Braves sign Kelly Johnson to minor league contract

Five years and six organizations later, former Braves second baseman Kelly Johnson is back, albeit in a different role.

Johnson, who’ll turn 33 next month, signed a minor league contract that includes an invitation to spring training, where he’ll compete for a bench job. He hit .215 with a .296 OBP and seven homers in 297 plate appearances last season with the Yankees, Red Sox and Orioles and played four positions — three in the infield and left field.

A first-round draft pick by the Braves in 2000, Johnson has a .250 average and .333 OBP with 131 home runs in 1,157 games over nine seasons, including four with Atlanta through 2009. He’s had six seasons with 16 or more homers, most recently in 2013 when he batted .235 with 16 homers in 407 plate appearances with Tampa Bay.

He came up as a left fielder on the rookie-laden “Baby Braves” team in 2005, a team that featured rookies Brian McCann and Jeff Francouer. After missing the 2006 season recovering from Tommy John elbow surgery, Johnson switched to second base and hit .276 with 52 extra-base hits (16 homers) and 68 RBIs in 147 games in 2007, his first full season.

In 2008 he hit a career-high .287 with 57 extra-base hits, including 39 doubles, which also remains a career best.

His finest season came with Arizona in 2010, when Johnson had 67 extra-base hits, including a career-high 26 homers while hitting .284 with an .865 OPS in 154 games.

Last year he played some at first base, second base, third base and left field, and all but 44 of his plate appearances came against right-handers. He hit .220 with 18 extra-base hits (six homers) and a .653 OPS against righties, and .184 with four extra-base hits and a .690 OPS against lefties.

About the Author