Fantasy Baseball: Braves’ Chris Johnson Sneaky Stat

What could not have been expected is the 2013 season that Atlanta third baseman Chris Johnson is enjoying.

Johnson was only half of the platoon that was tasked with replacing legend Chipper Jones at third base as recently as early June. He was handed the job full-time on June 3, when Juan Francisco was traded to Milwaukee, and he has done his best Chipper impression at the plate since.

After hitting a more-than-acceptable .323 through the first three months of the season, Johnson raked to the tune of a .381/.404/.476 line in July. That hot streak led to this double-take-inducing tweet from Buster Olney on July 29. On that day, 28-year old career journeyman Chris Johnson jumped into the lead in the NL batting race, a lead he continues to hold more than a week later.

Johnson has spent the majority of his career shifting between the majors and Triple-A and his first full big league season came last year when he hit .281 with the Diamondbacks and Braves. Given this history, it is fair for fantasy owners to wonder whether the third baseman has truly turned a corner or is simply playing with an incredible hot hand.

As usual, the numbers say the answer lies somewhere in the middle. Johnson is currently hitting a ridiculously high .425 on balls in play this season, which puts him among the league leaders in that category.

That number alone would usually be enough to dismiss his 2013 campaign as an aberration. However, Johnson’s career BABIP is actually .365 so when he inevitably regresses, his average won’t fall as far as hitter’s with a league-average BABIP would.

It is likely that, despite some drop off in BABIP as the season progresses, Johnson will remain a solid hitter in the .280-.290 range as long as he gets regular at-bats. Obviously, this is nowhere near batting title material, so Johnson is still probably a sell-high player at this point.

I recommend that his fantasy owners use his current spot atop the NL hitting leaderboard to try and swing a trade for a proven player with a some more pop (Johnson only has seven home runs this season). It could be the difference for your team down the stretch.

Dylan Sinn is a freelance contributor for CraveOnline Sports. You can follow him on Twitter @DylanSinn or subscribe at Facebook.com/CraveOnlineSports.

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