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Johjima Leaves M’s; Johnson and Moore Move Up Depth Chart

Posted By David Golebiewski On October 19, 2009 @ 4:11 pm In Catchers,Prospects | 11 Comments

Kenji Johjima won’t be back with the Seattle Mariners next year. The 33 year-old backstop, signed out of Japan prior to the 2006 season, has decided to return home. He leaves two years and $16M on the table, as part of an ill-advised Bill Bavasi contract extension covering the 2009-2011 seasons (is “ill-advised Bill Bavasi contract” redundant?)

Johjima posted solid 2006 and 2007 campaigns, with wOBA’s of .338 and .327, respectively. However, his offense fell off a cliff in 2008 (.272 wOBA), and he turned in another mediocre season in 2009 (.305 wOBA). Johjima’s walk and strikeout rates remained stable, but his BABIP tumbled from the low-.290′s over the 2006-2007 seasons to the .240 range from 2008-2009.

That’s extremely low, but the former Fukuoka SoftBank Hawk had a few factors working against him: he hit a lot of groundballs (never a good idea for a slow-footed backstop) and he popped the ball up often (infield flies are near automatic outs).

With Johjima now out of the picture, Seattle’s internal options behind the dish are Rob Johnson and Adam Moore.

Johnson, 26, split time with Johjima this past season. The University of Houston alumnus is known more for his defensive virtues than his lumber. Johnson has authored a .270/.323/.389 line during his minor league career , including a .270/.323/.381 triple-slash in three seasons at AAA Tacoma.

The righty batter was an absolute hacker his first time around the Pacific Coast League in 2006, walking in 3.7% of his PA, punching out 22 percent and posting a lousy .258 wOBA. In 2007, he bumped that wOBA up to .311, drawing a free pass 8.5% and whiffing 14.7%. Johnson posted similar walk and strikeout numbers in 2008, but his wOBA climbed to .351 (he hit for slightly more power, but a 40 point increase in BABIP boosted that figure).

In his first extended big league trial, Johnson batted just .213/.289/.326 in 290 PA, with a .274 wOBA. On the positive side, he walked in 9.2% of his PA. But as you might expect from that line, there were plenty of problems with Johnson’s lumber.

He was jammed at a sky-high rate, with an infield/fly ball rate of 20 percent (7th-highest among batters with 250+ PA). Opposing pitchers bullied him with fastballs, as Johnson posted an ugly -1.7 run/100 pitches value against heaters (5th-worst among batters with 250+ PA). He posted a negative run value against curves, sliders, cutters and changeups, as well.

Moore, 25, is the more interesting player from a fantasy perspective. A 6th-rounder in the 2006 draft taken out of Texas-Arlington, Moore has shown considerably more offensive promise.

In 2007, he batted a robust .307/.371/.543 at High-A High Desert. That ball park is a launching pad, but his park-adjusted line of .296/.363/.498 was still pretty tasty.

Bumped up to AA West-Tennessee in 2008, Moore mashed to the tune of .319/.396/.506. He walked 8.5% of the time, with a modest 17.9% K rate and a .186 ISO.

The 6-3, 220 pound right-handed hitter split the 2009 season between AA and AAA Tacoma. Back at West-Tennessee, he showed excellent plate discipline (14.4 BB%), batting .263/.371/.411 in 116 PA.

With the Rainers, Moore posted a .294/.346/.429 triple-slash in 368 PA. He walked 7.1 percent and punched out 15 percent, with a .135 ISO. Moore was called up to Seattle in September, drawing a few starts down the stretch.

As a guy in his mid-twenties, Moore isn’t a monster prospect. But, he has enough offensive ability to be a league-average (.330-.335 wOBA) hitter. That’s pretty valuable, when one considers that the average MLB catcher hit just .254/.320/.395 in 2009. That equates to a wOBA around .324.

The Mariners could opt to bring in a veteran via free agency, but the pickings appear slim. Assuming Seattle sticks with Johnson and Moore, fantasy owners should be rooting for Moore to grab the starting gig.


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