There has been plenty of hype surrounding the Braves blockbuster trade that brought Justin Upton to Atlanta, and deservedly so, but overshadowed in the big names of the trade was third baseman Chris Johnson.
In a tied game against the Florida Marlins Tuesday night, with the bases loaded and two outs, Johnson hit a key double down the first base line to propel Atlanta to an 11-3 victory.
“It felt great, I was just trying to pick up the guys in front of me and I think that’s what comes with being a complete ball club,” said Johnson, who hit 3-for-4 in Tuesday’s game and finished the day with two doubles and two RBIs.
It has been exactly seven months since the Braves front office decided to trade away Martin Prado, Randall Delgado and a slew of prospects for Upton and Johnson. The results are just what Braves general manager Frank Wren expected from Johnson.
“I think what he has added and what we hoped he would add is a consistent and versatile right handed hitter,” Wren said. “I think anytime you’re involved in a trade that has players like Prado and Upton you’re looked at as the secondary piece of the deal, but [Johnson] has taken that and run with it and performed well since spring training.”
Right now Johnson is fourth in the N.L All-Star fan voting amongst third baseman, the only Brave in All-Star ballot contention besides Upton. With so many stars in the lineup, the All-Star voting polls comes as a bit of a surprise to Wren.
“I think it’s surprising a little bit when you look at all the big names we have on the team and the rising stars, but I think it’s great. He’s having a heck of a year,” Wren said.
Undoubtedly with high expectations and big shoes to fill after the departure of Chipper jones, Johnson has flourished in the role at third base and would be batting for a team-high .323 average if he had enough at-bats to qualify. He also has a team high 18 doubles.
“I think he has played great for us all year,” said Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez. “Chris Johnson has been given the opportunity to play every day and he’s doing fine.”
Johnson became an everyday starter when Atlanta traded away third baseman Juan Francisco for a minor-league pitcher and platoon-infielder Ramiro Pena went to the disabled list after undergoing surgery to repair a torn labrum in his right shoulder.
After the series opening win over the Marlins, the Braves extended its N.L. East Division lead to seven games and are peaking at the right time before the All-Star break.
Though Johnson doesn’t quite have the big name attraction of an Upton, Jason Heyward or Freddie Freeman, he is adding big name production to the lineup. With just a few days left for fans to vote for their prospective All-Star starters it wouldn’t be a surprise if Johnson squeaked into the rotation as an alternate. He’s having that kind of year.