LEFT HANDED PITCHER
|Born: October 14, 1984
Drafted: 1st Round, 40th overall, 2006 (Red Sox)
How Acquired: Minor League Free Agent
College: Wichita State Univ.
WTM’S PIRATE PLAYER PROFILES
|The Red Sox drafted Johnson in the supplemental first round in 2006. He probably would have gone higher, but he had Tommy John surgery in 2005. He was attractive to scouts partly as a lefty with good size, and partly due to a low 90s fastball with good movement. He also has a solid change. Early in his college career he had a good curve, but it never fully bounced back after the surgery. He now throws a slider. Johnson mostly struggled with the Sox, although he did manage to reach AAA. Various articles attribute his problems to a lack of confidence in his stuff, which led to nibbling around the strike zone. The Sox finally released him early in the 2011 season and he didn’t pitch any more that year. The Pirates signed him to a minor league deal for 2012.
Johnson started off well in short season ball.
The Red Sox sent Johnson to Lancaster in the California League, a hitter’s park in the minors’ most extreme hitter’s league, an environment that’s notorious for wreaking havoc with pitching prospects. Johnson got off to a terrible start, but the Sox prevailed on him to start challenging hitters more and he pitched respectably for most of the season.
Johnson pitched decently in AA, with a decent K rate and a few too many hits and walks. He did keep the ball in the park, allowing only five HRs after allowing 20 the previous year.
In AAA, Johnson struggled badly, with opponents hitting .320 against him. He also had weak walk and K rates.
Johnson showed some limited improvement in AAA, although his K rate dropped further.
Johnson struggled through three starts and five relief appearances, allowing a .410 average and a HR every three innings. The Red Sox released him in mid-May.
After starting the year in the AA bullpen, Johnson spent the year shuttling back and forth between Altoona and Indianapolis, serving as a swing man at both locations. Despite the disparity in his ERAs, he pitched about the same for both teams. The only significant difference was HRs; he allowed seven in AAA and three in AA. Overall, he held hitters to a .237 average, but his control was shaky and his K rate low. He had a huge platoon split; left-handed hitters posted a .447 OPS against him overall, right-handed hitters .805.
Johnson returned to AAA and had an outstanding season there, apart from a somewhat low K rate. The Pirates called him up briefly in mid-August and his major league debut was outstanding, if futile in the end. He threw five scoreless innings of relief in a 16-inning game against Arizona, but the Pirates couldn’t score and Johnson finally lost the game in his sixth inning. He came back up on September 1 and made a spot start that didn’t go well, along with two relief appearances. He continued to dominate left-handed hitters, holding them to a .541 OPS.
Johnson is a second successful reclamation project for the Pirates on former Boston prospects, the other being Stolmy Pimentel. He seems like a better fit in relief, given how well he’s done against left-handed hitters the last couple years, but the Pirates don’t use LOOGYs. He probably won’t be a candidate to come off the 40-man roster in the off-season, because at worst he provides starting depth. He has two options left and is likely to open 2014 at Indianapolis.
|2014: Major league minimum|
|Signing Bonus: $850,000
MiLB Debut: 2006
MLB Debut: N/A
MiLB FA Eligible: N/A
MLB FA Eligible: 2019
Rule 5 Eligible: N/A
Added to 40-Man: 8/18/13
Options Remaining: 2 (USED: 2013)
MLB Service Time: 0.043
|June 4, 2003: Drafted by the Anaheim Angels in the 50th round, 1475th overall pick.
June 6, 2009: Drafted by the Boston Red Sox in the 1st round, 40th overall pick; signed on June 7.
May 18, 2011: Released by the Boston Red Sox.
December 15, 2011: Signed as a minor league free agent by the Pittsburgh Pirates.
August 18, 2013: Contract purchased by the Pittsburgh Pirates.