In Spring Training, no one is doing anything, so someone doing anything of note is worthy of a blog post. Someone doing something with actual stakes involved, well, why have we not already novelized Micah Johnson's first 28 plate appearances?
Johnson is ostensibly in a position battle for second base with Carlos Sanchez. He's not supposed to win it. Despite being roughly a year and a half older, he has not graduated to the majors like Sanchez, he is not on the 40-man roster like Sanchez, and in a dream projection for both, he has a higher ceiling than Sanchez that still needs to be developed. If we assumed either one would be a complete mess if they broke camp with the team in April, Sanchez would be the quieter, no-hit, sharp fielding, willing-to-bunt No. 9 guy that a manager would prefer over the disjointed bag of tools (speed, but no bat! range, but no hands!) Johnson would offer. Even sticking Emilio Bonifacio or Gordon Beckham there for a bit would probably be easier for the organization to swing than pushing everything aside to acknowledge he's the best bet.
But that's also a trio that could be really bad, so anyone with a pulse can't be dismissed. Johnson, hitting .458/.519/.708 is showing a pulse. Despite countless reports of how he causes "chaos" on the basepaths, he recorded his first "official" stolen base of the Spring the other day, mostly bringing his speed to the table to extend a couple of extra-base hits and giving the appearance of power to a game that's mostly been based on tracking and flipping balls into left field.
There's not a ton of natural pop in Johnson's game, so that's how he'll have to live much of the time, but also points out of his margin of error, and why him striking out in over 20% of his plate appearances even in his napalm hot, job-earning stretch of work that encompasses around five games of regular play, is a significant concern (Yes, Sanchez is even worse at the moment).
How long does Johnson need to stay hot to prove something? Forever. Or the whole Spring. He needs to beat the pants off the competition by a standard deviation or two, and look good and sustainable doing it. Johnson was last seen failing to put a charge into anything (.370 SLG) in Triple-A and ending the season on the disabled list. As refreshing as it is to see him healthy, the last reliable data on him showed him not ready for primetime, and it should take overwhelming info--especially this worthless Spring ball where even Jared Mitchell has looked frisky in the past--to push that aside.
And here we are, at the inevitable place where we're discussing Spring Training results and I have spent the second half of the post reiterating how meaningless it all is. We want to see more contact, showing the bat speed to turn around fastballs, not fumbling grounders, and we would want to see it very consistently. We probably won't! Which is ok, because we weren't meant to see anything of note, and have already had encouraging real things to associate with Johnson other than him speaking Spanish, or funny hot yoga anecdotes, or a standalone diving play.
The Sox are an organization that seems impulsive because they're not transparent about their motivations, so the chance of a random decision to break camp with Johnson always feels possible. If that's enough to force some compelling play from Johnson in the name of false drama, then why not embrace it? Micah probably can't do this, but it's more fun imagining that he can.
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