When you have the No. 3 overall pick, it’s never too soon to take a quick peek into this year’s MLB draft. This year’s draft class is loaded with excellent hitting prospects, but is relatively weak on the pitching side.
Draft Prospects You Should Know is a new series that features prospects who the White Sox could pursue in this year’s draft. As the June draft nears, we’ll return to many of these athletes and provide updates on whether their stocks are rising (or falling).
Age listed as of Day One of the Draft (June 3).
Right-Handed Starting Pitcher
Baseball America 23
Seth Johnson is an oddity in this year’s draft. You see, as a shortstop for Louisburg Community College (NC), he produced the following combined numbers in his two years:
.255/.335/.552, 20 2B, 1 3B, 9 HR, 35 RBI, 6-of-6 SB, 20 BB, 59 K over 165 AB
While not bad, those junior college stats certainly weren’t enough to blow anyone away. Johnson was able to get a little pitching in during his sophomore campaign, and posted the following numbers:
5 G, 6 IP, 7 H, 2 ER, 0 BB, 11 K, 3.00 ERA, 1.50 WHIP
While not a lot to go on, the high strikeout and low walk totals indicated Johnson may have a future on the mound — at least on the collegiate level. He transferred to Campbell University for his junior season, and has produced the following stats through April 27:
9 G, 9 GS, 48 IP, 21 ER, 38 H, 20 BB, 56 K, 3.94 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, .217 OBA
Because Johnson’s stats are good (albeit limited), he is moving up the prospect charts quite rapidly. He’s actually ranked 23rd by FanGraphs, while a more conservative ranking of 38th is given by Baseball America. Why such a high ranking for a recently converted pitcher who’s only hurled 54 total innings to date? His fastball runs 92-95 mph, and clocked as high as 98 according to FanGraphs. Johnson also possesses a solid repertoire of secondary pitches, including a 72-77 mph curveball, an 84-86 mph changeup, and 81-84 mph slider according to 2080 Baseball. That’s a pretty advanced profile for someone who’s just started pitching, and his control seems above average in the early going this year, with a 3.75/9 IP rate.
Obviously, there are some concerns with Johnson. He doesn’t have many innings under his belt, so there’s a concern that his arm may not hold up to a 150-200 inning-per-year workload. Because Johnson has just started pitching full time, will his fastball maintain its velocity through six or seven innings as the season progresses? Finally, the quality of competition he’s faced at the collegiate level will pale in comparison to many of the other top draft prospects in the country. All are viable concerns, but can be alleviated by slowly extending Johnson’s innings at the professional level — something akin to the way Dylan Cease has steadily increased his innings throughout his professional career. Also, to look on the bright side, you can say that Johnson will have one of the freshest arms in this year’s draft.
Where Johnson is selected this year will depend largely upon how well he completes his first full season of pitching. While Baseball America ranks him as high as 23rd presently, it’s difficult to project him much higher than that due to his limited experience. Johnson can easily fall to the second round, however, as teams usually get a little more skittish the closer it gets to the draft. The White Sox likely would take a long hard look at him if he unexpectedly falls to the 45th pick. His closest White Sox comp is Lincoln Henzman, who has a similar build and repertoire, and converted to the rotation from the bullpen just last year.
While there’s little video regarding Johnson, here’s a video of a fall practice with the Camels of Campbell (no, this video didn’t get taken on Hump Day), courtesy of 2080 Baseball:
And here’s some game action, again courtesy of our pals at 2080 Baseball:
Heard Campbell (@GoCamelsBSB) righty Seth Johnson held 92-95 over a four inning stint yesterday in 40 degree weather. Interesting draft name; live arm and throws four pitches for strikes. Here's some video from the fall. #MLBDraft pic.twitter.com/zSITZrzV0N— Burke Granger (@burkegranger) February 10, 2019
Previously, on Draft Prospects You Should Know
C.J. Abrams, Blessed Trinity (Ga.) H.S. SS
Hunter Bishop, Arizona State University OF
Cameron Cannon, University of Arizona 2B/3B
Matt Cronin, University of Arkansas LHRP
Tyler Dyson, University of Florida RHSP
Daniel Espino, Georgia Premier Academy RHSP
Jonathan French, Parkview (Ga.) H.S. C
Ethan Hearn, Mobile Christian (Ala.) H.S. C
Rece Hinds, IMG Baseball Academy (Fla.) 3B
Jason Hodges, Marist (Ill.) H.S. OF-1B
Will Holland, Auburn University, SS
Jack Leiter, Delbarton (N.J.) H.S. RHSP
Chris Newell, Malvern (Pa.) Prep H.S. OF
Quinn Priester, Cary-Grove (Ill.) H.S. RHSP
Adley Rutschman, Oregon State University C
Landon Sims, South Forsyth (Ga.) H.S., RHSP
Andrew Vaughn, University of California, 1B
Matt Wallner, Southern Miss University OF