Dan Johnson, perpetually bouncing back and forth from Triple-A to the majors, is now in the big leagues again with the Blue Jays.
Toronto placed Adam Lind on the disabled list with a broken foot and called up Johnson, the 34-year-old first baseman/journeyman/Rays hero who was hitting .248 with 17 homers, more walks (79) than strikeouts (69), and an .873 OPS in 94 games at Triple-A.
This will be Johnson’s fifth MLB team, compared to 11 seasons at Triple-A and 13 total seasons in the minors. He’s got a lifetime .747 OPS in the big leagues, which is almost exactly average, and … well, he just seems like someone to root for, really.
Hunter Pence was thought to be on his way to retirement after a lackluster 2018 season with the Giants. As he entered his mid-30’s, Pence spent a considerable amount of time on the injured list, playing in 389 out of 648 possible regular season games with the Giants from 2015-18.
Pence, however, kept his career going, inking a minor league deal with the Rangers in February. He performed very well in spring training, earning a spot on the Opening Day roster. Pence hasn’t stopped hitting.
Entering Monday night’s game against the Mariners, Pence was batting .299/.358/.619 with eight home runs and 28 RBI in 109 plate appearances, mostly as a DH. Statcast agrees that Pence has been mashing the ball. He has an average exit velocity of 93.3 MPH this season, which would obliterate his marks in each of the previous four seasons since Statcast became a thing. His career average exit velocity is 89.8 MPH. He has “barreled” the ball 10.4 percent of the time, well above his 6.2 percent average.
What Pence did to a baseball in the seventh inning of Monday’s game, then, shouldn’t come as a surprise.
That’s No. 9 on the year for Pence. Statcast measured it at 449 feet and 108.3 MPH off the bat. Not only is Pence not retired, he may be a lucrative trade chip for the Rangers leading up to the trade deadline at the end of July.