I, Albert Lang, have been a Kelly Johnson fan, for no real reason, for some time now. I seem to be the only one. ESPN has him in the 200s, and his ADP is at 253. Certainly his 2011 (.222/.304/.413) did nothing to engender him to fantasy players, but I think this just makes him a steal for 2012.
Kelly Johnson has what is known as a reverse platoon split. Basically, lefty batters tend to do better against right handers, but that’s not the case with Johnson.
For his career, Johnson has hit .287/.343/.465 against lefties and .249/.343/.431 against righties and he has a .347 BABIP against southpaws and .296 against righties. Last year, he had a .271 BABIP against lefties and .280 BABIP against righties. There’s a slight chance that Johnson just got a little lucky in his previous 726 plate appearances against southpaws, but I’m going to bet that the unlucky part was the 161 PAs he had against lefties in 2011. At just 30, we wouldn’t expect his batted ball rates to fall off a cliff.
Obviously, it follows that Johnson’s BABIP was far lower in 2011 than historically (.311 for his career, just .277 last year). However he hit pretty much the same amount of ground balls, line drives and fly balls as he has in the past. I expect that BABIP to bounce back and his average to come with it.
While Johnson swung at a few more pitches outside of the strike zone in 2011, the biggest surprise in his plate discipline is that his contact rate on strikes went way down. It was 79.8% last year, an incredible drop from his average (87.2%) and previous low (86.9%).
Johnson will bounce back to hit in the .250s with 18-22 HRs, 15+ SBs and a healthy amount of runs and RBIs. When you think about up the middle values in fantasy baseball, you should be targeting Johnson. In addition, the Blue Jays had the 8th most steals last season, something tells me Johnson might run a bit more than expected.
Let’s just say: I’d rather have Johnson than Ty Wigginton, Aaron Hill, Jemile Weeks, Dustin Ackley, Danny Espinosa, and many others.