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South Side Sox Top Prospect No. 22: Tyler Johnson

This power arm packs just enough control to be in line for a major league debut this summer

Chicago White Sox v Kansas City Royals Carmen Mandato/Getty Images

Tyler Johnson

Right-Handed Relief Pitcher
205 pounds
Age: 25
SSS rank among all right-handed relief pitchers in the system: 2
2021 SSS Top Prospect Vote: 18
2020 SSHP Top Prospect Ranking: 16
2019 SSS Top Prospect Ranking: 18
2018 SSS Top Prospect Ranking: 31

Tyler Johnson pitched dominating baseball in his three years with the University of South Carolina. Even though his junior season wasn’t quite as good as his sophomore, it was still worthy of notice. In 19 games spanning 26 innings, Johnson saved 10 games for the SEC powerhouse with a 2.39 ERA and 1.33 WHIP. For the Gamecocks that year, he allowed just 20 hits (.204 OBA) and 15 walks (12.9%) while striking out 40 (34.5%). With stats like these, the White Sox selected him in the fifth round of the 2017 draft.

Johnson split time with Great Falls and Kannapolis in 2017, and despite struggles with control, put up reasonably solid numbers considering he was just completing a long season. In a combined 22 games totaling 25 23 innings, he compiled a 3.86 ERA and 1.75 WHIP by relinquishing 26 hits (.263 OBA) and 19 walks (15.7%) while fanning 37 (30.6%).

The reliever started hitting many prospect lists after a terrific 2018 with Kannapolis and Winston-Salem, as he combined to post a spectacular 14 saves, 1.40 ERA and 0.88 WHIP over 41 outings. In Johnson’s 58 innings for both teams, he surrendered just 35 hits (.172 OBA) and 16 walks (7.1%) while striking out a whopping 89 (39.4%).

After missing the first 2 12 months of the 2019 season with a lat strain, Johnson pitched in 10 rehab outings with the AZL White Sox and Winston-Salem before finally donning the Birmingham Barons uniform on July 22. In 12 games for the Barons spanning 18 13 innings, Johnson posted a respectable 3.44 ERA and 0.87 WHIP by ceding just 10 hits (.154 OBA) and six walks (8.5%) while striking out 23 (32.4%).

MLB Pipeline ranks Johnson with a 65-grade fastball, which runs 92-96 mph but topping at 98. Other pitches in Johnson’s arsenal include a 50-grade slider and 45-grade changeup. Lefties hit only .156 against him while with Birmingham, so the changeup may actually be better than the grade. Johnson’s control is graded at 50, as he has walked hitters at a 9.5% clip in his three-year professional career. However, that control can be tolerated as long as he maintains his career 35.8% strikeout rate.

Because he wasn’t at Birmingham all that long this year, he may return there to begin the year. But there’s a much greater chance, given his move to the 40-man roster last fall and invite to big-league camp this spring (seven earned runs in 3 13 innings), that Johnson reports to Charlotte after his alternate-site time in Schaumburg.