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Red Sox prospects daily: Brian Johnson shouldn't be stuck in Triple-A

Brian Johnson is as big-league ready as he can get in Triple-A, but the Sox don't have a space for him in Boston just yet.

Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Triple-A Pawtucket: Brian Johnson, LHP

Brian Johnson has made 14 starts for Triple-A Pawtucket, in his first season at the level. You could classify one of them as bad, as he allowed seven runs in just 2-2/3 innings, but otherwise, he's basically been flawless. He's allowed just 16 runs over his other 78 frames, good for a 1.84 ERA, and has struck out over four times as many batters as he's walked in those innings.

You would think all this would mean it's time for Johnson to head to the Red Sox, especially since they're now more in a "figure out what you have for 2016" point in time than they are realistically competing for this year -- or, at least, the kinds of things that could help them answer 2016 questions might also make them a better team in the present, too. However, with Justin Masterson pitching well against the Rays in place of the demoted Joe Kelly, Johnson's time is not now. It probably should be, but if Masterson can recover enough over the next few starts, maybe he's someone they can trade, so waiting just a little longer on Johnson makes sense. Even if it's exasperating.

We won't know what kind of pitcher Johnson is going to be in the majors until he gets there. He relies heavily on control and command of an average four-pitch arsenal, so he's toyed with minor-league competition far more than he likely will be able to in the bigs. That's not to say you should expect to be disappointed by Johnson, though: so long as you think that the ceiling is mid-rotation and the likeliest outcome is back-end starter, your head is in the right place. A league-average (or better) arm like that is a valuable contributor, something we've been reminded of far too often during Kelly and Masterson starts this season.

brian johnson
Photo credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Double-A Portland: Sam Travis, 1B

The last time we checked in on Travis was late-May, and he had just begun to turn things around at that point after a cold stretch damaged his line. We noted a promotion was on the table for the summer if he could continue to hit well while reducing the number and severity of his slumps: over the next 21 games and 92 plate appearances, Travis batted .410/.467/.627, his lengthiest and most productive stretch as a pro. Now, he's been promoted to Double-A Portland, where the cycle can begin anew.

He's only three games into his Eastern League career, so it's not even worth bringing up his numbers just yet. The 21-year-old first baseman might take a little time to adjust, but so long as he can keep the strikeouts down without compromising the discipline that makes him intriguing, he'll be back to driving the ball soon.

High-A Salem: Teddy Stankiewicz, RHP

Stankiewicz is having trouble with the long ball of late, as he's allowed eight homers over his last eight starts and 50-2/3 innings after avoiding a single dinger through his first six starts. This might actually be a good thing for his development, though: Stanky has managed to succeed without striking batters out to this point in his career, relying almost entirely on his control. If the opposition can go deep on him often, he should be forced to learn to throw better strikes, rather than just lots of them.

Stankiewicz has the control, but now he needs the command

Remember, too, that Stankiewicz is just 21 years old, so it's not as if the clock is ticking on his development in a worrisome way. He's got a whole lot of time to figure things out, and it's pretty clear what the next item on that list is. Stankiewicz has the control, but now he needs the command, and with any luck, the homers will drop as the strikeouts rise when he gets the hang of it.

Low-A Greenville: Michael Kopech, RHP

Kopech is in Low-A and he's three years younger than your average pitcher there, but it's still hard to believe he'll get a promotion this summer, unless it's at the very end of the season. The Red Sox are still severely (and understandably) limiting his pitch counts, so you see a lot of games pitched where the righty doesn't qualify for the win even if he's pitched well. He's thrown 77, 66, 68, and 76 pitches in his last four starts, striking out 17 batters against five walks in the 15-2/3 innings he managed.

His production is exciting, given he's a teenage pitching prospect drafted in the first round just over a year ago. We'll have to wait until 2016 to see the Sox loosen the leash their hold over his pitch counts, though, and when they do, we'll get a better indication of how well Kopech can get through a lineup a third time. So, be optimistic about Kopech, but also know that what we're being allowed to see of him this year might not exactly be him, either.

Short-season Lowell: Tate Matheny, CF

Tate Matheny, son of Cardinals' manager Mike Matheny, was drafted by the Red Sox with their fourth-round pick just a few weeks ago. He's already signed and playing for the short-season Spinners, whose season began earlier this month, but hasn't played all that much given the combination of those two pieces of information. The Sox are using him as a center fielder for now, though, it's unclear just what he's going to be by the time the 21-year-old is ready for the majors (assuming he gets there, of course). He could make a shift to the infield, where his bat is probably a better fit at, say, second base, or he could become a defensive-minded fourth outfielder who can play all three positions with ease.

We'll step back from those future projections just a bit for now, as he's three games into his professional career, but that's the key story for his development. How well Matheny's bat develops will probably decide where he ends up playing, but we're unlikely to get an answer on that for a while yet.