Want to boost your stock in a system starving for position prospects? Lead all of minor league baseball in stolen bases like Micah Johnson did this year.
Between Kannapolis, Winston-Salem and Birmingham, the second baseman stole 84 bases in 110 attempts, turning a potentially promising prospect into one that demands attention -- especially from opposing batteries.
Larry has written about Johnson's backstory -- the White Sox drafted him in the ninth round of the 2012 draft out of the Indiana University after an elbow injury dragged down his stock. He's since recovered at the plate, and this season, he realized that his speed would play up more than he thought.
The combination of his success at the plate and on the basepaths powered his move up the chain, first to Winston-Salem in early July, and then to Birmingham at the end of August in time for the Southern League playoffs. Here's what he's done this year:
After the season, he's ticketed to play in the Arizona Fall League.
Like his manager Julio Vinas, Johnson joined White Sox bloggers and beat writers on a conference call before Game 2 of the Southern League championship series Thursday night.
On his Double-A experience
"No real adjustments ... just trying to do the same thing I've been doing, just getting on base and trying to score runs. Just keep it simple -- if you start trying to hype it up, that's when you can get in trouble."
On the craft of basestealing
"I definitely think there is. A lot of it is confidence, and a lot of people will steal and get thrown out a few times and give up on it. [...] You just can't be scared when you're stealing bases."
On his speed
"Speed is my main attribute that I can add to a team. Defensively, too. You use speed and quick bursts to get to balls behind second base with a runner on second base and save a run, or stop a ball deep in the hole so a run doesn't score, or getting a guy out. That plays on offense as well, obviously. You steal two bases and score on a sac fly or ground ball to the shortstop."
"Speed is going to be the thing that helps me get to the big leagues just because it can help the team win, more than anything -- you can give guys a lot of RBI chances or save runs."
On the toll of basestealing
"Oh, man, you take a beating. I didn't realize it. [Billy Hamilton's] 155 stolen bases in a season is the most amazing thing I've ever heard of, not just because he did it, but because his body held up for that long.
"I feel good. I feel really good. Not really sore at all. A couple jammed fingers from sliding into bases, but that's probably it. Everything else feels good.
"There'll be a stretch when you're like, "Aw, man, I'm sore," but once you get out there and you start running, you forget about it. The game adrenaline takes over, and you just get through it day by day."
On areas of improvement
"Consistency. There will be weeks I can't get out, and then there'll be weeks where I can't get a hit. So I think consistency is the main thing, defensively and offensively.
"I think my defense has made a lot of strides this year. That's what I'm probably most happy about [...] how focused I was on defense, making routine plays and the great plays. But then there'll be times like [Wednesday] in the ninth inning, I made two errors. So it's like, just be more consistent, and I think that's everybody's main goal."
"Don't swing at bad pitches, wait 'til you get to hitter's counts. Instead of swinging at a 1-1 pitch in the dirt so it's 1-2, letting it go so it can be 2-1, and you get your pitch."
On the speed of the game
"Second base is one of those positions where the speed of the game doesn't really speed up for you. When you're so close -- shortstop, I can see it, or third base, but second base, the guy's trying to hit the ball the same. And guys are still running hard down the line, but here, you know the guys that are fast.
"[Tyler] Saladino's one of the smarter baseball players I've ever played with. He'll tell me each hitter -- 'This leadoff guy can run, get rid of it quick.' But I don't really try to rush anything. The White Sox really preach to me, "You're fast enough, so don't try to speed it up," because that's when I do make errors."
On his plate approach
(Johnson started Game 1 on Wednesday with a nine-pitch walk off top Diamondbacks pitching prospect Archie Bradley.)
"I'm going to be honest with you -- if Archie Bradley would've thrown me a first-pitch strike where I wanted, I would've swung, so I think it just happened to be like that. He made two good pitches and I was just trying to battle, you know, first at-bat of the game. He's a guy that throws hard, everybody talks about that, so you know he's going to come in with that fastball.
"I'm just trying to foul pitches off. I guess he's one of the better pitchers in all of baseball, so he was making good pitches, and I'm trying to foul them off and stay alive and get on base. If you get on base with the lineup we have, you're pretty much going to score if you get on base with nobody out. [...] My mindset is not to give in."
"I think I'm a little different than most leadoff hitters. A lot of leadoff hitters throughout the season, they'll take the first pitch of the game or fake bunt or something like that. But if a guy throws me the first pitch of the game, you know, I don't see why not. It's probably some of the better pitches you'll see.
"A lot of guys are more patient, but me, I don't really think about it. I'm a free-swinger, and if I happen to see a lot of pitches, it happens. You know, foul a couple pitches off.
"You're a table-setter up there. You gotta get on base somehow. An error -- if I have two strikes, I hit a ball to the shortstop, and I run hard down the line and make him rush and he commits an error, I'm on base and I can make something happen. It does no good if I'm striking out and not putting the ball in play."