What to Make of Micah Johnson’s Demotion

Chicago White Sox at U.S. Cellular Field - credit City of Chicago_Chris McGuireJust two months ago, Micah Johnson was supposed to be a breakout rookie this season for the Chicago White Sox. He was supposed to help the team’s offense turn the corner with his elite speed and baserunning ability. Then, when the season began, he suddenly couldn’t get on base to utilize his speed.  When he did get on base, he made a plethora of baserunning mistakes.

As the team heads to Oakland for a weekend series with the Athletics just 31 games into the season, the Micah Johnson experiment has already gone by the boards at least for the time-being. The Sox announced on Thursday that they have optioned Johnson to Triple-A Charlotte, and will promote utility infielder Carlos Sanchez as a corresponding move.

Given the abruptness of this news, many Sox fans are now wondering what the team is thinking. After all, Johnson did just raise his batting average to .270, so it’s not like he was doing terrible.

If I had to take a guess as to why the Sox have just made such a questionable roster shakeup, it would be to improve the team’s defensive makeup. If you have watched Sox games on a regular basis in the first month of the season, you wouldn’t have to be a baseball expert to realize that Johnson has struggled defensively at 2nd base. The game had appeared too fast for him in numerous occassions, and that is likely why he lost his roster spot. I don’t want to go as far as to say that he has had a case of “stone hands” this year, but the guy simply has too many bobbles on routine ground balls. More often than not, just a slight bobble makes the difference between out and safe at first base, and it almost exclusively makes the difference between getting a double-play started and settling for one out. Sanchez showed in his stint with the Sox last year that he is a much better defensive 2nd baseman than Johnson.

Now some of you may ask, “But what about Gordon Beckham?” I’ll admit that I initially had the same thought. Why not just play Beckham at 2nd base and use Johnson as a pinch runner off the bench for his speed? Well, Beckham has been doing a great job replacing Conor Gillaspie at 3rd base in the late innings. With Beckham at 3rd, Sanchez at 2nd, and Gold Glove candidate Alexei Ramirez at shortstop, the team will have a stout defensive infield in the 7th, 8th, and 9th innings.

Also likely contributing to the move was the fact that Sanchez was tearing it up in Triple-A. In 29 games with the Charlotte Knights, Sanchez hit .344 with 17 RBI.

This particular roster move may not be the most popular or the most attractive, but it could be very helpful.