In a move that no one should see as having any meaningful impact on the 2014 Twins, Terry Ryan sent Duke Welker back to Pittsburgh in exchange for Kris Johnson. The astute reader will remember Duke Welker arriving in Minnesota just six short weeks ago as the player to be named later in the Justin Morneau deal. Duke never pitched an inning for the Twins and head back to Pittsburgh where he had a successful season pitching out of the pen for their AAA team.
New Twin, Kris Johnson. Photo Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
So who is Kris Johnson? Kris Johnson was a 2006 first round draft pick by the Boston Red Sox in 2006 (40th overall). After 6 lack-luster years in the Boston system he was released and then had a successful stint in independent ball. The Pittsburgh Pirates, hoping against hope that the former 1st rounder could regain some value picked him up prior to the 2012 season. Wonder of wonders, miracle of miracle, Kris Johnson managed to find some success in AA in 2012 but struggled after advancing to AAA that same season. 2013 there seemed to be a marked change in Johnson, who went 10-4 with a 2.39 ERA in 26 appearances (21 starts) over 135.2 innings. He struck out 94, walked only 43 and earned himself a promotion to the big leagues. He was not impressive at the MLB level, giving up 7 runs in just over 10 innings of work (all runs earned).
What do all these numbers mean? Not a bunch. Kris Johnson is essentially Pedro Hernandez redux. He’s left handed and may have been acquired to provide some rotation depth. He can get his fastball up into the low-90s. He throws mostly fastball/change-up, but also has a sinker and a slider that he mixes in. The metrics also indicate he has a curveball he throws less than 2% of the time that loops in there in the mid-70s. The Twins sure do love to stockpile #5 starters. However, they may also be looking at Johnson to be a lefty arm out of the bullpen, especially if they’re considering non-tendering Brian Duensing.
So long Duke Welker, we hardly knew you. Welcome back Pedro Hernandez, er, I mean Kris Johnson.