2018 SSS Top Prospect ranking: 31
SSS rank among all right-handed relief pitchers in the system: 3
Johnson spent nearly all three of his seasons in the bullpen for South Carolina, with terrific results. As a sophomore in 29 games totaling 52 innings, Johnson saved nine games for the Gamecocks with a 2.42 ERA and 0.81 WHIP, allowing 34 hits and just eight walks while striking out 59. The following year, he posted a 2.39 ERA and 1.33 WHIP along with 10 saves; in his 19 games totaling 26 innings, he relinquished 20 hits and 15 walks while striking out 40.
Due to Johnson’s decrease in control during that junior season, his stock dropped a bit — and when Johnson fell to the fifth round of the 2017 draft, the White Sox were ecstatic, picking him at No. 147 overall. Johnson struggled a bit after the draft with Great Falls and Kannapolis, as he posted a combined 3.86 ERA and 1.75 WHIP over 25 2⁄3 innings, allowing 26 hits (.263 OBA) and 19 walks (15.7%) while fanning 37 hitters (30.6%).
He returned to Kannapolis to begin the 2018 season, and embarrassed South Atlantic League hitters by posting a 1.33 ERA and 0.96 WHIP over 27 innings, allowing just 16 hits (.170 OBA) and 10 walks (9.3%) while striking out 46 (42.6%). Johnson fared even better after winning a promotion to Winston-Salem. In his 21 games for the Dash totaling 31 innings, he posted a 1.45 ERA and 0.81 WHIP — surrendering just 19 hits (.174 OBA) and six walks (5.1%) while fanning 43 (36.4%). Overall in 2018, Johnson compiled a 1.40 ERA, 0.88 WHIP, .172 OBA, 7.1 BB% and 39.4 K%. Of all the outstanding relievers in the White Sox system, Johnson had arguably the best year.
Johnson’s fastball generally runs from the mid-to-upper 90s, peaking at triple digits, and is complemented by an above-average, low-80s slider. Johnson’s third pitch is a changeup that still needs work, although he did hold lefties to a respectable .230 average in 2018.
Johnson’s whole key is control and command; when on, like it was in his sophomore season at South Carolina or last year in the minors, he’s basically unhittable. If Johnson’s command drops off, he simply won’t be as dominant and becomes far more hittable.
Johnson has been on the fast track ever since he hit the ground running in Kannapolis last year. He received a promotion to Birmingham to start 2019, but he’s sat on the injured list all year with a strained right lat. Johnson is at extended spring training in Arizona, but the injury has all but eliminated any chance of Johnson seeing Charlotte — much less Chicago — in 2019.
Take a look!
Thanks to 2080 Baseball for the footage.
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