San Diego Padres: Erik Johnson Return to Minors is Good News

Right-handed pitcher Erik Johnson has reportedly signed a minor league contract with the San Diego Padres. Though not a move which will get loads of attention, this deal is encouraging for several reasons.

The San Diego Padres are thin when it comes to pitching depth, to say the least. Earlier in the offseason, right-hander Erik Johnson was ruled out for 2017 after having Tommy John surgery. His injury was just one of several which has depleted an already struggling group.

Also, 2016’s staff includes three free agents, Clayton Richard, Edwin Jackson, and Tyson Ross. If even two of these depart, the Padres will enter 2017 with serious rotation depth pitching.

But it isn’t just 2017 that general manager A.J. Preller and the Padres are preparing for. Realizing that this coming season will not be the most promising for the club, looking beyond is significant.

So while the recent news which suggests that the Padres are bringing Johnson back to a minor league contract will go under the radar, it is a positive for the team’s future depth.

Despite Johnson’s struggles in 2016, his major league career as a whole is often disregarded. With the Chicago White Sox in 2013 and 2015, Johnson finished with a winning record and a 3.25 and 3.34 ERA.

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The seasons in which he struggled statistically were also seasons in which there is a smaller sample size to analyze his abilities. For example, Johnson only started four games last season for San Diego, logging 19 and 2/3 innings. This obviously isn’t enough to get a good feel for what the 26-year-old is capable of. Yet somehow, many fans see his 9.15 ERA and automatically rule him out.

What does give fans a good feel for what Johnson can accomplish is his consistency when given the opportunity and effective sequence of pitches when he gets rolling. So, like many players, patience is key, and finding the right circumstances for Johnson to thrive in is what is most important.

Injuries are definitely a concern, but there are few players who this doesn’t impact. All in all, there is no guarantee Johnson will become a valuable asset at the major league level, but the depth he provides in the minors is beneficial.

Once again, this is an example of a low risk, high reward signing. It won’t cost the team much, and it could pay off. Maybe in 2018 when Erik Johnson is expected to return, the Padres will find one of the diamonds in the rough that they so desperately need.

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