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South Side Sox Top Prospect No. 80: Nick Johnson

Closing in the high-altitude Pioneer League didn’t faze this reliever a bit

Punched out: Scouts may scoff Johnson’s velo, but, hey bubs, 75 Ks in 58 innings last year mean the closer is doing something right.
URI Athletics

Nick Johnson
215 pounds
Throws: Right
Age: 23
SSS rank among all right-handed relief pitchers in the system: 12

Johnson had a successful career with the Rhode Island Rams, where he compiled a 3.39 ERA and 1.36 WHIP, where all but 10 of his 62 appearances came out of the bullpen. It was his senior season that garnered the most attention, however, as the Worcester, Mass. resident saved nine games in 22 appearances. In those outings, the righty hurled 28 innings and allowed just 20 hits and 10 walks — all while striking out an incredible 47 hitters (15.11 K/9) without allowing a home run.

As a result of his age, the fact that he doesn’t throw 95 mph, and the fact he didn’t pitch in an elite conference, Johnson fell to the 21st round — where the White Sox were ecstatic to pick him up.

For Great Falls, Johnson picked up right where he left off in college. In 25 outings in the high altitude of the Pioneer League, Johnson finished 19 games and saved five. Over 30 innings of work, he enjoyed an ERA of 0.90 and 1.00 WHIP while allowing just 25 hits (.221), five walks (4.1%), and no homers while striking out 28 (18.7%). Here are his impressive combined stats this year, combining NCAA and Rookie League play:

2018: 48 G, 14 SV, 58 IP, 45 H, 15 BB, 75 K, 0 HR

Johnson features a low-90s fastball that maxes out at 93 mph, according to MLBDraftReport; its velocity has increased from its peak at 85 when Johnson was a prep, so it’s possible he may still gain a tick or two. Johnson also uses a plus slider to set up his fastball. His third pitch is a changeup, which has improved significantly during the past two years. Lefties hit .243 against Johnson’s offerings in Great Falls, while righties batted just .211 against him; this may indicate that his changeup still needs a bit more work. Johnson should begin next season with Kannapolis, with an opportunity for a midseason promotion to Winston-Salem if all goes well.

2019 South Side Sox Top 100 Prospects

80. Nick Johnson, RHRP
81. Danny Dopico, RHRP
82. Harvin Mendoza, 1B
83. Logan Sowers, RF
84. Maiker Feliz, 3B
85. Brayan Herrera, RHSP
86. Craig Dedelow, LF
87. Wilber Pérez, RHSP
88. Kyle Kubat, LHRP
89. Johan Dominguez, RHRP
90. Mitch Roman, 2B
91. Ty Greene, C
92. Tanner Banks, LHSP
93. Jake Elliott, RHRP
94. Kevin Escorcia, LHRP
95. Luis Rodriguez, RHSP
96. Ian Dawkins, LF
97. Victor Diaz, RHRP
98. Travis Moniot, LF
99. Will Kincanon, RHRP
100. Brian Clark, LHRP

More information on South Side Top Prospects.