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Over/Under 2021 Preview: Daniel Johnson

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Will Daniel Johnson be worth more or less than -0.2 fWAR in 2021?

Cleveland Indians Summer Workouts Photo by Ron Schwane/Getty Images

Based on ZiPS projections, Daniel Johnson is expected to finish 2021 with the following stats:

487 PA, 14 HR, 11 SB, 6.4 BB%, 27.3 BB%, .235/.292/.395, 74 wRC+, -0.2 fWAR

Read what our writers think, then vote in the poll below and drop your own opinions in the comments and on the Let’s Go Tribe Discord.

Chris D. Davies’s Prediction: OVER

The only reason Daniel Johnson should not produce in 2021 is Terry Francona’s mismanagement.

Now, the fact that the team is still acquiring middling, replacement-level guys like Ben Gamel and Billy Hamilton is probably a good argument for the under, but Cleveland employs many smart people and at some point, they have to dictate that the team see what they have in their young talent (right?!).

And in DJ, I truly believe there’s a good skillset here. Johnson can flat out fly, as evidenced by his 70-grade speed and he pairs that with decent power, which was rated at 55 by FanGraphs. At every stop in the minors, he’s used those skills to his advantage. In his last full minor league season, split between Double-A and Triple-A in 2019, he had ISO of .281 and .190, respectively. While there’s bound to be an adjustment to the majors, I think betting on him having an ISO better than the projected .160 is easy.

If anyone is helped by a deadened ball in the Cleveland system, it might be Johnson, too. With his speed, any ball that finds a gap is a double. And in the minors he showed a good ability to spray the ball around, every year hitting at least 29% to the opposite field. On the other side of the ball, if hits aren’t carrying out of the stadium Johnson has a good chance of tracking them down.

Not to make Matt’s argument for him, but I truly believe the only thing holding DJ back is lack of opportunities. So I’m hammering the over on him this year.

Matt Schlichting’s Prediction: UNDER

I want to go ahead and start with a quote from Keith Law’s article that detailed Cleveland’s system. It’s on the Athletic and it requires a subscription, but I think his piece on Johnson is a great way to frame my explanation for why I’m taking the under (again):

Outfielder Daniel Johnson got a cup of coffee last season, with 12 PA, all against right-handed pitchers; he could be a platoon outfielder or extra guy, with interesting power/speed from the left side but not enough pitch recognition to get to everyday status.

I have reason to believe that Gage Will’s (@GageEHC on Twitter) call to #LetDJSpin may go unheeded. We have discussed the backlog of outfielders in Cleveland at length throughout this series; now, we must contend with the addition of Ben Gamel and Billy Hamilton in spring training.

Johnson needs plate appearances to prove his worth at the major league level. At age 23, he slashed .306/.321/.496 in 380 PAs at Triple-A Columbus, but with a BABIP of .370.

When called up last year he had a slash of .083/.154/.083 (!) in 13 PAs (ok) with a BABIP of .143.

The real Daniel Johnson is clearly somewhere in between, but the uncertainty keeps everything from Quad-A All-Star to Dependable Everyday CF in play.

My bet, unfortunately, is that he just doesn’t get an opportunity this year. Zimmer, Hamilton, and Mercado will crowd him out in center field because his glove won’t be judged as well — Rosario, Jones, Luplow, and others may keep him from seeing time in the corners.

I see this situation somewhat like Bobby Bradley’s. If he doesn’t come up hot and stay that way, I just don’t know if he sees enough time. That’s kind of the trouble with this under bet, too — it’s hard to get below -0.2 fWAR in limited time.

He’s done it before, though. Remember those 13 plate appearances last year? They were worth -0.3 fWAR.

Poll

Will Daniel Johnson finish 2021 with an fWAR over or under -0.2?

This poll is closed

  • 77%
    Over
    (102 votes)
  • 22%
    Under
    (29 votes)
131 votes total Vote Now