Nick Johnson was amusingly tagged with the nickname “OBP Jesus” early in his career and has certainly earned the title in the years since then, ranking as one of just 10 active players with a .400 on-base percentage in at least 3,000 plate appearances:
Albert Pujols .427
Todd Helton .427
Lance Berkman .412
Manny Ramirez .411
Chipper Jones .406
Jason Giambi .405
Bobby Abreu .404
Jim Thome .404
NICK JOHNSON .402
Brian Giles .400
Particularly noteworthy about Johnson’s place in that amazing company is that he has both the lowest batting average and the least power in the group:
Albert Pujols .294 Albert Pujols .334
Jim Thome .280 Todd Helton .328
Manny Ramirez .278 Manny Ramirez .313
Lance Berkman .256 Chipper Jones .307
Jason Giambi .245 Lance Berkman .299
Todd Helton .239 Bobby Abreu .299
Chipper Jones .234 Brian Giles .291
Brian Giles .211 Jason Giambi .282
Bobby Abreu .194 Jim Thome .277
NICK JOHNSON .174 NICK JOHNSON .273
Getting on base at a .400 clip is a lot easier when you’re batting .300 and walking is a lot easier when pitchers are afraid to throw you strikes, yet Johnson has amassed a .402 OBP while hitting just .273 with a .173 Isolated Power (slugging percentage minus batting average) that’s barely above the MLB average of .160. If any of the great on-base threats of this era have truly drawn their walks it’s Johnson, whose walk rate ranks fourth among all active players behind sluggers Jim Thome, Adam Dunn, and Jason Giambi.
Now he’s back in New York, where as a Yankees prospect he had a .450 OBP in the minors and then got on base at a .376 clip through 248 games in the majors before being shipped to the then-Expos for Javier Vazquez. Johnson returns six years later, having posted a .412 OBP in 522 games while missing another 450 games with a never-ending list of injuries. And the man they call OBP Jesus will likely be doing his OBP’ing and walk-drawing directly in front of Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez. Good luck, pitchers.
Mariners’ right-hander Arquimedes Caminero is nearing a deal with the Yomiuri Giants of Nippon Professional Baseball, according to Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News Tribune. The club has reportedly agreed to sell the 29-year-old’s contract, Dutton writes, though no official move has been announced by either team yet. Caminero is under club control through 2020 and currently ineligible for arbitration.
The right-hander began the 2016 season with the Pirates but was sent to the Mariners in a trade for Seattle minor leaguers Jake Brentz and Pedro Vasquez in order to clear space in the Bucs’ bullpen. With the Mariners, Caminero produced a 3.66 ERA and 8.2 K/9 through 19 2/3 innings in the second half of the year. Although he boasts an electric fastball, one which consistently averaged 98.7 m.p.h. in 2016, his success rate has been tempered by poor control throughout his major league career. According to Dutton, the Mariners’ willingness to sell Caminero’s contract was a strong indication that they did not see him as a viable contender for their 2017 bullpen or as a potential trade chip further down the line.
Should the deal go through, the right-hander will be the second former Mariner to sign with a Japanese club for the 2017 season. Per Dutton’s report, outfielder Stefen Romero also picked up a contract with the Orix Buffaloes of NPB in late November.
During the Pirates’ FanFest on Saturday, right-hander Gerrit Cole announced that he is back up to full health after being shut down with elbow inflammation in September. Per Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, Cole said he’ll start a throwing program on Monday as he works on regaining his form for the 2017 season.
The 26-year-old pitched through 116 innings for the Pirates in 2016, delivering a 3.88 ERA and 2.5 WARP before landing on the disabled list in June with a triceps strain and again in August with elbow inflammation. It was a steep drop for the right-hander, who saw a considerable spike in his ERA and BB/9 rate and struggled to strike out batters at the 8.7 mark he managed in 2015.
The upside? Inflammation was the worst of Cole’s issues in 2016, and while the newfound health issues didn’t help his case for an extension, a more serious injury doesn’t appear to be on the horizon.