Daniel Ryan Johnson
- Bats Left, Throws Right
- Height 6' 2", Weight 220 lb.
- School Iowa Western Community College, University of Nebraska
- High School Blaine (MN) High School
- Debut May 27, 2005
- Born August 10, 1979 in Coon Rapids, MN USA
First baseman Dan Johnson was originally drafted by the Oakland Athletics in the 7th round of the 2001 amateur draft, out of the University of Nebraska. He was signed by scout Jim Pransky and made his pro debut that summer.
Johnson showed good hitting prowess in his first four seasons in the A's minor league system, hitting around .290 every year, with good power and a lot of walks. He hit 27 homers for the Midland RockHounds in 2003, and 29 for the Sacramento RiverCats in 2004. Back at Sacramento at the start of the 2005, he took another step forward, hitting .324 with 17 doubles and 8 homers in his first 47 games, showing he was ready for the Show.
He had a very solid rookie season with Oakland in 2005. Having been called up in late May, he made his major league debut on May 27th, going 0 for 3 against the Cleveland Indians and started his career 1 for 16, but he then settled down and was the team's starting first baseman the rest of the way. He played 109 games and hit .275/.355/.451, with 21 doubles and 15 home runs. He was named to the 2005 Topps All-Star Rookie Team after the season. However, he was sent back to Triple A after struggling with a low batting average in 2006, ending the season at .234 in 91 games with only 9 homers. He hit well for Sacramento however, with a .314 average. 13 doubles and 7 homers in 46 games. He was back for a third season with the A's in 2007 and did slightly better, playing 117 games. His average was only .236, but he showed good power with 20 doubles and 18 homers, and typical of A's players of the time, he had very good plate discipline, walking 72 times against 77 strikeouts. However, he played only one game for the A's in 2008, having lost the starting first base job to heralded rookie Daric Barton, and he was placed on waivers, being out of options. He was immediately claimed by the Tampa Bay Rays, who sent him to the AAA Durham Bulls. Showing once again that AAA pitching held no secret for him, he hit .307/.424/.556 in 113 games, with 23 doubles and 25 homers.
The Rays were having their first winning season in 2008, and called up Johnson in early September to help with their pennant push in the highly competitive AL East. He immediately made is presence felt when in his first game with the team on September 9th, he hit a game-tying pinch homer off Boston Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon at Fenway Park. Overall, he went 5 for 25 with a pair of homers for the Rays but had come up too late to be on the postseason roster. After the season, Johnson was sold to the Yokohama Bay Stars. On Opening Day in 2009, he hit third and manned first base, going 0 for 4 and reaching on a Masahiro Araki error. He hit only .215 on the year, in 117 games, although he did bang 24 homers to give him a .462 slugging percentage; he had a .330 OBP. He was 9th in the Central League in homers (between Shuichi Murata and Masahiko Morino and 9th in walks (52, between Aaron Guiel and Tony Blanco). He returned stateside after that one season in the Far East.
Johnson was back in Tampa Bay in 2010, after a great stint in AAA which earned him Player of the Year honors in the International League with the Durham Bulls. He hit 30 home runs and collected 95 RBI in 98 games for Durham, good for a batting line of .303/.430/.624. In the big leagues, he hit only .198 in 40 games but had 7 homers and drew 25 walks and his OPS+ was a solid 110 in spite of the low batting average. He got his first taste of postseason action in the ALDS against the Texas Rangers, going 2 for 9 with 3 walks as the Rays lost the series in 5 games.
After becoming the Rays' starting first baseman following Carlos Pena's departure via free agency, Johnson started the 2011 season with a hit in his first plate appearance. He then proceeded to go 0 for 24 with no walk or hit by pitch, before getting his next hit, a broken-bat single against the Chicago White Sox on April 8th. He then hit a game-winning three-run homer off Matt Thornton later that game. He had been the Rays' clean-up hitter during the streak, and, perhaps not surprisingly, the team had gone 0-6 during the stretch. He quickly lost the starting first base job to Casey Kotchman, and only played 25 games with the Rays, hitting .115, before being sent down to AAA on May 20th. Back with Durham, he hit .273/.382/.459 in 93 games and was called back up for the stretch run. He was sparsely used as the Rays mounted an improbable comeback in the season's last few weeks, catching the Red Sox for the Wild Card slot. However, he was at center stage on the last day of the season on September 28th, hitting a dramatic pinch homer with two outs and two strikes off Cory Wade in the bottom of the 9th with the Rays trailing the New York Yankees, 7-6, and needing a win to stay alive. His blast sent the game into extra innings; the Rays then won it on Evan Longoria's solo homer in the bottom of the 12th and were back in the postseason for the third time in four years.
Even though he was by then considered a bit of a good luck charm by the Rays, Johnson decided to look for another team after Tampa Bay repatriated Carlos Pena in the off-season. He chose to sign with the Chicago White Sox for 2012. He spent most of the season in the minors once again however, playing 137 games for the Charlotte Knights. He had another typically productive season in AAA, hitting .268/.388/.492, with 21 doubles, 28 homers and 85 RBI. He was the 2012 International League All-Star utility player and led the league in home runs. He was called up to Chicago in September, and after getting hits in his first three games and still hitting .500 after a two-hit game on September 12th, he was hardly given any other playing time until the last day of the season, October 3rd, when he got the start at first base in place of Paul Konerko. He had the best game of his career, banging three homers and driving in five runs in 5 at-bats as the White Sox crushed the Cleveland Indians, 9-0. He signed with the New York Yankees for 2013, and there should have been a lot of opportunity for him to help out the major league squad, what with 1B Mark Teixeira missing the first two months of the season with a wrist injury, and the Yankees turning to apparently over-the-hill veterans such as Lyle Overbay, Travis Hafner and Vernon Wells to play at the spots where Johnson could lend a hand. However, the three veterans hit well in the early going, and Johnson found himself yet again in AAA, starting at first base for the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees. He hit .253 with 21 homers and 69 RBIs in 133 games the on August 30th joined the Baltimore Orioles as a free agent and went 0 for 5 in 3 games for them at the major league level.
Johnson continued his wanderings from team to team in 2014, joining the Toronto Blue Jays for the year. He played 107 games for the AAA Buffalo Bisons, hitting .232 with 18 homers and 56 RBIs, and was also up briefly with the big league club, where he hit one long ball in 15 games while hitting .211. In 2015, he first signed with the Houston Astros, but when spring training was winding down, he was sold to the Cincinnati Reds. He was released at the end of April and a couple of weeks later found another home, with the St. Louis Cardinals. He played 12 games in the majors with the Cardinals, hitting .158, but once again, most of his time was spent in AAA, hitting .260 with 15 homers and 62 RBIs in 94 games for the Memphis Redbirds, after hitting only .069 in 9 games for the Louisville Bats.
Now 36 and not ready to quit, he decided to try his luck as a pitcher in 2016, convincing the Tampa Bay Rays to give a shot in their minor league system. He had been working on a knuckleball for a number of years on the side and as he explained: ""It's one of those things I've done forever, and it's gotten better and better. This is the first time I've actually taken it to the next step of going through the process of being a pitcher." He had never pitched professionally before then, not even in mop-up relief in a blowout game as will happen at some point to most players who hang around long enough.
- 2004 MVP Pacific Coast League Sacramento River Cats
- 2010 Player of the Year International League Durham Bulls
- 2005 Topps All-Star Rookie Team