Roundtable on 2010 Roster - Johnson & Branyan

Well, a pseudo-roundtable, with Sandy's hard-earned insights and my off-the-cuff kibitzes :- )


=== Rob Johnson ===


The 10/10 eye from July vanished, (4/9 for August).  ... his July .810 OPS was phantom...  But, his August OPS (.696), could easily be his new BOTTOM end.  .267/.313/.383/.696 -- 1-HR, 4-2B.   ... BABIP = .300. 

... if he had slumped BACK to a .600 OPS in August, then you might write off July as just a random hot streak.  But a catcher who pitchers LOVE that can carry a .700 - .730 OPS is a major plus to any lineup ...

Based on his profile so far, there is every reason to believe he is ALREADY a .700 hitter, and also plenty of reason to believe he can improve on that.



Johnson does look like he's giving a "hard" 250/300/380 as the bottom end of his production. 

He's refusing to swing at balls outside the strike zone, and when he gets pitches in it, he's hitting them hard -- with a short path to the ball, a steady head, and natural strength.

He's hitting RHP much better than LHP for the year, meaning that he's not pulling a  "pad the numbers vs easy pitchers and get blown away by tough righties" syndrome.

Dan Wilson averaged an 80 OPS+ for his career, 95 OPS+ for his prime, and Johnson looks solid to do exactly that for 2010 .... 80 in a worse case, 95 in a better-case.  We've talked about Johnson's excellent feet on defense and the pitching staff obviously endorses him.

It's coming into decision time for the Mariners, and if I'm in their shoes, I'm pretty confident about penciling in a $500,000 Dan Wilson comp for 2010.

The M's are running the #1 ERA in the league right now, and Johnson's been a big part of that.  You can't really ask more from your catcher, than the ERA, the 80-95 OPS+, and the $500,000 salary.

Grade A- from a Moneyball standpoint, at catcher, for 2010-11.  You could win your next pennant with Rob Johnson as a part of the supporting cast, provided that you spend his cost savings impact-fully.


=== Russell Branyan ===


1B - Branyan -- the injury may be a blessing, suppressing his salary demands, and also potentially removing the leverage to land a multi-year deal.  A 1-year with a nice option wouldn't be bad at all, (especially with Ackley in the wings, hoping for a 2011 arrival).



Right, 2011 is a potential Branyan-for-Ackley baton handoff, from both player's points of view. 

... MC/DOV'ers have wondered about a 2010 ML splash for Ackley, whereas we've noted that his 2008 analogue Alvarez is still working on AA ball as we speak.

Granted that Alvarez doesn't have Ackley's HIT profile, but still, as Lonnie pointed out, a guy like Ackley is now going to a league where the WORST pitcher will be as good as an All-Star starter in the ACC.   If he hits well this winter, and dominates in the first few months of 2010, then he could conceivably be in AAA and pushing for a mid-summer 2010 job IF a hole exists at that time.


Rest and rehab can do wonders for a herniated disc, and with a full 6+ months to get right again, we don't doubt that Branyan will come out of the gate in 2010 mashing 20 homers in the first half.  Question will again be what happens at the 400-PA mark...


.250 / .345 / .520 - Branyan, 2009

.235 / .330 / .490 - Branyan, lifetime

60/150 - Branyan's EYE, 2009

60/175 - Branyan's EYE, 2010

128 - Branyan's park-adjusted OPS+, 2009

113 - Branyan's OPS+ before Safeco


It's clear what happened to Branyan in 2009:

(1) he got his chance to play every day, and

(2) his EYE improved some with the reps, and

(3) his AVG/OBP/SLG improved by one small notch, and

(4) he got a nice 10-15 point boost in OPS+ because he's perfect for Safeco, and

(5) Russ Branyan proved that, fulltime in Safeco, you can figure him for a 120-140 OPS+.


With his homers clearing the fence by 50-75 feet at a crack, and hitting LHP's well, he's no more a threat to conk out due to age than any other ML player is to have a bad season in 2010.   Worst reasonable case is that you might have to platoon him for 75-80% of games vs RHP's.

So Branyan's a legit MOTO hitter for 2010, feels like he owes the org, and another guy who will probably deliver a $5-10M profit on his salary.


Dr D



(Reportedly 448 feet off the one-and-only Brett Tomko)
If your best guess was that Jose Lopez would give you something like .270/.300/.450 and Bill Hall would give you something like .250/.315/.450, plus greater defensive flexibility, plus occasional monster power, wouldn't you have to think about moving Lopez for another piece of the puzzle?
Or do you go into 10 with a Lopez-Hall-Tui triangulation among 2b-3b?  Three RH guys who are likely to be streaky isn't the best time-share arrangement.  I'd rather have a LH with strong OBP, like a better version of Hannahan, in a mix like that.
Or do you put your chips on Lopez doing the age-26 magic?

Sandy - Raleigh's picture

I just don't get why so many people seem to be aching to dump Lopez. 
But fine.  A good GM should be willing to at least listen to offers for any player, (which includes Ichiro and Felix).  BUT, what is Lopez likely to bring?  Is he bringing a major league proven player with better offensive and defensive numbers?  If so ... why ... and how?!?
Wouldn't trading Lopez today be a near identical replay of trading Carlos Guillen in '03? 
At this point, there is ZERO reason to expect Tui to be an instant success in 2010.  He was a big surprise in ST, but then missed most of 2009 w/ injury.  Okay, "maybe" he steps in an posts an "adequate" .700 OPS.  *OR*, he does his best Wlad impression and struggles to stay over .600. 
Since returning from his latest family tragedy, Lopez is showing a CONSISTENT 200+ ISO.  He's already set a personal best in HRs, and is likely to set a new personal best in 2Bs and RBI before the season ends.  His season stats are suppressed due to a horrible start as he adapted to a club attempting to properly leverage his skills, instead of suppressing them.
While he average and OPS have fluctuated (as everyone's do), one interesting stat progression for Lopez on the season is his total base count by month:
28, 38, 45, 55, 59 ...
No, he's never going to be a great OBP guy.  But, the club NEEDS right-handed power among other things.  But, most of the imported RH power guys end up getting killed by Safeco.  Lopez GREW UP in the Safe.  No, he's not a perfect batter for Safeco, (no Righty is).  But, a lineup of 9 LHBs is just going to create a different set of problems. 
As for the current lineup wrangling ... you've gotta play with what's available on the day.  It doesn't matter whether Branyan or Beltre or Jack Wilson are out, every injury forces compromises.  I think it's a bit hasty to draw conclusions on the grand scheme for 2010 when final decisions on Branyan, Beltre, (and Jack Wilson), are well off in the distance.
Me?  I'd *LOVE* to have a 25-30 HR 2B on my roster, at a price of under 8 million for the next two seasons COMBINED.  His value DROPS if you move him to first or third.  And his defense CANNOT POSSIBLY be so bad that it drags the team down.  The Seattle team defense is #1 in DER in the AL by a wide margin.  The weakest link defensively was Yuni, and the club's DER has indeed gone up a bit since his departure.
Hall would be a fantastic McLemore clone --- assuming he buys into the idea.  But, Wilson is the guy I see as the most expendable, (he hasn't shown any offense, he's gotten hurt, and he's owed 8.4 million in 2010, but can be bought out for only 600k.)  You dump Wilson, and Hall becomes the obvious starter at short, (pending off-season moves by Z).
The big question marks for 2010 at this point are LF, DH and 3B.  These are ALL considered big-bat positions.  These have ALL been disappointing production areas for the team during 2009.  It's FAR more likely to be able to find an .800 OPS bat at LF, DH or 3B than it will be at second or short. 
Saunders has talent, yes.  But, what if Z goes out and signs ... Jason Bay?  Is anyone going to be screaming to give Saunders a spot then? 
Me?  I think Lopez could probably bring some nice prospects ... who might be ready in 2012 or 2013.  I'm personally against the idea of moving him to either corner just for the sake of moving him, because I think a .270/.300/.470 line may be his BOTTOM going forward, with a more likely middle of .280/.310/.500.  (And, of course, his stats are MASSIVELY suppressed this season by Safeco, meaning, if he moves to a hitters park, he could be posting an .850+ OPS next season and making all those who wanted to dump him wanting to slit their own wrists.
It's odd ... but Seattle is LUCKY they have been as bad as they've been for as long as they've been.  Because that gave them the luxury of allowing a kid who was rushed to the majors to mature into a man who is finally understanding how to do his job.  But when a club gets turned around and is competitive each year ... you no longer have the luxury of accepting a BUNCH of .650 years from your prospects.  You can deal with 1 struggling newbie per season, but he's gotta "get it" quickly, or he's gone.
Saunders, Tui, Carp, Ackley ... the club has come young talent which is intriguing.  But, if the club is winning 85 games and up, then they can't deal with 2 or 3 rookies posting rookie numbers, (or sophomores having sophomore slumps) at the same time.  Moving from 60 to 80 wins is TRIVIAL when compared to moving from 80 to 90.  For me, a 25-30 HR 2B at bargain basement prices is HIGHLY valuable to constructing a roster. 


At least...they're not MY best guesses. :)
My best guess on Lopez is .290/.320/.500 next year.  Because that's what he's hit since coming back from Berievement.
My best guess on Hall is .230/.290/.400 because he still strikes out too much to hit for a high average and it's not going to get easier at Safeco.


...a guy who can play every single position on the diamond at least passably and most of them at an above average ability defensively while having good power from the right side is important to have on the roster too.  The choices Hall is giving Zduriencik about what players he can add to the team, what trades he can consider, etc, are worth a LOT right at the moment.  Not only is Hall is valuable supersub in the here and now who would likely be overexposed if forced to start for a whole season...he's also a a straight in Yahtzee...or a Full House maybe...and we don't have to decide where to put him before we roll can play him in a wide variety of different ways on your roster card and that decision can be made at any time.
There's no reason at all to trade Lopez when it devalues your supersub.


I'm not looking to get rid of Lopez, I was just wondering if Lopez + Hall + (rookie) Tui is the best configuration of chess pieces, collectively.  I totally agree that all 3 are individual good values at what they'll cost.
How about my other question: does Nick Hill project to slide onto the French-Olson-Vargas LH waiting list when he's ready, or leapfrog over it?

Taro's picture

I think it really depends on what you think you can get back in return for Lopez. As a a guy thats going to hit 20-25 HRs this season at 2B IN SAFECO he could be pretty intriguing to another club with more favorable dimension for Lopez's swing (and not too focused on OBP).
This is probably going to be a career high for him HR-wise in Safeco. You have to also consider Lopez's lousy OBP along with the good SLG, the high number of DPs (20 this year) and the likelyhood of Lopez not aging well defensively at 2B.
I think 15-20 HRs is much more likely in '10 than 25-30 HR considering Lopez's lack of raw power and career highs in ISoP and HR/FB this year. Even so I'd be pretty intrigued with Lopez at 3B. I think he profiles there MUCH better than at 2B defensively.
For me it depends on what kind of return you can get for Lopez.  Here you have a league-average 2B at bargain prices, but whose stock is probably at its high point. Will kind of talent would teams be willing to give up for him?

Taro's picture

Tui has been K'ing a lot recently... I like him a ton, but he might need another year at AAA.
I think the biggest problem with trading Lopez is that now you're stuck with finding TWO players this offseason for 3B+2B. You'd need to really wheel and deal to make things fit (although I'd to see what Z could get for Lopez).
I like Hannahan+Hall, and they could probably platoon at one of those spots and be pretty productive. Still, you have to also really like the kind of flexibility they give you on the bench as well.
We'll see what Z has up his sleaves. I wouldn't mind a back-up plan of Hannahan+Hall at 2B and Lopez at 3B either, as long as mashers are added at Lf (Seth Smith..please trade for him), 1B (probably Branyan again), and DH (Thome or Delgado maybe).

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