Filling an organizational gap, the St. Louis Cardinals have signed 32-year-old catcher Mark Johnson to a minor league contract for 2008.
The left-handed batter posted an eye-opening .320/.440/.410 line (BA/OBP/SLG) in 244 at-bats for the Triple-A Tucson Sidewinders (Arizona Diamondbacks) of the Pacific Coast League in 2007, a season during which he was named a PCL Mid-Season All-Star.
The solid offensive campaign was in great contrast to his .203/.281/.294 mark in a part-time role with Nashville of the PCL (Milwaukee) in 2006. Overall, in 833 minor league games over 11 seasons, Johnson’s line is .253/.384/.359, demonstrating a good ability to get on base.
The Cardinals are the seventh organizational stop made by the former first-round pick of the Chicago White Sox in 1994. He has also played in the Oakland, Milwaukee (twice), Cubs and Arizona systems.
First signed at 18 years of age, Johnson made his Major League debut with the White Sox in 1998 at 22. He logged a career-high 263 at-bats with the 2002 Sox and had brief appearances with Oakland and Milwaukee the next two seasons. Totaling over 900 MLB career at-bats, his line is .217/.313/.318, but the catcher hasn’t appeared in the bigs since logging eleven at-bats with the Brewers in 2004.
Three of the catchers from the 2007 Memphis club are moving on as minor league free agents, Danny Ardoin, Ryan Christianson and Brian Esposito. As a result, Johnson is likely penned into the experienced back-up/mentor role for top prospect Bryan Anderson as well as offering depth in case the major league club needs a 2008 replay of the 2007 Kelly Stinnett appearances. Veteran Matt Pagnozzi may also be in the Redbirds’ catching mix, but his career .203 batting mark says it all.
Brian Walton can be reached via email at email@example.com.
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