Chris Johnson: Time To Move Him Up From Round Rock

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Before I go further, I first want to congratulate Houston Astros GM Ed Wade for ignoring Pat Burrell.

Burrell was recently released by the Tampa Bay Rays, and over the weekend he signed a minor league contract with the San Francisco Giants. I want to congratulate Wade for this, however, because Burrell, before joining the Rays, was a member of the Philadelphia Phillies, and he was the previous recipient of a huge, uncalled-for contract from Ed Wade.

Burrell was let go by the Rays because he's a power hitter who could no longer hit for power. It seemed to me to be a sure thing that Wade would pursue Burrell for the Astros because the Astros like to give large contracts to power hitters who can't hit (see Lee, Carlos), and they especially like to give large, uncalled-for contracts to aging former Phillies who are otherwise worthless (see Feliz, Pedro and Michaels, Jason). But seeing as how the team passed on Burrell, perhaps it to time to wonder, as have others, whether it's time to pass on Pedro Feliz.

Sure Drayton McLane would have to eat another contract, but Feliz is proving to be even more worthless than Kaz Matsui (another of Wade's genius acquisitions).

Feliz was brought in for his bat -- though anyone with a basic understanding of sabermetrics knew that was misguided thinking -- and his supposedly superb glove work at third, which has also proven to be a myth.

The Astros have this guy at Round Rock named Chris Johnson who just happens to play third, and he just happens to be hitting. Johnson has never really been given a chance to show what he can do in the majors, so it's possible that he'll prove to be a bust.

But what does the team have to lose by giving Johnson a chance? Nobody else on the team is hitting (Lee is still hitting about 200 points below his weight), especially Feliz, and while Johnson is supposed to be a rather mediocre fielder, it's not like Feliz is that much better there either.

I see this as a move that should be made rather quickly. There's no urgency in terms of the standings because the Astros will need a miracle on the nature of Moses parting the Red Sea to just reach the break-even point on the season. But Johnson is aging, and it's time for the team to find out if he can produce at third.

There's also another reason. The amateur draft is coming up, and it appears that the Astros are looking at drafting a third baseman from Arkansas named Zack Cox. According to these same reports, Cox's defense is best described as borderline comical, and it's said to be doubtful as to rather his bat can overcome his lack of defense.

In some ways, this sounds like another version of Johnson, so why waste that pick on another Chris Johnson before actually giving Chris Johnson a shot?

If Johnson shows he can hit big league pitching, then perhaps that pick can be used to fill one of the many other positions of need on the Astros, like a power hitting outfielder, or a middle infielder, or a starting pitcher. Or perhaps, if Cox can hit, they can move him to another position and use both Johnson and Cox.

But it just makes no sense to keep Johnson buried at Round Rock when Feliz so obviously isn't getting the job done here in Houston.

(I'm also of the opinion that the Astros should be preparing to draft Rice third baseman Anthony Rendon next June when he becomes draft eligible. I've seen Rendon play many games, and he appears to be an above-average third base prospect who can hit, hit for power, run, and I've seen him easily make just about every play a third baseman needs to make to make it in the majors. He could go early in the draft, and with the Astros sucking it up this year, they should be in a perfect position to nab Rendon. If Johnson can hit big league pitching, then they can move him to first to take over for Berkman when Rendon is ready for the majors.)

So if Ed Wade can pass up Pat Burrell, one of his former Phillies, perhaps there is some hope for him. I'd have even more faith in him if he'd admit his mistake with Feliz and depose Feliz in favor of Johnson. Then again, Chris Johnson never played for the Phillies.

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