It's our annual New Year's Eve look at the Braves, and it's so big it's going to take two parts. We…
Braves non-tender Kelly Johnson
Johnson struggled in 2009, his worst year as a regular for the Braves. He hit .224 with 8 home runs, 29 RBI, and a .303 on base percentage in 106 games.
The Braves had Johnson in the leadoff spot at the start of the season, but he hit only .222 in that spot. He lost his job when he hit .125 in the month of June, which is when Martin Prado hit .359 and took control of the position.
Johnson was ill-cast as a leadoff man, but before Nate McLouth was acquired in early June the Braves did not feel they had another player for that role.
Atlanta selected Johnson with the 38th pick of the 2000 draft out of Austin, Texas. He had an unbelievable first full season in pro ball in 2001, when he hit 23 home runs in Macon. Johnson was drafted as a shortstop, and then two years later would make the move to left field.
Johnson made his big league debut in May of 2005. He missed most of the 2006 season with an elbow injury that resulted in Tommy John surgery.
But even after the injury, the Braves believed Johnson could handle second base. So he worked diligently with coach Glenn Hubbard, himself a former Atlanta second baseman, to learn the position.
Johnson struggled at times defensively at second base, but overall was fairly solid. He had 14 errors in both 2007 and 2008, when Johnson held down the spot for the entire season.
With Johnson's departure, Prado will probably remain at second base. Manager Bobby Cox hinted Monday in Indianapolis that Prado could possibly play elsewhere, mostly first base, if Johnson were retained.
Do not be surprised if the Kansas City Royals go after Johnson. Royals' general manager Dayton Moore was very fond of Johnson when he was in the Atlanta front office. Washington could also be a destination, especially with former Braves' scouting director Roy Clark in the Nationals' front office.
Atlanta also non-tendered outfielder Ryan Church, who was designated for assignment on Tuesday.
Bill Shanks hosts The Bill Shanks Show on WFSM Fox Sports 1670 in Macon, Georgia and The Braves Show Talk Show. Shanks writes a weekly baseball column for The Macon Telegraph and is the author of Scout's Honor: The Bravest Way To Build A Winning Team. You can email Bill at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/billshanks.
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