Nick Johnson: NL Comeback Player of the Year?

Nationals 1B Dmitri Young won NL Comeback Player of the Year in 2007. Young was coming off of a 2006 season riddled by substance abuse issues and weight problems that got him cut from the Detroit Tigers. He also learned that he had diabetes. 2007 was a different story for Young when he started at first base for Washington, batting .320 with 13 homers while playing in 136 games, the most he had played in since 2003. He earned his second All-Star trip for his performance. Young’s 2007 was a great story, but it appears to have come to a quick end when Nationals manager Manny Acta announced that 1B Nick Johnson would be starting this season. Johnson missed all of 2007 with a broken femur resulting from a collision on defense. In his last full season, 2006, Johnson had a career year batting .290 with an impressive .428 OBP. His 110 BB were tied for fifth in MLB. The position battle for first base was close this spring. Johnson was able to pull away however, with a .308 spring BA playing in more games than Dmitri. Young did not help his cause when he showed up to camp at a whopping 298 pounds.

The season is still very young, but the Nationals are 2-0 and Johnson is off to a hot start. Johnson is 3-7 so far with two RBI and has a .500 OBP in the cleanup spot. Johnson will garner some recognition this season and could make his first All-Star game. He has an exceptional eye that gets him on base a lot and forces pitchers to throw him more pitches they would like to. Johnson also brings some power to a Nationals lineup that finished last in the NL with 123 home runs. Acta would have had a much more difficult decision about the battle at first if Dmitri Young would have shown up under 280 pounds. On the bright side, the Nationals now have a great surplus of talent at first base.

I am disappointed that Young lost his starting spot because I enjoyed watching him when he played in Detroit. Despite the demons he fought and continues to fight off the field, he is a fun player to watch (ie. the arm flap when he hits a homer), and is a superior hitter. Hopefully he can either produce in a reduced role from the Nationals bench, or perhaps find himself part of a trade. If the latter happens, I see him going back to the AL where he can DH. At his elevated weight these days, I cannot picture him being anything but a liability in the field.

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One Comment on “Nick Johnson: NL Comeback Player of the Year?”

  1. Phil (ugueth urbina is burning) Says:

    good god nick johnson looks like crap


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