When it comes to Nick Johnson, using the “if healthy” caveat makes anything that follows sound sort of silly, but manager Buck Showalter indicated yesterday that the perpetually injured first baseman is likely to make the Orioles out of spring training … if healthy.
“I think he brings some things that I’d really like to have our guys feed off of with some of the on-base percentage and deep counts,” Showalter told Eduardo Encina of the Baltimore Sun.
Johnson is one of just 10 active hitters with at least 2,500 career plate appearances and an on-base percentage above .400, and the other nine guys on the list have all been superstars: Todd Helton, Albert Pujols, Manny Ramirez, Lance Berkman, Joey Votto, Jason Giambi, Joe Mauer, Jim Thome, Chipper Jones.
Of course, the problem with Johnson is that he’s 33 years old and has a total of just 3,214 plate appearances. He also hasn’t been healthy since 2009, when he batted 574 times for the Nationals, walked more (99) than he struck out (84), and got on base at a .426 clip to rank second among NL hitters.
At this point I’d certainly bet against Johnson being healthy and staying healthy, but if he can somehow manage to avoid the disabled list I’d also bet on him posting an excellent on-base percentage. Getting hurt and getting on base are simply what he does.
The Reds announced on Thursday that the protective netting at Great American Ball Park will be extended to the end of each dugout in time for Opening Day next season. The press release notes that the current netting meets Major League Baseball’s guidelines and the new netting will go beyond those standards.
The netting “debate” came back on Wednesday when a young fan was struck in the face by a foul ball at Yankee Stadium. The Yankees have done about the bare minimum in installing protective netting, which rightly earned them criticism. Brian Dozier, Todd Frazier, and Didi Gregorius each said yesterday that the netting should be extended. Other teams and Major League Baseball in general received criticism. Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports, for example, said the relative lack of action on MLB’s part is “morally repugnant.”
Zach Buchanan of the Cincinnati Enquirer notes that the Reds had already had this idea prior to Wednesday’s incident at Yankee Stadium.
Orioles third baseman Manny Machado will become eligible for free agency after the 2018 season and is likely to get a windfall. The club, however, isn’t expected to pursue trading their star at the hot corner this offseason, according to Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports.
Machado, 25, has been one of baseball’s best players since debuting in 2012. He had a slow start to the 2017 season, seeing his OPS nearly drop below .700 in early July, but a strong second half has made his overall numbers more than respectable. Machado is batting .264/.318/.484 with 32 home runs and 92 RBI in 651 plate appearances while playing Gold Glove-caliber defense at third base.
Just because the Orioles don’t plan to move Machado this offseason doesn’t mean they won’t try to recoup some value ahead of next year’s non-waiver trade deadline. According to Heyman, a person involved with the Orioles said, “It would take us 35 years to find another player like him.”