Thursday, January 27, 2011

Rays Slugger Dan Johnson Snubbed by Experts

Two of the first three 2011 MLB fantasy magazines -- rushed into print some two weeks before the Superbowl -- have seemingly deemed Tampa Bay Rays slugger Dan Johnson as to be unworthy of a thumbnail biographical analysis or annual statistical projection.

Both the Sporting News Fantasy Baseball and the Yahoo Fantasy Baseball annuals turn their attentions to the Johnsons Chris and Kelly and even part-timer Nick, but Dan Johnson is left out in the cold, even though he is widely projected to open the season as the Rays starting first baseman.

Johnson -- the erstwhile top prospect from the Athletics organization who has stumbled in a a number of manifestations including one with the Twins -- found his way into a handful of games for the Rays last year, batting .198 with seven homers.

With the departure last year's starter Carlos Pena to the Cubs, Johnson seems to have -- for the time being -- blundered into yet another chance to live up to the sky-high potential envisioned for him nearly a decade ago.

To be fair, Johnson has generally been regarded as having a good eye at the plate, ability to hit for power and possessing a measure of skill around the bag. But a number of injuries and other setbacks so far have robbed him of what might have been a promising career.

Whether Johnson's omission from the Sporting News and Yahoo is the result of design or inadvertence, at 33 Johnson would do well to read the writing on the wall, or lack of it, if he expects another opportunity such as the one the Rays are giving him this year -- assuming he doesn't blow it in spring training, or isn't relegated to the bench as the result of a free agent acquisition or other personnel change.

As it looks in the early stages, all Johnson has to do is hold off Cuban exile Leslie Anderson, who brings a fine pedigree to the states from his imprisoned Caribbean outpost. Even with little other professional experience, let alone major league time, Anderson may yet prove to be too strong a challenge for Johnson, given Johnson's perennial shortcomings and just plain bad luck.

Meanwhile, print lovers who wish to read about Johnson more expansively might do well to instead try RFP's 2011 Fantasy Baseball Guide.