The Atlanta Braves signed former first-round draft pick Kelly Johnson to a minor league deal with an invite to big league camp.
Johnson, 32, is coming off the worst season of his career where he hit .215/.296/.362 with 14 doubles, seven home runs, and 27 RBI in 106 games split between the Yankees, Red Sox, and Orioles.
It’s debatable how much Johnson has left in the tank after back-to-back dismal seasons, but Atlanta will give him an opportunity to win a super utility role in spring training if he’s able to find a spark with his bat.
Johnson is a few years removed from being one of the game’s better power threats at second base; from 2010 and 2012, Johnson averaged 27 doubles, 21 home runs, 61 RBI, and 14 stolen bases while posting an aggregate .245/.330/.428 batting line.
He’s long been a flawed player and his productivity has fallen off considerably over the past two seasons, but he’s a reliable defender at second base and has spent time at first base, third base, left field, and right field in recent seasons, adding to his value as a bench option.
Johnson was the 38th overall pick for the Braves in the 2000 amateur draft and he made his big league debut with the club in 2005 as a left fielder. A spring elbow injury and eventual Tommy John surgery cost Johnson the entire 2006 season.
He returned to the Majors in 2007 as a newly-minted second baseman and was a regular in Atlanta for the next two seasons before losing playing time in 2009 and departing as a free agent that winter.
The veteran has bounced around considerably since then, spending time in Arizona, Toronto, Tampa Bay, New York, Boston, and Baltimore.
A glance at the Braves projected depth chart doesn’t make it entirely clear if he has a path to regular playing time, but the Braves don’t expect to contend next season, so there’s zero reason not to give him regular at-bats if he has a big spring.
Despite his recent decline, Johnson still figures to be a nice addition to a very depleted club due to his power potential and versatility in the field.