Welcome Back: The Resurgence of Vernon Wells, Kelly Johnson and Andruw Jones | The Golden Sombrero Baseball Blog | MLB, Fantasy, College & High School Baseball News

Welcome Back: The Resurgence of Vernon Wells, Kelly Johnson and Andruw Jones

May 3, 2010


There are a handful of players across Major League Baseball that are proving that their misfortunes and struggles from last year(and some even longer) are behind them.  For avid, fantasy enthusiasts like myself and the rest of the staff at The Golden Sombrero, the resurgence of many of these players may not be news.  Yet, to those not in an absurdly competitive, 16-team league, these once elite, ballplayers will continue to be unrecognized or disregarded to their involvement on a potentially non-contending team. Despite this notion, and also considering that most players are nearing 100 at-bats, Vernon Wells, Kelly Johnson and Andruw Jones’ immediate success cannot be ignored.  For these few players, it is important to dissect what has made them successful thus far and whether they might be able to maintain their current level of production.

Vernon Wells, OF Blue Jays
2010 Statistics: .330//385/.690 (1.075 OPS%)  21 R, 12 2B, 8 HR, 18 RBI, 1 SB
Like so many others, I was more than ready to write off Vernon Wells as a lost cause; another player who has been rendered irrelevant due to a weak Blue Jays’ offense and perpetual injuries.  Wells finished his 2009 campaign with a line of .260/.311/.400 that included 15 HR, 66 RBI and 17 SB, which, in reality, is not all that terrible.  However, he had set the bar high for himself with his 2003 season that included 33 HR and 117 RBI.  Is Wells capable of repeating such production? More so, can he surpass his previous career highs?  I believe that he will.  Wells has never struck out more than 90 times in a full season and has a career K/BB ratio of about 2, indicative that he consistently makes contact.  When you combine his knack for contact with the fact that he is generating a fly ball 53% of the time, I think Wells will almost certainly slug 33+ HRs.  At the same time, it will be nearly impossible for him to maintain his current 1.202 OPS% with runners in scoring position.  Similarly, the Blue Jays offense is likely to continue struggling throughout the year which means Wells might become a solo bomb machine. Barring any significant injury, I would expect Wells to finish the year with 95-105 RBI, which would rank as one of his best seasons.

Kelly Johnson, 2B Diamondbacks
2010 Statistics: .310/.404/.726 (1.130 OPS%) 17 R, 8 2B, 9 HR, 18 RBI, 1 SB
I haven’t talked to Rob about it yet, but I would guess that he is glad I’m touching upon Kelly Johnson’s resurgence with the Diamondbacks.  We both have always been KJ fans since he burst on the scene with the Braves in 2005, but could never quite grasp the reasons for his decline over the past two seasons. When receiving regular playing time, I have always seen great value in Johnson as both a big league 2b and as a fantasy player.  In 2007, Johnson posted a .832 OPS% that featured career highs in both home-runs(16) and walks(79) in 521 at-bats, stats that are indicative of the essence of his success.  Patience.  That year, Johnson lead the NL in walks among second-basemen and saw an impressive 4.12 pitchers/plate appearance(#P/PA).  This season, he is off to the best start of his career with a .310 BA, 9 HR, 18 RBI, 14 BB, 1 SB in 84 at-bats.  While Johnson has always been regarded as a streaky player, his performance thus far has been nothing short of consistent and I believe that he is in the midst of his career season.  In those 84 at-bats, he has seen an impressive 4.36 #P/PA, which ranks 5th in the MLB and 1st among second basemen.  If Johnson even remotely continues at this pace, he will undoubtedly set new career highs in most offensive categories.  My prediction: 21 HR and 80 RBI

Oh yeah, did I mention that he has a 1.277 OPS% against left-handed pitching this year?

*The other day, I read a fantastic, comprehensive article by the Capitol Avenue Club that details the intricacies of Kelly Johnson’s career.

Andruw Jones, OF White Sox
2010 Statistics:  .274/.400/.694 (1.094 OPS%)   13 R, 2 2B, 8 HR, 11 RBI, 4 SB
If you didn’t already know, I am a White Sox fan.  Having said that, the first month of the season has left me utterly disappointed and concerned about what’s to come.  There have been a few bright-spots in the White Sox lineup, but I doubt that anybody could have predicted that Andruw Jones would be one of them.  Jones has affixed himself in the middle of the White Sox order thanks to his 8 HR(2 multi-HR games) and 11 RBI in just 62 at-bats.  Even more impressive has been the un-Andruw-Jones-like, plate discipline that has resulted in his 12 BB compared to only 18 K.  We can’t be talking about the same Andruw Jones, right? Wrong.  Jones is seeing a career high 4.61 #P/PA which raises an important question: is he really capable of reinventing his offensive approach at this point in his career?  Since he burst onto the scene with Atlanta, Jones has never really seemed to want to adapt to the rest of the league.  Even in his darkest hour on the Dodgers, he seemed totally complacent and unwilling to reconfigure his swing and approach.  However, there is definitely something different about Jones this season compared to his stints with both the Dodgers and Rangers.  In addition to finally shedding some pounds, Jones just looks comfortable playing baseball again.  The White Sox seem to be a nice fit for the 33 year old and his early production will only merit an increase in his playing time.  As long as Jones doesn’t remember who he has been over the past couple seasons, I see him capable of hitting .260 with 30 HR, 85 RBI and 15+ SB.

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