It’s always interesting to see how youngsters perform in September when given an opportunity. While you can’t fully take the stats at their face value, since the competition is generally not quite the same as other teams are also trying people out, they can’t be ignored.
One player who got an extended look is the White Sox’ Erik Johnson, who definitely made an impression. In five starts (27.2 IP) he went 3-2 with a 3.25 ERA. Of course, he also had a 1.55 WHIP, as he failed to generate strikeouts (5.86 K/9) and was beaten by the long ball (5 HR).
The strikeouts are not indicative of his ability, however. Between Double and Triple-A he posted an 8.30 K/9 and has an 8.38 mark over the past three seasons in the minors.
He also has better control than the 3.58 BB/9 he showed in the Majors. In the minors last season he posted a 2.54 mark and owns a 2.67 over the past three seasons. Add another category he should improve upon over the long haul.
To give us the perfect triumvirate, he also shouldn’t be so prone to the long ball. Just look at his groundball rates, by level, last season:
- Double-A – 47.8%
- Triple-A – 47.0%
- Majors – 46.4%
It’s not elite levels, but they are certainly good enough. He posted a 0.44 HR/9 in the minors and there’s no reason to think he is going to be as homer prone as he was in his first taste of the Majors.
On the surface, we have a pitcher who fared well in his first cup of coffee and should bring solid strikeouts, solid control and solid groundball stuff to the table. Exactly what is there not to like?
There’s no questioning the talent, as Baseball America ranked him as the White Sox fourth best prospect entering the season saying:
“Johnson uses his strong build to throw a low-90s fastball that peaks at 96. His slider is a potential plus pitch with depth and bite, and his curveball is nearly as good. He’s still learning to add and subtract from his changeup, which lags behind his other pitches. He worked diligently on his changeup during instructional league, with club officials encouraged by the results. Johnson has refined his mechanics since signing, which has paid off with some extra velocity and improved control late in the 2012 season.”
He averaged 92.0 mph on his fastball in the Majors, which certainly would be more than enough.
The White Sox are a team in transition, and outside of Chris Sale there are no guarantees in the rotation. At this point you would think one of those spots could easily go to Johnson, who has the potential to be a nice sleeper late in your 2014 drafts.
We will keep an eye on the White Sox maneuvering throughout the offseason, but at this point with his underlying skill set and potential opportunity he likely will be a good buy on draft day.