The Giants started their offseason a little early, claiming speedy infielder/outfielder Micah Johnson off waivers from the Reds and adding him to the 40-man roster, with Tim Federowicz being designated for assignment to make room. Considering that he’s on the roster now, I’d give him good odds of calixting his way to the majors at some point.
So who is he?
The 26-year-old Johnson (he turns 27 before next season) was originally a 9th-round pick by the White Sox out of Indiana, and Baseball America ranked him as their 4th-best prospect as recently as 2015. He was traded to the Dodgers in the three-way deal that sent Todd Frazier to the White Sox before the 2016 season, and he was dealt to the Braves before the 2017 season for cash, which probably allowed the Dodgers to stay afloat for another month. He was primarily a second baseman in the minors before getting to Los Angeles, who turned him into a full-time outfielder.
Johnson can fly, apparently, stealing 84 bases in his first full season in the minors. He toned that down a little bit as he advanced, stealing just six bases in his 40 Triple-A games this year. His overall offensive production has dipped at each level of the minors, and he hasn’t done much in his brief time in the majors:
Class A: .341/.420/.524 (79 games)
Double-A: .317/.393/.437 (42 games)
Triple-A: .281/.341/.393 (303 games)
Majors: .224/.291/.259 (61 games)
Assuming that the new Giants hitting coach doesn’t have the magic dust to turn him into Justin Turner, a lot will depend on Johnson’s ability to a) play center and b) hit for average. It’s possible for him to do either one and still have value as a utility player, but it would ducky if he could do both, of course. My googling powers aren’t what they used to be, but it appears as if the scouting report on him usually contains words like “improving in center” and “coming along,” so I’m going to guess he’s not Kevin Kiermaier out there.
Still, this looks a little like the Orlando Calixte move from last year. Johnson can play multiple positions, and if he can hit just a little bit, he might have a spot on the Giants’ bench at one point.
My guess is that the fifth outfielder gig is going to be wide open in the spring, with Gorkys Hernandez getting competition from Calixte and Johnson, although the latter two probably aren’t as good defensively. I’m not sure if any of those three are the idea backup in a spacious AT&T Park — think Juan Perez, but with just a little more of a bat — but the Giants are collecting options. Johnson might not be the perfect fit, but he isn’t too far removed from prospect status. Considering that the Giants were unlikely to tender a contract to the arbitration-eligible Federowicz, this move makes sense.
Let’s just hope it’s not the most exciting move of the offseason.
Edit: Because I’m a dingbat, I forgot about the most important part: Johnson’s art.
Borderline impossible piece. But I'm determined to make this trippy piece perfect. pic.twitter.com/0boEd4PqaT— Micah Johnson (@Micah_Johnson3) October 23, 2017
He is a talented man in several respects, and I love it. Let’s hope we get a chance to see him baseball well because that would also mean we get to follow all of this other cool stuff, too.