Nick Johnson was an after thought. When the Nationals signed Adam Dunn, the assumption was that Dunn would play first and that the Nationals would do all they could to trade Johnson. After all, Johnson has been plagued by injuries of every sort in his career and except for a few successful seasons, never became the player everyone thought he would be. Even this space featured a piece stating as such. But Nick Johnson wasn't listening.
Johnson came to camp in shape and without a job. Although he starred for the Nationals just two years ago with a sterling line of .290/.428/.520 in 500 At Bats, that season ended with a horrific injury. Not able to play last year more than 38 games, his line fell to .220/.415/.460. But he came to camp with little fan fare and played his Spring Training games and hit and hit and got on base and he forced his way into the every day lineup
And he's done very well. His current line before Tuesday night's game: .336/.433/.460. His slugging is light as he hasn't shown much power to date, but he is tenth in the league in hits, fourteenth in runs scored, and ninth in the league in On Base Percentage. His OBP seems to be slump proof and there is no doubt he will end up over .400. He sits at .398 for his career so it's a good bet.
Johnson has always been known as a good fielder with a zone value above league average and above league average range. He is a wizard at scooping balls in the dirt and his only flaw is an increase in errors two of the last three years.
Obviously, the Nationals are going nowhere this year. Their pitching is simply atrocious. But you can't blame the first four guys in their lineup. Cristian Guzman has been terrific with a .385/.390/.500 split. Imagine if he took a walk once in a while. Johnson has been very good. Zimmerman has had a breakout season and is sitting at a 1.041 OPS. And then Dunn has been everything they hoped for with a 1.004 OPS.
It's hard not to root for a guy like Nick Johnson. He was written off and left for dead. But he is very much alive and playing very well on a very bad team.