An interesting situation is developing in Durham, that is worth keeping an eye on…
Dan Johnson has started the last two games for the Durham Bulls at third base. Johnson, who leads the International League in OBP (.422) and OPS (.969), has only played first base and DH since being drafted in 2001 by the A’s. Joel Guzman, the Bulls regular third baseman started both games at shortstop, a position he played exclusively his first three years as a pro in the Dodgers organization.
There is no official word as to why the move was made. Was the move done to make Johnson a third baseman, to return Guzman to shortstop or both? Reid Brignac is on the DL, and Guzman could be filling that vacancy. But the Bulls also have Ronnie Merrill, recently promoted from Montgomery and Elliot Johnson as two players better suited to play SS.
Johnson has shown signs he can be a decent major league hitter, with a career .344 OBP in 318 games, but many feel he does not hit well enough to be an everyday first baseman or DH, and he does not have enough positional flexibility to be a bench player in the majors.
With Evan Longoria on the DL and Willy Aybar filling in for the next few weeks at third base, adding the hot corner to Johnson’s resume could make him more attractive to Joe Maddon as a bench option and spot-starter.
Also, a successful return to SS for Guzman, could give Maddon a better defensive backup at that position in the majors. Guzman has always shown strong defensive abilities, even at SS, despite being 6’6″. He is hitting .248-19-68 (.277 OBP) in 111 games. Guzman has immense power, but has never developed command of the strikezone. This season he has 100 strikeouts and only 19 walks.
Complicating matters is the roster status of both players. Johnson is not on the 40-man roster. If Andrew Friedman does decide to promote Johnson, somebody would have to be removed from the roster. Of course, Friedman may also be attempting to increase the trade value of Johnson who would not have to clear waivers. As for Guzman, he will be out of minor league options in 2009. Therefore, he will either have to be on the Rays 25-man roster, traded or Designated for Assignment, effectively making him a free agent.
With only a couple of weeks remaining in the Bulls’ schedule, this will be an interesting development to follow as the Rays could be setting up a future move with the major league roster.