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2017 Red Sox top prospect voting: Brian Johnson tries to stay in the fold

Brian Johnson had many setbacks in 2016, but he’s still a top-six prospect in the system.

MLB: Boston Red Sox-Workouts Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Well, these votes are getting closer. Right now, we’re at a point in which you have to weigh proximity to the majors against upside, and the former won out in this vote. Taking 36 percent of the vote, Brian Johnson beat out a handful of others to take the sixth spot in our rankings.

Now entering his age-26 season, if it feels like Johnson has been around forever it’s because he has. The former first round pick and University of Florida product is now two years removed from his peak prospect status. That came prior to the 2015 season, when he was a top-100 prospect according to Baseball Prospectus.

Last season was the definition of a lost season for Johnson. He spent most of the year in Triple-A — his second consecutive partial season at that level -- and things did not go well. He pitched to a 4.44 ERA and lost the command that was supposed to carry him to the back of a major-league rotation. Of course, it eventually came out that the lefty was dealing with major anxiety issues, which affected him both mentally and physically. He took some time off to get things squared away before coming back later in the summer. The results weren’t all that great even upon his return, but by all accounts he was doing better on a personal front.

As far as what Johnson brings to the table on the mound, it’s a major-league package when everything is right. He won’t head any rotations, but he brings strong command, good mechanics, the frame to make it through a full season in the rotation and three average offerings. None of his fastball, changeup nor curveball will blow anyone away with its quality, but they are good enough to get by on as long as the command is there. That’s a thin line he has to walk, but he’s done it in the past.

Looking ahead to 2017, it’s clearly a make or break season for Johnson. Between injuries and personal issues, he’s seen his stock take a big hit and he’s far behind where he was supposed to be at this point. Obviously, he deserves a break for what happened last year, but he needs to prove it’s behind him in the coming year. Unless injuries pile up in Boston, Johnson will start the year in Pawtucket fighting with Henry Owens and Roenis Elias for position on the depth chart. In this writer’s position, he is the most likely to be a solid major leaguer in that group, but this is the time in which he has to prove it.

Here are our rankings so far:

  1. Andrew Benintendi
  2. Rafael Devers
  3. Jason Groome
  4. Sam Travis
  5. Bobby Dalbec
  6. Brian Johnson

As always, you can vote for the next spot below.