BLUF: Inning-eating number three starter with surprising feel for the game without tons of experience.
The Player: Brian Johnson (LHP, University of Florida) – Excelled on the mound and in the field as both a freshman and sophomore. Posted 4.03 ERA and 6-4 record in 2010, followed by a 3.62 ERA and 8-3 record as the Gators made the CWS in 2011. Hit .405 as a freshman in 27 games, including five doubles and four home runs. Posted a .307 mark in 61 games as a sophomore with the new BBCOR bats, ripping eleven doubles and five home runs. Showed well with Team USA and impressed scouts in a brief Cape Cod League showing in 2011. Has hit .327/.371/.542 in 31 games this spring, tying a career high with five home runs. Also posting a 5-2 record and 4.04 ERA in eleven starts, allowing 57 hits and striking out 44 in 55.2 innings. Previously drafted by the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 27th round in 2009.
Basis of Report: Industry Contacts
Body (6-4, 225): Physically mature. Well-proportioned body with broad shoulders, thick legs and plenty of natural strength. Good coordination. Durable frame with inning-eating potential. Room to add mass to both upper and lower body, though doesn’t necessarily need to.
Delivery/Mechanics: Consistent, quiet and clean delivery. Repeats the start of his delivery well out of both the windup and the stretch. Has experience pitching in relief and his mechanics from the stretch are advanced and consistent. Hides the ball well behind his back leg and has a quick arm that gives him some deception. Good extension out front and he says in line to the plate. Finishes in balance and ready to be a defender. Good athlete that can do a everything well on the mound.
Fastball (FB) Velocity (Wind-up): High – 94, Low – 88, Average – 89-92, Grade – 50/50
Fastball (FB) Velocity (Stretch): High – 94, Low 88, Average 89-92, Grade – 50/50
Fastball (FB) Movement: Some natural lefty movement to the arm side. Also shows some run at times when he stays on top of it more. Good life on his four-seam FB. Just enough movement on most FB to miss the heart of the bat. Grade – 40/50
Overall Fastball: Should settle in as a solid-average to above-average overall pitch once he focuses on it full time. Good movement and quality velocity from the left side give him the ingredients for a really nice offering. Slight chance of a velo bump with focus on pitching, but considering his physically mature body, it’s not a sure thing. Grade – 50/50 (solid-average)
Breaking Ball (BB): Has primarily thrown a SL in the past but will also show more of a traditionally 1-7 CB. SL can show tight spin and good bite late in the zone when it’s on. The bigger, loopier CB has good diagonal break that can miss bats and change planes on the hitter. Gets caught between the two at times and could be benefitted by focusing in on the slower CB as a pro. Potential to be a plus pitch with added consistency. Grade – 40/60 (CB)
Change-up (CH): Doesn’t always use out of the bullpen but will show it during starts. Good arm speed but movement is inconsistent. Needs work to be a reliable third pitch. Will flash some sink and could be a good pitch against right-handed hitters to get out of at-bats quickly and keep them off the FB. May never be better than a fringe-average pitch but should be usable. Grade – 30/40
Control: Throws strikes with both FB and BB consistently. Pounds the zone with good angle and can work the halves of the plate horizontally and vertically. Mechanical consistency lends to strike throwing and he has added ability to work out of the strike zone when he wants to. Plus to plus-plus control in his future. Grade – 50/70
Command: I really like his command projection. Good coordination. Good arm action. Repeatable delivery that is already refined despite a lack of innings. Advanced control in college should transition to plus command in the future. Grade – 40/60
Summation: Top two-way player in the draft class. Good all-around baseball player. Understands the game and works hard. Good knowledge of pitching nuances. Shows feel for sequencing and working through a lineup multiple times. Good competitor on the mound. Rarely backs down in big spots. Two above-average to plus pitches and a third potentially usable pitch gives him a quality mix. Plenty of command and control projection helps the arsenal play up. Good feel for craft. Potential quality third starter that racks up innings with durable body and clean delivery.
Relative Risk: Moderate. Has to demonstrate ability to handle full workload once focused on pitching, but has durable body and solid polish at this stage.
Draft Projection: Could go off the board in the first round as a hitter or a pitcher. Most teams like him more on the mound, where he could be a top 15 pick and maybe higher to a team looking for a college arm that can move quickly, which he can despite lack of experience.