These are two player currently on the Rays, and the stats are taken from their final year in Triple-A Durham. Any guesses on who they are?
Answer after the jump.
Player A is the definition of scrap himself, Elliot Johnson, and Player B is our current shortstop, Reid Brignac.
First of all, I want to apologize because I am misusing data a tad here to make a point. Brignac is definitely the more valuable player between the two, and there's a reason he reached the majors before Elliot did. Johnson produced those numbers when he was 26 years old, while Brignac posted his numbers as a 23 year old; when talking about prospects, that's a huge difference. Also, Elliot's 2010 season was a bit of an aberration for him; his normal level of production was around a .345 wOBA. He had an especially good year and had a sky-high BABIP (.383), so it's unlikely he'd produce a .380 wOBA in Triple-A if given another chance.
However, I wanted to point these numbers out because I feel people are underestimating Johnson's bat and are writing him off as a minor-league player. Johnson may be old and he be the very definition of a scrappy, gritty, get-your-clothes-dirty, hard-nosed, old-school ballplayer, but he can still produce at the plate. He's shown great success in the minor leagues, especially recently, and he's shown he can hit for moderate power while still drawing a walk. In fact, his projections for this season look nearly identical to Brignac's in those two categories: 6-8% walk rate and a .130-.140 ISO. Add in the fact that Johnson is a switch-hitter and is an excellent basestealer, and he *may* be a better overall offensive player than Brignac this season.
Of course, the key part to that phrase is "this season". In the long run, Brignac still has age on his side: Johnson is currently in his physical prime while Brignac is just beginning to approach it. There's no doubt that Brignac is a better defensive player (although Johnson has more versatility), and the Rays have got to be hoping that he develops so he can hit both righties and lefties well. As a bench bat or a platoon partner, though, Johnson is probably better than many of us think. He's projected for around a .310 wOBA, which is very similar what what both Reid Brignac (.300-.310 wOBA) and Sean Rodriguez (.315-.330 wOBA) are projected to produce.
I'm not saying that we should be glad when Maddon lets Johnson come up to the plate late in a close game; he's still probably one of our weakest offensive players. All I'm saying is that he may not be as bad an option as many of us think.