NL West Report: Kelly Johnson - Should We Have Seen This Coming?

Desert dwellers have seen this a lot.

In 2007, only Chase Utley, Jeff Kent and Rickie Weeks had a better wRC+ among NL second basemen than Kelly Johnson.  In 2008, the then-Atlanta second-sacker was behind only Utley, Mark DeRosa and Dan Uggla.  Fourth in both seasons.  Yet one season later, the 28-year-old was given the Garrett Atkins-treatment, non-tendered in the offseason after a below-average-but-not-horrific .306 wOBA.  What happened?

Martin Prado certainly had something to say about Johnson's relocation.  But the biggest culprit?  A .247 BABIP.  That's low low low low.  For context, only Ian Kinsler (.241) was lower among qualifiers last season.  Johnson's line drive rate was slightly lower than career rates but fairly in line with his career year in 2007.  His HR/FB rate was nearly identical to 2008.  He cut his strikeout rate and raised his walk rate from 2008 to 2009.   There's nothing statistically to point to his approach suddently going south.

Turn around that bad luck, add fresh new scenery and move from a pitcher's park to the best hitter's park in the NL (tied with Coors Field at a 109 multi-year PF), and you have a premier choice for a comeback candidate.

G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB K SB CS AVG OBP SLG
2010 - Kelly Johnson 23 84 17 26 8 0 9 18 14 19 1 0 .310 .404 .726

Of course, his power surge (leading the NL in home runs with nine) is not sustainable.  Seven of his dingers have come at Chase Field (115.3 HR/FB factor), one came at Coors (121.6), and one came at Wrigley Field (115.6).  And no one can keep up a 32% HR/FB rate (nor a .473 wOBA), not even teammate Mark Reynolds.

But don't think it is all smoke and mirrors.   According to HitTrackerOnline.com, seven of his nine home runs were legitimate, rated as "no-doubters" or "plenty" while two qualified as "just enough."  Additionally, his BABIP this year is .298 thirteen points below his career rate.  The power will drop, but he's still in position to a big-time asset for Arizona deep into this season.

NL West Report

Arizona (11-14, t-4th, L3, 5 GB)

Last Week: 3-4. 2-1 @ Rockies, 1-3 @ Cubs. The Cubs succeeded at what the Rockies couldn't - slowing the Snakes at home.  

Divisional Change:  Lost 2.0 games to first-place San Diego.

This Week:  4 game road series @ Astros.  3 game home series vs. Brewers.  The schedule is exceptionally kind to Arizona next week.  They draw four games against the worst team in the majors, owners of a six game losing streak, followed by a road series against the National League's worst home team, whose offense is at a complete standstill.

You Should Know:  The Diamondbacks pitchers are really struggling.  In the last turn of their rotation (five games), they allowed double digit runs three times, 44 runs total.  The weakest offensive output against was five runs.  

News:  Brandon Webb has simulated throwing off a mound with a towel.

With Kris Benson landing on the disabled list with a shoulder strain after his start at Coors Field Wednesday, Cesar Valdez will be getting the call to start today at Minute Maid Park.  Valdez, who was the Diamondbacks' Minor League Pitcher of the Year in 2008, won the spot over Kevin Mulvey and Billy Buckner.   

Cesar Valdez

#43 / Pitcher / Arizona Diamondbacks

6-2

200

R

R

Mar 17, 1985

That pretty much cements Arizona's stance on Jarrod Washburn:  that would be a no.

Edwin Jackson had an absolutely horrid week on the road.  His line:  6 1/3 IP, 22 hits, 18 runs, 2 HR, 3 BBs and just 2 Ks.  His ERA jumped from 3.81 to 8.07.

As DBacksSkins wrote to me last Wednesday, the Diamondbacks might be leading the NL West if they had any semblance of a major league bullpen.  Five games is a lot for a bullpen to be responsible for, but the way they have been pitching, I can't argue too much.  As Jim McLennan points out in the previous link, Arizona's April was the third worst month for bullpen ERA in franchise history.  They already have given up 6 ER in 6 IP in May. Still, Arizona doesn't appear to be looking for bullpen help via trade

That includes Juan Cruz, who was released from Kansas City last week.

I guess this trade is too minor to count:  David Holtzman reports that Arizona traded SS Rey Navarro for RHP Carlos Rosa, who immediately reported to AAA Reno.

Well, that was short.  Eric Byrnes has been released by the Mariners already.  Don Wakamatsu probably gave him the kiss of death last week by calling Byrnes "an ultimate competitor" despite his struggles.  The former D-Back had just three hits in 32 AB, and he put the exclamation point on his Seattle tenure by pulling his bat back, botching a suicide squeeze play in extra innings of a scoreless game.  

Transactions:  Called up RHP Kevin Mulvey and RHP Daniel Stange from AAA Reno.

Injuries:  Placed RHP Kris Benson (shoulder strain) and RHP Leo Rosales (stress fracture in foot) on 15-day DL, then transferred Rosales to the 60-day DL.   Conor Jackson will play in 3-4 minor league games this week.

Arizona Diamondbacks Injuries

15-Day

Player Injury Type Injury Date
Conor Jackson hamstring 04/19/2010
Miguel Montero knee

04/11/2010

60 Day DL / Out for the season

Player Injury Type Injury Date
Brandon Webb shoulder 03/26/2010
Leo Rosales foot 04/29/2010

Star-divide

Los Angeles (11-14, t-4th, W3, 5 GB)

Last Week: 3-4. 0-3 @ Mets.  3-1 vs Pirates.   After getting pwned at Citi Field, the Dodgers rediscovered the magic by returning home.  The Pirates scored only 8 runs in the four-game series.

Divisional Change:  Lost 2.0 games in the division.

This Week:  3 game home series vs. Brewers.  3 game home series vs. Rockies.  The Dodgers are 7-3 at home and have won four straight at Dodger Stadium, so this week should being a welcome reprieve.

You Should Know:  No team has more road losses than the Dodgers, while only the Yankees have fewer home losses than Los Angeles.

News:  It has been well documented how hamstrung GM Ned Colletti has been due to the McCourt divorce.  What hasn't been publicized is the penny-pinching constraints on the scouting department.  Bill Shaikin goes over this in the preceding link.  And actually, as Shaikin points out, that trend started well before the divorce:

The Dodgers (spent) the least of any major league club in the last two drafts, and...the Dodgers do not account for any of the 115 international signings over $100,000 in 2008.

That doesn't bode well for the farm system.  And neither does this: a year ago, Andrew Lambo was the 49th on Baseball America's top 100 minor league prospects.  Now, Andrew Lambo has been suspended for 50 games for his second failed drug test.  After seeing Lambo and Giants' prospect Angel Villalona suffer big-time off-the-field issues, I feel fortunate all of our healthy top prospects are on the field.

Andrew Lambo 517204v_medium

#95 / Left Field / Los Angeles Dodgers

6-3

190

L

L

Aug 11, 1988

(Photo from dodgers.scout.com, 2008)

Vicente Padilla will be out until the end of May, though  Manny Ramirez could return this upcoming weekend.  The Dodgers were 1-6 with Ramirez out of the lineup until reeling off three straight wins against Pittsburgh.

By now, you've likely heard Ned Colletti's public thrashing of Matt Kemp.  You might not have heard Kemp's agent Dave Stewart respond on ESPN radio.

MLBTR's Tim Dierkes poses a question that will undoubtedly result in a mild smirk on your face:  What If The Dodgers Become Sellers?

Transactions:   Called up RHP John Ely, optioned RHP Jon Link.  Transferred C Brad Ausmus from the 15-day DL to the 60-day DL.  

Injuries:  Manny Ramirez is eligible to return from the DL May 8, and he is expected to be ready to return on that date.  Jeff Weaver will throw in a rehab appearance tomorrow . Rafael Furcal has a tight hamstring and hasn't been in a game since April 27.  He received a platelet-rich plasma a over the weekend and is not expected to go on the disabled list.

Los Angeles Dodgers Injuries

Questionable

Player Injury Type Injury Date
Rafael Furcal other-excused 05/02/2010

15-Day

Player Injury Type Injury Date
Manny Ramirez calf 04/23/2010
Cory Wade shoulder 03/26/2010

60 Day DL / Out for the season

Player Injury Type Injury Date
Brad Ausmus back 04/09/2010

Star-divide

San Diego (16-9, 1st, W3)

Last Week: 5-2. 2-1 @ Marlins. 3-1 vs. Brewers. The Padres shut out Milwaukee three times in their weekend four-game series, the first time in franchise history that they tossed three shutouts in a series.  The only runs San Diego allowed were solo home runs by Rickie Weeks and Yovani Gallardo off Mat Latos on Friday.

Divisional Change:  Extended their lead in the division by a half game.

This Week:  3 game home series vs. Rockies.  3 game road series @ Astros.  Facing the short-handed and road-challenged Rockies followed by the worst team in the National League gives the Padres a good opportunity to finish in first place for the third straight week.  

You Should Know:  By outscoring Milwaukee 21-2 over the weekend, San Diego has vaulted to a +36 run differential, fifth in Major League Baseball.  They have won 13 of 16 games.

News:  I'm getting really sick of reporting on whether or now the Padres will trade Adrian Gonzalez.  I cannot even imagine being a Padres fan.  But alas, it's the hot news, even though the Padres were in first place on May 1 for the first time since 1998, the last time they advanced to the World Series.

Adrian Gonzalez' agent John Boggs talked to MLB FanHouse, saying that Ryan Howard's contract extension "validates the fact that (Gonzalez is) worth that kind of money or more."

Adrian Gonzalez

#23 / First Base / San Diego Padres

6-2

225

L

L

May 08, 1982

G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB K SB CS AVG OBP SLG
2010 - Adrian Gonzalez 24 84 13 24 4 0 6 17 16 17 0 0 .286 .402 .548

Not surprisingly, Jon Heyman thinks A-Gone will be traded eventually.  I'm not going to be happy if he goes to the Braves, who have a huge need for an impact bat.

Chris Young had his first rehab start yesterday at AA San Antonio, and it didn't end well.  Young was charged with five earned runs and got only two outs after throwing 35 pitches, only 15 for strikes.  Two Midland RockHounds rapped out hits, while four others reached base via walk.  Note - that pitch count is less than half of what Jeff Francis is due to throw Thursday.

Tim Dierkes previews the contract issues San Diego will face this offseason.

Transactions:  Called up IF Lance Zawadzki.

Injuries: Placed 2B Matt Antonelli on the 60-day DL with a broken hamate bone in his right hand that requires surgery.  Placed Everth Cabrera on the 15-day DL with a hamstring strain.

San Diego Padres Injuries

15-Day

Player Injury Type Injury Date
Chris Young shoulder 04/07/2010
Everth Cabrera hamstring 04/27/2010

60 Day DL / Out for the season

Player Injury Type Injury Date
Matt Antonelli hand 04/30/2010

Star-divide

San Francisco (14-10, 2nd, L1, 1.5 GB)

Last Week: 4-2.  2-1 vs. Phillies, 2-1 vs. Rockies.  The Giants won the first two games of both series by a combined score of 11-3 both times but failed to close out the 2009 NLDS opponents. 

Divisional Change: Lost one half game from the Padres.

This Week:  3 game road series @ Marlins.  3 game road series @ Mets.  The Giants hit to road (where they are 4-5) for a quick trip through the NL East. 

You Should Know:   In their past five series, the Giants were swept by the Padres, won all three home series against three of the playoff teams from 2009 and lost to the fourth only by a blown save in the rubber game.

News:  The Ryan Howard extension isn't applicable just to Adrian Gonzalez in this division.  Even though Pablo Sandoval is years away from free agency, Andrew Baggarly points out that that "Fat Ichiro" should see how losing weight can lead to more money.  If Sandoval actually did lose weight this offseason as had been reported, he'll need a lot more than a Subway endorsement and personal trainer to trim down to real world defintion.

Sean Farnham of CBSSports tweeted that Bengie Molina is considering retirement after the season.  In other unrelated (?) news, he is "frustrated" with how the Buster Posey situation has been handled.  Irony.

Bengie Molina

#1 / Catcher / San Francisco Giants

5-11

225

R

R

Jul 20, 1974

G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB K SB CS AVG OBP SLG
2010 - Bengie Molina 19 67 11 23 2 0 2 9 6 5 0 0 .343 .408 .463

The Giants' brass had originally decided on waiting until June to call up Posey, but they are now considering promoting Posey this month.

John Shea from the San Francisco Chronicle suggests that the Giants ought to monitor the market for Adrian Gonzalez and Prince Fielder closely.  I have a hard time seeing Fielder getting out of Milwaukee any time soon, and I'm not sure why Shea thinks the Padres would be so eager to trade Gonzalez to a division rival.

Buster Olney (ESPN Insider) says Barry Zito should get credit for continuing to push through adversity rather than mindlessly settling on showing up at the park to collect his $126million installment checks.

In Matt Eddy's latest minor league transaction listing, he lists that the Giants signed 2003 AL Rookie of the Year Angel Berroa.  The shortstop was signed by Los Angeles this offseason but released before the season.

Transactions:  Optioned RHP Waldis Joaquin to AAA Fresno. 

Injuries:  Activated CF Aaron Rowand yesterday.  

San Francisco Giants Injuries

Questionable

Player Injury Type Injury Date
Edgar Renteria groin 05/02/2010
Brian Wilson groin 05/02/2010

15-Day

Player Injury Type Injury Date



Freddy Sanchez shoulder 03/26/2010
Emmanuel Burriss foot 03/26/2010

60 Day DL / Out for the season

Player Injury Type Injury Date
Bengie Molina other-excused 05/02/2010
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