2011 Projection: Is Chris Johnson Worth Targeting?

Chris Johnson burst onto the fantasy baseball scene in 2010 for the Houston Astros.  Playing 3B, among the shallowest positions, he caught fire in the second half helping to carry many to fantasy glory.  Overall, he had the following line:

362 At Bats
.308 Batting Average (105 Hits)
11 Home Runs
52 RBI
40 Runs
3 Stolen Bases
.337 On Base Percentage
.481 Slugging Percentage
.387 Batting Average on Balls in Play

It is obvious that the average came courtesy of some significant luck, something that just isn’t likely to continue.  He posted a 26.7% strikeout rate in 2010, a number that could be slightly high considering he posted an 18.8% rate.  However, over parts of three seasons at Triple-A (634 AB), his strikeout rate was 21.77%. 

Yes, you would expect him to improve upon last season’s mark given his track record, but it isn’t as high as you would necessarily think.  He simply isn’t a .300+ hitter and it is far more likely that he comes in at around .270.

The power he showed is another number that fantasy owners should be concerned with.  Yes, there is nothing that is out of the ordinary in his metrics (34.6% fly ball rate, 12.5% HR/FB), but given his track record it is simply impossible to think he can maintain the pace he set.

His time at Triple-A was spent in the Pacific Coast League, notorious for hitters to put up monstrous power totals.  Yet, Johnson managed to hit just 22 HR while there.  Over his minor league career (1,681 AB) he managed just 49 HR.

Just look at the HR/AB numbers:

  • Minor League Career – 1 HR every 34.3 AB
  • Triple-A – 1 HR every 28.8 AB
  • Major Leagues (2010) – 1 HR every 32.9 AB

Obviously, there is nothing unrealistic about what he showed, but it certainly would’ve been nice to have seen him rake a bit more during his time in the minor leagues.  He also didn’t show excessive power at home, despite the favorable home ballpark (6 of his 11 HR came at home).  At this point there is little reason to think that he is going to be anything more than what he has shown in the power department, meaning we are looking at someone who is going to hit 15-20 HR over a full season.

He will likely be slotted into the middle of the Astros lineup, having spent an equal amount of time hitting fifth, sixth and seventh in 2010.  That will give him opportunities to drive in some runs, but he is not going to be a good source of runs scored.

You put it all together and get the following projection for 2011:

.272 (143-525), 16 HR, 75 RBI, 60 R, 5 SB, .327 BABIP, .310 OBP, .429 SLG

Those are fine numbers, but nothing that makes him overly attractive even at a weak position.  Basically, don’t get overly excited based on a few hot weeks towards the end of the season.  He doesn’t bring enough to the table to justify using him in shallower formats and as anything more than a corner infielder in deeper formats.

What are your thoughts on Johnson?  What type of production do you see him posting in 2011?  Is he someone you would target in your drafts?

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Make sure to check out some of our 2011 projections:

6 comments

  1. Gary says:

    I will keep him for the $1.00 I have him under contract for and enjoy the numbers he puts up.

  2. Rotoprofessor says:

    Well, for $1 I would absolutely agree with keeping him. It all depends on the format, though.

    In lost leagues, I would prefer other options as my starter over it.

    • Gary says:

      Keeper League 12 team 5 x 5 ( RBI’s, Runs, OBA, SB, Total Bases ) $280 I can keep up to 15 players League has been together for 21 years

  3. Dave says:

    I think it’s important to remember that he’s only 26 and entering his prime years. Also, playing half his games at ol Enron park the Crawford box seats beckon; a short leftfield porch is a good thing for a right handed pull hitter. No, he will not sustain his BABIP of .387, that’s just redonkulous. But there’s a lot to like here and for DEEPER leagues he’s a guy to remember. I could have had him as a rookie pick in my keeper league last year but I passed and picked up Adam Moore instead; that was a mistake.

  4. GT says:

    Johnson is an interesting case. In particular his swing. Sorta short chops through the zone, not great motion but terrifically successful when he makes contact. It explains the historically high BABIP, and why he may be someone who can maintain a high BABIP in the future. I think your prediction of HR and RBI is realistic, but I can also see Johnson maintaining a .300+ average for a full season and making his way into the 3 hole in Houston, basically due to a lack of any other talent in the lineup. With Pence/Lee hitting him home for 3/4 of a season, 80 runs is likely.

  5. Guancous says:

    This post could have simply read: “Chase Headley”

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