Ranking the NL East: Third Base

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Sep 26, 2014; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Atlanta Braves third baseman Chris Johnson (23) dives to knock down a ball before throwing for an out during the first inning of a game against the Philadelphia Phillies at Citizens Bank Park. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

#4 – Chris Johnson

Johnson’s defense improved last year, turning from a fairly awful third baseman to playable but with issues. In the four seasons that he’s played 100+ games in the Majors, he’s never once posted a season with a positive defensive rating. Well, at least he can hit really well.

Well, about that.

Last year was a down year for Johnson offensively as his OBP plummeted into the .290 range and his wRC+ came in at 82. He’s a Braves hitter through and through, though, striking out in 26% of his at-bats. His fWAR of 0.5 from last year is lower than his true ability, but I don’t think he’s the near three win player from 2013. 2012 when he hit .281/.326/.451 is closer to his true ability with an fWAR around 1.3.

Steamer isn’t as bullish on him. Projections have him coming in at .265/.304/.390 with nine home runs and an fWAR of 0.2. Well, at least he’s signed through 2018 at a reasonable enough rate that he’s not an albatross.

The team is transitioning, waiting on a run in 2016. This year they can see if the Johnson they were excited enough to buy out his arbitration years returns. Maybe he continues to improve defensively at third, and the team lives with the bat. He’ll play the next season at 30, so he’s probably already reached his peak.

Next: Number Three?