The New York Yankees drafted seventeen year old Nick Johnson with their third pick in the 1996 amateur draft. In 2001 he finally broke in with the big league club and, in 2003, he helped carry them to a World Series appearance. The Yanks lost that year and Johnson saw himself traded to the Expos. He was packaged with Randy Choate and Juan Rivera to acquire young flame thrower Javier Vazquez. The trade was a no brainer for a Yankees rotation that needed to replace Andy Pettitte, David Wells, and Roger Clemens.
His 1999 season with the Norwich Navigators left scouts in the organization patting themselves on the back, and for good reason: Johnson batted .345, with 33 doubles, 123 walks, and a .525 OBP. Despite these numbers, Johnson never blossomed offensively like the Yankees hoped he would during his three year stint in the Bronx. He battled injuries and a log jam at first base between Tino Martinez and Jason Giambi.
The injury bug followed Johnson to the Expos and then moved with him, and the team, to our nations capital. He couldn’t even shake the bug in sunny Florida when he was traded to the Marlins. It seems Johnson cannot stay healthy. Period.
In 2009, he finished 2nd in the National League with a .426 OBP which sparked the interest of Brian Cashman who dealt Johnson seven seasons prior. The Yankees GM and Johnny Damon’s agent were playing a tug-of-war which, in the end, landed Nick Johnson and his family a 5.5MM contract for 2010. (Nick has earned over 22MM in his nine year career)
Joe Girardi plans on penciling in Nick’s name between the captain and Mark Teixeira. Every once in awhile you can expect Girardi to jot down Johnson’s name as first baseman as he has an extremely good glove at first. The Yankees plan for Johnson in 2010 is simple: Get him on base and make the pitcher work in the process.
The quest for World Championship number 28 has begun and the Yankees have a record of 3-2. In those five games Nick has two hits and six strikeouts. Don’t let those strikeouts fool you: He is leading the league with 6 base on balls and a .400 OBP. In game two of the season he worked out a bases loaded walk against the Red Sox that propelled the Yankees to their first win of 2010.
Every at-bat, pitchers and catchers around the league have to over think location and pitch selection. If it’s not a strike, Johnson isn’t swinging and he has a present day murderer’s row behind him consisting of Teixeira, A-rod, and Cano who will have him running the bases and scoring all season long every time he works out a walk.
Jay Ferraro is the Executive Producer of Baseball Digest LIVE and Gotham Baseball LIVE. He is also the Fantasy Editor for Baseballdigest.com as well as a columnist for Baseball Digest Magazine and Gothambaseball.com. You can reach him at Jay_Ferraro@Juno.com , follow him on Twitter and add him on Facebook.
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