Braves third baseman Chris Johnson will go on the disabled list with a fractured left hand, MLB.com’s Mark Bowman reports on Twitter. Top prospect Michael Foltynewicz will take his roster spot to make his first big league start after picking up 16 relief appearances last year.
Johnson, 30, has not been forced to the DL since a short stint back in 2010. And he continues to produce an excellent batting average, hitting right in the range of his career mark this season.
Of course, the issue with Johnson has never been his ability to generate hits; it has been his inability to consistently hit for power or reach base by other methods, combined with substandard defense. His career slash stands at .283/.319/.418, right at the league average. But by measure of wins above replacement, he has produced less than a full total win in over 2,500 turns at bat. This year, likewise, Johnson currently owns a sub-replacement level mark (by measure of Baseball-Reference) in spite of a sturdy-enough .286/.340/.381 line.
His best season, of course, came in 2013, when he turned from a bit piece in the Justin Upton trade to a highly productive regular. Somewhat unfortunately for Atlanta, that coincided with the team’s aggressive push to lock up multiple players to extensions. Of the deals signed, only Johnson’s really looked bad from the early going. The three-year, $23.5MM pact kicked in this year, leaving Atlanta on the hook for $17.5MM (including a 2018 option buyout) in 2016-17.
Johnson has worked in a timeshare this season, as Alberto Callaspo, Kelly Johnson, and Phil Gosselin have all seen time at the hot corner. While that means that the Braves have plenty of options to fill in for Johnson, the club surely hopes that he will be as productive and healthy as possible given his contract. Even if the team can’t stay in the race this year, it would surely like to find a taker for some of Johnson’s contract.
As for Foltynewicz, a 23-year-old righty, Atlanta will get a chance to see one of the key pieces it acquired in the winter’s Evan Gattis trade. He is off to a strong start at Triple-A, allowing just five earned in 21 2/3 frames while posting 12.5 K/9 against 4.2 BB/9. The Braves will surely give him every chance to succeed as a starter, though some believe his future will be in the late innings as a reliever. Foltynewicz was a consensus top-100 prospect last year, though his stock slid somewhat after an unproductive 2014. MLB.com does still list him as the game’s 78th overall prospect.