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Top 60 All-Time Greatest Jays: #59 Reed Johnson

Toronto Blue Jays Photo Day

Reed Cameron Johnson | LF, RF, CF| 2003-2007

I’m likely to say this a lot, but we have another of my favorites.

Reed Johnson was born December 8, 1976, in Riverside, CA. The Blue Jays drafted him in the 17th round of the 1999 amateur draft out of Cal State Fullerton, where he was named an Academic All-American and played baseball and soccer. Players drafted in the 17th round have to work harder to make it to the majors, and Reed worked as hard as any major leaguer. His high socks, great defense, hustle, and willingness to take one for the team made him a fan favorite in Toronto.

Reed made the Jays coming out of spring training in 2003 and started the season as part of a platoon in RF with Frank Catalanotto. On July 16th, we traded Shannon Stewart to the Minnesota Twins for Bobby Kielty, and the platoon moved to LF with Kielty playing RF. That first season Reed hit .294/.353/.427 scoring 79 runs and driving in 52. He hit 10 home runs, only walked 20 times, but his on-base percentage was helped by being hit by pitch 20 times, second in the league in that category. Reed made turning into a pitch an art form. Twice as a Jay, he tied the major league record by being hit by pitch 3 times in a game. He also had a 20 game hit streak this season. He was named AL Rookie of the Month for September.

In 2004 Reed continued in the LF platoon with Cat and filled in at CF and RF when needed. In 141 games, he hit in every spot in the order. He didn’t have as good a season offensively, batting .270/.320/.380, scoring 68 runs, driving in 61 with 10 home runs.

In 2005 Johnson was still in the platoon. He played a little less, coming into more games as a defensive replacement, but when he started, it was most often at the top of the order, batting mostly in the 1 or 2 holes. He hit .269/.332/.412 with 8 home runs, 55 runs, 58 RBI and was hit by pitch 16 times.

On June 15th, 2005, Johnson became just the fourth player ever to start the game, hit a leadoff home run, and end the game with a walk-off home run.

Johnson had his career season, with the Jays, in 2006. He was everything you could want in a leadoff man hitting .319/.390/.479 scoring 86 runs and driving in 49 with 12 homers. He also led the AL by being hit by a pitch 21 times. After starting the season in his usual platoon, he became a full-timer in July.

Early in the 2007 season, he hurt his back and had surgery on a herniated disk. He returned to the team in early July but wasn’t 100% for the rest of the season. He finished with his worse season stats hitting only .236/.305/.320 with career lows of 31 runs, 14 RBI, and 2 home runs.

In the off-season before the 2008 season, the Jays signed David Eckstein, a similar player as Reed, to play shortstop and leadoff. With Matt Stairs expected to play in LF, Reed looked to be back in a platoon role. Then inexplicably, at least to me, the Jays signed Shannon Stewart and released Johnson in spring training. I still have no idea why you would release Johnson, who was a year removed from a career season, to play Stewart, who was several years removed from his last decent season. Add into the equation that Johnson could play all 3 outfield spots very well, while Stewart could only LF, and barely adequately at that.

Of course, Stewart had a terrible season for the Jays and was released during the season, while Johnson hit .303/.358/.420 in 109 games with the Cubs. Thanks, JP.

Reed played two seasons for the Cubs and then bounced around, playing for the Dodgers, Cubs again, Braves, Marlins, and Nationals.

As a Blue Jay, in 5 seasons, he hit .281/.342/.410 with 42 home runs in 610 games.

Career, in 13 seasons, he hit .279/.335/.405 with 65 home runs in 1320 games.

I know I like him far more than I really should. Reed wasn’t a perfect leadoff hitter. It’d be better if he would take some more walks, maybe cut down on his strikeouts, and he didn’t steal a lot of bases. But his hustle, defense, good arm in the outfield made him a great fourth outfielder type. On the negative side, he had the worst little patch of facial hair in the major leagues.

Reed Johnson’s ranking among Jay batting leaders:

12th Batting Average (>2000 PA) .281

18th On-Base % (>2000 PA) .342

34th Games with 610

31st Runs 319

31st Hits 585

34th Total Bases 853

33th Doubles 114

38th RBI 234

48th Walks 119

2nd Hit By Pitch 80