Dan Johnson is Finally Free! Here's What to Expect

Glory lasts forever...

This would be known as "Free Dan Johnson: the August 3, 2010 edition", but it is now official that he is getting the call in exchange for our beloved Hellickson. Many on this site have been clamoring for Dan Johnson for a long time now, and with the trade deadline behind us, he seems to be the best bet to fill in the DH hole, barring any waiver-wire trades. So the question is, what is Dan Johnson going to do? Most of us are aware of his gaudy Triple-A line (.303/.430/.624 with 30 HRs) this year, but how will that .433 wOBA translate to the majors?

To get a quick glance at how Johnson may adjust to the majors, we can use the Minor League Equivalency calculator which, while fun, is definitely not foolproof.

 AB H 2B 3B HR BB K BA OBP SLG wOBA 2010 AAA 340 103 19 0 30 75 71 0.303 0.430 0.624 0.433 Major League Equiv 356 90 16 0 23 59 76 0.253 0.359 0.496 0.359 2008 + 2010 AAA 734 224 42 0 55 159 146 0.305 0.429 0.587 0.424 MLE 767 196 36 0 43 126 155 0.255 0.360 0.470 0.355 2008 AAA 394 121 23 0 25 84 75 0.307 0.424 0.556 0.416 MLE 412 106 20 0 20 66 80 0.257 0.360 0.447 0.349

Basically, the calculator scales down the numbers based on what Triple-A league he was playing in, and which league, American or National, that he will be playing in. If you accept the calculator 100%, then it seems like we should expect Johnson to produce a wOBA (Weighted On-Base Average) in the range of .350-.360.

However, I'm a tad bit more pessimistic than those numbers. Equivalency calculators are far from an exact science, and we can also look at Johnson's career major league numbers, adjusting our projection based on how he's performed when he's had the chance to hit big league pitching. Here are his career numbers at the MLB level:

 PA BB% K% ISO BA OBP SLG wOBA 1289 12.80% 16.40% 0.172 0.248 0.343 0.420 0.333

Those 1300 PAs have been spread over a bit more than three years, so take from it what you will. He's posted a .348 wOBA in 434 PAs one year, and then a .308 in 331 PAs the next year, with the difference mostly due to BABIP (Batting Average on Balls in Play) changes. I'd be willing to bet his major league talent level is somewhere around his career average: in the .330-.340 wOBA range. Add in his average defense (by UZR and DRS) and Dan Johnson profiles as a slightly above league average hitter with adequate defensive skills for 1B.

For most teams in the playoff hunt, adding a nearly league average bat at DH would not be an improvement (unless you're the White Sox), but for the Rays, average would be a blessing. Their DH's have combined this year for exactly 1 wRAA (.326 wOBA) so far this season. I can't allow myself to get too excited about a journeyman Quad-A first baseman dropping into the Rays' lineup, but he should add a solid bat as well as added flexibility for Maddon. Especially with the current injuries to Zobrist and Peña, having Johnson should give Maddon a decent option at DH everyday, even with Joyce in RF. Or, Maddon could use Johnson at first in place of Sean Rodriguez, if you believe Johnson to be a better hitter than Rodriguez. There's numerous possibilities, especially since Johnson has not shown a large platoon split through his career (.327 wOBA v. Left, .336 wOBA v. Right).

Overall, I believe Dan Johnson will help the Rays, but chances are he won't be anything spectacular. My projection stands at around a .335 wOBA and average defense, which is much less than Adam Dunn or Luke Scott would have brought, but should still be more than Willy Aybar would produce. To look on the bright side, at this point in the season the playoff hunt is a game of very small margins, and Johnson just may give that little bit extra that we need to put away the Red Sox for good.

Feel free to post your own expectations/projections for DanJo in the comments.

*All stats courtesy of Fangraphs and Baseball-Reference.

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