LADY AT THE BAT: Is Yankees' Kelly Johnson A Waste of A Roster Spot?

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Is Yankees' Kelly Johnson A Waste of A Roster Spot?

Jacoby Ellsbury and Brian McCann are examples of players who aren’t hitting quite like the team expected, but whose defense, at least, mitigates the pain of their failure, as both have been more than adequate in the field.

Kelly Johnson, on the other hand, is an example of a player who is doing both things poorly. So poorly, in fact, that it’s worth wondering if he is a waste of a roster spot.

Of course, it’s not all his fault. Yangervis Solarte essentially stole 3rd base from him by playing so well over the first few weeks of the season that he made it almost impossible for Joe Girardi to sit him. That severely cut into Johnson’s playing time, (he had only 104 ABs going into last night’s game) and forced him to 1B when he does get into a game.

Prior to the 2014 season, Johnson had only three games at 1B, all in his 2013 season. This year he has already tripled that. It would be one thing if he were playing it well but he’s not. Even when he completes a play, he looks shaky doing it. In the 3rd inning of last night’s game, his inability to hold onto a ball contributed to 4 runs scored by the St. Louis Cardinals. He was eventually removed from the game as part of a double switch. He’s just not comfortable at the position.

Contrast that with Brendan Ryan who, after being pressed into duty at 1B in Monday’s game for only the third time, was quoted in the LoHud Yankees blog as saying “It’s really just catch the ball. Catch the ball. After that, you’ve got plenty of time…” No matter what Johnson says about playing the position, there is clearly more to it that that for him.

Combine his defense with his .202 BA entering Tuesday’s game and we come back to the question: Is Johnson worth his roster spot? With his poor defense and subpar offense it would appear not. The problem, however, is that there are no ready alternatives for a backup 1B.

McCann can play 1B occasionally but he’s being paid to catch. Even with John Ryan Murphy being an unexpected bonus as a back up, McCann needs to catch for the first few years of his contract in order for it to be a win-win for both sides.

Ryan has shown he can field the position but his real role is as the backup SS. Plus, with more playing time comes more exposure and his solid defense might prove to be less so if he constantly plays out of position. His below average bat doesn’t make the gamble worth it.

Further down on the 40-man roster, Scott Sizemore has four games this year at 1B but if the Yankees had any inkling that he’d be a better option than Johnson he would be getting more reps at 1B in Triple-A. Instead he’s played the most at 3B.

The truth is, the Yankees don’t have an alternative at 1B, at least not right now, but you’d have to think Brian Cashman is working on changing that.

His fault or not, Johnson’s days with the Yankees might be limited despite his $3 million contract.

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