We’ve been talking a lot about Skip Schumaker potentially playing center field in the NLDS for obvious reasons, but the Dodgers aren’t the only team with a big trouble spot at a particular position. With tonight’s news that the Braves are likely to leave Dan Uggla — who is atrocious — off the roster, that means they’re really going to go with Elliot Johnson as their starting second baseman.
Other than being deemed slightly less awful than Uggla, there’s not a lot going for Johnson here. He wasn’t drafted out of high school, then signed with the Rays in 2002 — and if you can think of another example of an undrafted high schooler actually signing with a pro team rather than going to college, please let me know — then spent parts of 10 seasons in the Rays organization, getting a cup of coffee in 2008, losing his spot on the 40-man, but seeing some more serious playing time in 2011-12. In 200 games as a Ray, he hit .223/.283/.338. That… is terrible.
But it’s also nothing compared to his 2013. DFA’d in February, he was sent to Kansas City in February as the player to be named later in the James Shields / Wil Myers deal, then hit so wonderfully in 79 games – .179/.218/.241 — that the Royals DFA’d him as well in August. When Atlanta picked him up, Craig Calcaterra titled his NBC post “The Braves claim Elliot Johnson on waivers for some reason,” and now, here he is, starting at second base in the playoffs.
Johnson can field, sort of, and he can run reasonably well, successfully stealing 22 bags in 24 chances this year, but he just can’t hit, not with a .218/.273/.319 line after more than 800 plate appearances. Is that black hole worse than the center field hole the Dodgers are about to have? For all the angst we’re dealing with in center, the Braves have a pretty serious issue of their own.
I’m not sure which is worse, but I do know this — when Johnson was picked up by Kansas City, Royals Review writer Craig Brown described him thusly:
He doesn’t walk, has some speed and is adequately defensively. Most important, though… He’s a gamer. A dirt dog. Against all odds, he scrapped, battled, dare I say gritted, his way though his professional career.
Oh. Well, maybe they’re dead even then.