Two years ago, fantasy owners looking for a sleeper second baseman (or, more accurately, a bounce-back candidate) may have taken a flyer on the Toronto Blue Jays’ Aaron Hill.  Those that did were rewarded handsomely, as he had a huge 2009 campaign:

682 AB, .286 average, 36 HR, 108 RBI, 103 R, 6 SB

Of course, those same owners felt bitter disappointment in 2010 when Hill followed up his impressive year with the following debacle:

528 AB, .205 average, 26 HR, 69 RBI, 70 R, 2 SB

We’ve already detailed what went wrong with Hill (click here to read), but the question is: Could another bounce back second baseman follow a similar path? 

Last season the Arizona Diamondbacks’ Kelly Johnson, who the Braves had thrown onto the scrap heap, had a huge year:

585 At Bats
.284 Batting Average (166 Hits)
26 Home Runs
71 RBI
93 Runs
13 Stolen Bases
.370 On Base Percentage
.496 Slugging Percentage
.339 Batting Average on Balls in Play

The comparison is not a perfect one, given the previous track record of Johnson, but the end-result could be the same.

Johnson had never shown the type of power he put on display in 2010. His previous career high was 16, set in 2007. He followed that up by hitting 20 HR combined in 2008 and 2009.

Is there a threat that Johnson takes his 2010 success and, while trying to top it, regress significantly? 

The fear should certainly be there. We saw it from Hill in 2010 as he went homer happy, posting a fly ball rate of 54.2 percent (after posting a 41.0 percent in 2009).

Last season Johnson posted a 38 percent fly ball mark and a 15.6 percent HR/FB. As it is, it is highly unlikely that Johnson repeats that HR/FB mark, which was by far his career high.  he only other time in his career that he eclipsed 10.3 percent was in 2005, when he had just 290 AB.

The BABIP was on the higher side, though he had shown that type of ability in the past (.328 in ’07, .340 in ’08). That’s not to say that it’s a given that he repeats it, however.  If that falls, as one would likely expect, and he can’t improve on his career worst strikeout rate (25.3 percent, though he has just about always been above 20 percent) his average is going to suffer.

A fall in average leads to a fall in OBP, which, in turn will likely lead to a fall in runs.  As you can see, it’s a snow ball effect.

I’m not going to say that it is a lock that Johnson has a crippling fall in production, much like Hill did. It would not be a surprise, however, to see him regress, with the threat of it being fairly significant.

The risk involved makes him a low-end option, at best, and more of a middle infielder in my book (I have him ranked at No. 12 in my most recent rankings, which you can view by clicking here). 

What about you? How would you rank Johnson?  Is he someone you would take as your starter?

**** Make sure to order your copy of the Rotoprofessor 2011 Fantasy Baseball Draft Guide, selling for just $5, by clicking here. ****

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