Brian Johnson, SP
Brian Johnson made his professional debut with the Lowell Spinners on Sunday, throwing 1-1/3 innings against State College. The first-round selection from the 2012 MLB amateur entry draft was a relatively late signing for Boston, as he was competing in the College World Series with Florida, hence the late pro debut. Johnson recorded four outs, punching out one batter while inducing ground outs on two others. It wasn't a clean debut, but he didn't allow a run, so there's that. It ended early when he took a liner on the knee in the first. While it wasn't serious, the bullpen was already warming, and ready to come in as an injury replacement.
The left-handed Johnson isn't a prospect with a huge ceiling, but the #31 pick in the draft is definitely a prospect. He's projected to be a back-end starter, someone capable of throwing quality innings at a low cost while he's under team control. There's a lot of value in that, as those who have watched Felix Doubront's 2012 campaign can attest to.
It's unlikely we'll get much of a look at what Johnson has to offer, at least statistically, while he's in the short-season New York-Penn League, where starts can last an inning or two against hitters as clueless as the pitcher facing them. The better he does, though, the sooner we might see him move up to Low-A Greenville, where the real development and routine can begin.
Mike Augliera, SP
A little less than a month ago, we looked at Mike Augliera's season to that point:
In the little time he's had, Augliera's done well, striking out 10 of the 32 batters he's faced, and without giving up a walk yet. That's not a surprise for the hurler that just led the NCAA in K/BB, but it might also be part of the reason he's giving up so many hits early on. Living in the strike zone has its positives and its negatives, and as Augliera gets more experience against professional hitters wielding wood, he'll figure out how to balance that ledger in his favor.
Emphasis added, given the above season statistics. Augliera has continued to be stingy with walks, giving up just the one on the year, but it's clear something isn't working with his command in pro ball just yet. He's inducing more ground outs than fly ball ones, but too many batted balls are finding holes, and too many pitches in the strike zone are finding wood.
There's plenty to like here, given the strikeout rate and the control, but Augliera needs a bit more luck on his side to go along with better command of his pitches if he's to reduce this bloated ERA and hit rate. Throwing strikes isn't enough, as quality strikes are what's needed.
Justin Haley, SP
Haley has basically been the opposite of Augliera, as he's had some control problems in his 14-plus innings, but has managed to miss bats and keep hits to a minimum when he does find the zone. While the 0.63 ERA is a product of his throwing just those 14 frames, there's no denying he's shown some intriguing results to this point. You can handle this kind of wildness in the low minors as long as the strikeouts are there, and for Haley, they have been, with 17 in 14 innings.
There will need to be improvement going forward, especially since strikeout rates tend to dip with promotions, but this has been a solid debut campaign from the 21-year-old right-hander to this point. We can likely expect those punch outs to remain, though -- even if not at this exact rate -- just because of who Haley is: a 6-foot-5 righty with a mid-90s heater and two potentially useful secondary offerings. In the long run, he might move to relief anyway, but with that repertoire and frame, that's a potentially great place for him, too.