010 in Houston, Texas.  (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
Bob Levey/Getty Images
Bryan CurleyCorrespondent IFebruary 6, 2011

Normally a rookie third baseman who batted .308 with 11 HR and 52 RBI in only 341 at-bats is someone I target in drafts.

Chris Johnson is someone I’m avoiding.

Johnson’s batting average of .308 was supported by an unsustainable BABIP of .387. To find out how high his BABIP actually was, I decided to do a little research. I found out that there were 232 players with at least 362 plate appearances (the number of plate appearances Johnson had) and of those players, only two had a higher BABIP than Johnson. So that means Johnson’s BABIP of .387 was the third highest in all of baseball among players with at least 362 plate appearances.

Another area that troubles me about Johnson is his plate discipline. He struck out more than a quarter of the time, 26.7 percent to be exact. He also walked only 15 times, good for a rate of 4.1 percent. Even more alarming is Johnson’s O-Swing percent. He swung at an astronomical 43.1 percent of pitches thrown outside the strike zone.

To put that in perspective, the average major league player only swings at pitches outside the strike zone 29.3 percent of the time. There’s no doubt that Johnson’s poor plate discipline will be on his scouting report next year and pitchers will exploit this weakness until he proves that he can lay off bad pitches.

If Johnson was in his early twenties I wouldn’t be that concerned, but since he is already 26 years old, I don’t expect a lot of improvement in the plate discipline department. And since he struggled with these issues in the minors, I don’t think last year was out of the norm for him.

Many people are going to draft Johnson expecting him to build off of his rookie campaign. With a full season of at-bats they’ll think Johnson is destined for 20-plus home runs (even though his highest total in the minors was 13) and 90-plus RBI with a .300 average. That would make Johnson a borderline top 10 third baseman.

I’m telling you not to fall into that trap.

2011 Fantasy Projection

.272 AVG | 58 R | 16 HR | 69 RBI | 3 SB

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