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The Dominos are falling: The Twins acquire Kris Johnson from the Pirates

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Originally published at The Tenth Inning Stretch
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In the first trade of the 2013 off-season, the Minnesota Twins returned RHRP Duke Welker (whom they acquired in the Justin Morneau trade) to the Pittsburgh for LHSP Kris Johnson.

Johnson (6'4", 190, 28 years old) is a former first round draft pick of the Boston Redsox (2006) and signed as a minor league free agent by the Pirates 2 years ago. He was listed as the Redsox' fourth best pitching prospect in 2008 by Baseball America. This season he had a breakthrough performance in Independent (AAA) league, pitching 135.7 innings, with a 2.39 ERA (3.43 FIP), winning 10 games and losing 4. His strikeout rate was 17.1% (6.34 K/9), his walk rate 7.8% (2.85 BB/9, 2.19 K/BB). His WHIP was 1.17 and achieved with a .279 BABIP.

He throws a 91-94 mph fastball, a slow low 70s curve and a mid 80s change/cutter/slider type of pitch that is very effective against righties. As is, he will be the most polished Twins' left hand starter (compared to Scott Diamond and Andrew Albers) and will likely fight for a spot in the Twins' rotation out of Spring Training. He has relieved before, so the pen is also an option potentially.

All in all, the Twins turned a hard throwing but enigmatic (think Hoey) righty reliever to a polished lefty starter with true back of the rotation stuff who is at his prime. I think all in all it is a good move for the Twins, since they lack depth in the minors esp. from the left side. Johnson had a cup of coffee with the Pirates (10.3 IP) this August, which means that he has only 2 options left.

What does this mean for the Twins? Johnson automatically goes on top of the LHP starting depth ahead of Diamond and Albers at this point, and if they do not sign someone like Scott Kazmir, he might wear a Twins' uniform next season. Additionally, he will potentially challenge for a spot in the bullpen, especially if Thielbar regresses. This trade gives the Twins more options than they had before (plently of hard-throwing relievers and Michael Tonkin made Duke Welker redundant in the system)



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