Chris Johnson: The Flavor of Wonder Bread

As we continue to examine Zach Sanders’ Third Base End of Season Rankings, let’s scroll down to number 22 where we find Arizona’s Chris Johnson who, according to the calculations, produced a $3 value for the 2012 season. The value is reflective of how Johnson compares to the rest of the third basemen out there and to be honest, that number could be a bit high. Sure, his final line of .281-48-15-76-5 might look pretty tasty on the surface, but outside of some deep, mixed leagues, Johnson is about as exciting as the flavor of buttered white bread.

When the season began, expectations were pretty low amongst the fantasy community. There was once talk of some power potential after he posted a .175 ISO in 2010, but given the mediocrity of his minor league totals coupled with a ho-hum 2011, Johnson wasn’t really on many people’s radar even entering his year-27 season. And he delivered on those expectations when he entered the All Star break batting .275 with just six home runs and 34 RBI. He was still striking out near a 25-percent rate and his walk rate remained below average. Outside of an occasional four or five-game streak, he did nothing to produce with any sort of consistency. He was a plug-and-play corner infielder at best and was probably found on the waiver wire in most cases.

As the trade deadline loomed, Johnson used the swirling rumors as motivation. He delivered one of his patented mini-streaks and made himself look a lot more attractive to those clubs in need of some help at the hot corner. The Diamondbacks, struggling to find production out of their third base slot, bit and Johnson found himself headed west and looking towards greener pastures. But then again, everything looks like a greener pasture when you’re stuck in Houston.

I actually covered the Johnson trade here on the site when it first happened, and not to go breaking my arm patting myself on the back, I hit the nail dead on back then when I said that there was nothing to get excited about here. I cited the streakiness, the poor plate discipline, the low contact-rates and discussed how the batted ball data failed to indicate any sort of an upswing. With regard to his power potential, I didn’t see the move to Chase Field giving him any sort of a boost and went so far as to say that the only thing I could see working in his favor was the excitement of leaving a dead-last, no-hope team and heading to a, at the time, possible contender. Again, completely accurate as Johnson went on to hit .318 with five home runs and 17 RBI during his first 11 games as a member of the Diamondbacks only to see that surge disappear as quickly as it had arrived.

When Johnson’s hot streak came to a close and he reverted back to his old ways, the Diamondbacks opted to put him into a platoon with Ryan Wheeler who was considered the stronger glove. Sure, he had another hot streak to start the month of September, thanks to a helpful .435 BABIP, but a bruised hand suffered from a hit-by-pitch quickly squashed that. His season ended as blah as is began.

So when you’re looking for help at third base next season, be careful with Johnson. A cursory glance at his numbers in Arizona will undoubtedly breed false hope into many. Do not be fooled into thinking that the move has unleashed some powerful hitting beast. He may have posted a .219 ISO during his 44-game stretch as a member of the Diamondbacks, but he was really only helpful through about 15-20 of those games at most. In fact, your viewpoint of Johnson as your 2013 third baseman should probably mirror the thoughts of the Diamondbacks’ brass right now as the latest word has them already looking for an upgrade.


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Howard Bender has been covering fantasy sports for over 10 years on a variety of websites. In addition to his work here, you can also find him at his site,, Fantasy Alarm, RotoWire and Mock Draft Central. Follow him on Twitter at @rotobuzzguy or for more direct questions or comments, email him at

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