Brad Mills has declared Jimmy Paredes as his starting 3B going into the 2012 season. That leaves Chris Johnson on the outside looking in. I’ve already gone on record saying that I believe Johnson should be the starter at third. Don’t get me wrong. I like Paredes as a prospect, but I don’t think 3B is his best position. Actually, the same could be said about Johnson. His wild throws from the hot corner would suggest that Chris is better suited for 1B.
Although his strikeout rate is alarmingly high, Johnson has shown decent power. If he can cut down on the whiffs Johnson could develop into a serviceable run producer capable of holding down a corner infield or DH position. Everyone seems to be ready to give up on Johnson, but I still believe he has the potential to bounce back from a tough 2011 season. Johnson could take his game to the next level if he can learn to lay off breaking pitches that are out of the strike zone.
Johnson has the baseball lineage. His dad was a big league player as well as a coach. So Chris has been around the game for his entire life. That has to count for something, right? Of course, I said the same thing about Daryle Ward. Around the turn of the millenium the Astros were forced to choose between Lance Berkman and Ward, the son of former big-leaguer Gary Ward. Fortuanately, the Astros chose to stick with Berkman. I would have gone with Ward. Okay, I was wrong that time, but this time is gonna be different.
Certainly Johnson doesn’t fit the moneyball mold that the new regime is looking for. But that can be said about the majority of the players on the current roster. The team will need to score plenty of runs to win games this season and Johnson is one of the few legitimate power threats. Paredes may develop into a power threat, but could also benefit from more time in the minors. Paredes skipped AAA entirely and has a career minor league OPS of only .717. Johnson had an impressive .818 OPS with the Astros in 2010.
At 27 years of age Johnson could be entering his most productive years. I think it would be a waste to turn him into a bench player in favor of a 23 year-old youngster who has yet to play at AAA. I think Johnson deserves at least one more chance. Look how many chances J.R. Towles got.