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MLB’s One-Season Wonders: Kelly Johnson and 2010

Kelly
(Dilip Vishwanat / Getty Images)

MLB’s One-Season Wonders: Kelly Johnson and 2010

Back when Kelly Johnson played, he had a reputation as somewhat of a utility journeyman. He was dependable, yet never claimed star status. He almost reached it though during his great 2010 season with the Arizona Diamondbacks, though.

Before 2010

The Braves were very highly set on Johnson early on. The team drafted him right out of high school in the first round (38th overall) of the 2000 draft. It was looking like he could be a star in the making.

Johnson steadily ascended through the levels of the Minors, finally arriving in Atlanta in 2005. He received a lot of playing time in left field due to the Braves being incredibly injury-stricken.

Unfortunately, Johnson suffered a season-ending elbow injury the following season. Upon his return, the Braves decided to make him the everyday second baseman.

Johnson played solidly too for the next few years but never was the best hitter on the team. From 2005-09, Johnson slashed .264/.346/.431 across 1902 plate appearances with a 103 OPS+. Solid, but nothing to write home about.

2010

At the end of the 2009 season, Johnson became a free agent. He wound up signing a one-year, $2.35 million deal. Turns out the Diamondbacks had a steal of a deal.

The second baseman torched the baseball right off the bat. Johnson won NL Player of the Month in April after hitting nine homers and posting a .750 slugging percentage. A few months later, he hit for the cycle against the Giants.

At season’s end, he posted a slash of .284/.370/.496 with an OPS+ of 127. He hit 26 home runs, and 36 doubles and scored 93 runs. Johnson’s WAR was also a very respectable 4.3. He finished ninth in walks and tenth in extra-base hits and was arguably the best hitter on that Arizona team.

Tragically, Johnson didn’t receive any MVP votes, nor did he appear in that year’s All-Star Game. It’s quite interesting because he statistically was one of the top second basemen in all of baseball that year.

After 2010

Following this remarkable season, Johnson seemed to bounce around the league a bit. He played for the Blue Jays, Rays, Yankees, Red Sox, Atlanta again and the Mets all within a span of six years.

Sadly, his numbers never quite matched his 2010 season during that stretch. His combined slash sat at .233/.307/.396 with an OPS+ of 92. Johnson’s WAR from 2011-16 accumulated to 4.8 — just a tick above his total for the entire 2010 season.

The reason for the drop-off was a combination of things. His groin gave him issues through the years accompanied by brutal slumps. His saving grace was the fact he was able to play multiple infield and corner outfield positions.

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