After some nailbiters in the last couple of votes for our community prospect voting, we had a somewhat close battle in the latest round. Things started to separate as time went on, though, and eventually Brian Johnson took a safe victory with a little breathing room to boot. He is our number nine prospect for 2018.
Although Johnson is still technically a prospect and could technically win Rookie of the Year in 2018 (I wonder what odds I could get on that), he doesn’t quite feel like the rest of the names on that list. Part of that is because he’s been in the organization for so long. The lefty was drafted out of the University of Florida way back in 2012 with the 31st overall pick, the compensation pick the team received from Philadelphia after the Phillies signed Jonathan Papelbon. Johnson would pitch briefly in Lowell that summer before making an injury-shortened professional debut in Greenville the following year. From there, he’d shoot up the system relatively quickly, gaining plenty of fans along the way. He was able to make his major-league debut back in 2015, but things sort of derailed for there. Johnson has had bad luck throughout his professional career, and even before, and then in 2016 he missed significant time with anxiety issues. Fortunately he got those sorted out, but it cost him some key development time and couldn’t get back to the majors that season.
All of that made 2017 an important year for the southpaw as it was his final season with a minor-league option and he had to prove to the organization that he was someone worth keeping around. Sure enough, he did just that. Of course, it couldn’t all go smoothly for Johnson as he went down with an injury in June right before he was about to be called up to make a major-league start. Still, over 17 appearances in Pawtucket he pitched to a 3.09 ERA with 70 strikeouts and 28 walks in 90 1⁄3 innings. He’d also make it back to the bigs for a couple stints, ending with a 4.33 ERA over five starts, one of which was a complete game shutout at Fenway against the Mariners.
By this point, most of us essentially know who Johnson is as a pitcher. He’s almost certainly never going to top a major-league rotation, but he has the skills to be a solid back-of-the-rotation arm for many teams around the league. There’s no one pitch that really stands out here, but he has a solid fastball with good command to help offset the fact that it sits in the high-80s or low-90s. To go with that he also has a solid curveball that is his best pitch on most days and a solid-average changeup. It’s really the command and pitchability that makes him a viable major leaguer. When Johnson is at his best he has the confidence to throw all of his pitches at any time and can spot them where ever he wants, and that goes a long way to mask his relative lack of stuff.
This coming season is going to be a fascinating one for Johnson. While he is still a prospect, he is also entering his age-27 season and is out of minor-league options. Because of that, he will have to be in the bullpen if Boston’s rotation is at full strength and they want to keep him around. There’s a chance Steven Wright will miss the start of the year with a suspension, and in that case Johnson would take over as the fifth starter over that time. This spring, the plan is for the Red Sox to start stretching him out as a starter before shifting him to relief work, as it’s easier the stretch out then work back down than the other way around.
Here’s our list so far.
- Jason Groome
- Michael Chavis
- Tanner Houck
- Bryan Mata
- Jalen Beeks
- Alex Scherff
- Sam Travis
- Mike Shawaryn
- Brian Johnson
Now, we move on to the tenth spot on our list. As always, head down into the comments and “rec” the comment corresponding the player for whom you’d like to vote. Make sure you’re a member of the blog before you do so of course. Additionally, if there is a player you’d like to vote for who is not listed, leave a comment of your own saying “Vote for Player X here”. That comment will count as his first vote. For more information on this system, scroll to the bottom of this post. Until next time...