Breakout Candidate: Toddric Johnson, OF

Very quietly, the Oakland A's - famous for playing station-to-station baseball - have been adding speed to their once sedentary line-up. On the major league level, Milton Bradley has injected some base-stealing speed. At the minor league level, the A's have added a number of speedy players through the draft. One of those players, Toddric Johnson, could be the fastest in the A's system.

Vital Statistics
Name: Toddric Johnson
DOB: 12/17/84
Height: 6'1''
Weight: 170
B/T: L/L
How Acquired: Selected in the 14th round of the 2006 draft out of Southern Miss

Johnson was selected by the A's last summer after a standout career at Southern Miss. As a senior, Johnson hit .363 with 11 homers and a 996 OPS as a top-of-the-order force for the Golden Eagles.

Concerns about how his swing would translate to wooden bats caused Johnson to slip down to the 14th round, where the A's were happy to grab him. He was sent initially to short-season A Vancouver, where he tore through the Northwest League before earning a promotion to low-A Kane County. He struggled initially at Kane County, but after a few weeks, Johnson got hot and finished his stint with the Cougars with a .286 batting average by batting .405 over his last 10 games. A hand injury cut his regular season short, as he missed the last month of the season.

Johnson showed a lot of promise in his first professional season. At Vancouver, he was an on-base machine, posting a .429 on-base percenrage at the top of the Canadians' order. He also showed good gap power, collecting four extra-base hits in 38 at-bats.

Johnson wasn't as patient at Kane County, walking only five times against 15 strikeouts. However, he showed a knack for collecting the big hit, driving in 12 in only 28 games despite often hitting in the bottom third of the Cougars' order. He also scored 21 runs.

When he is on his game, Johnson is a classic top-of-the-order hitter. He sees a lot of pitches, hits a lot of line-drives and can flat-out run. Johnson is one of the fastest players in the A's system going from first-to-third and second-to-home. He didn't have a chance to attempt many stolen bases last year, but if he has more freedom in 2007, he should rack up some decent stolen base totals.

Not surprisingly, Johnson was a lot more selective at the plate during the hot streak he had through the end of his season. He appeared to try to do too much when he first arrived at Kane County, but grew more comfortable with the level of competition as the season went on. His power was non-existent in Kane County until his last two weeks with the Cougars, but he should collect more doubles and triples in 2007.

Johnson is a solid defensive centerfielder who showed that he can cover a lot of ground in the spacious stadiums of the Northwest and Midwest Leagues. He should benefit from his five weeks of experience in the Midwest League in 2006.

It has been some time since the A's developed a legitimate lead-off hitter. Johnson is a good candidate to break that trend. If he has a good spring, Johnson should start the year at High-A Stockton, where he would be reunited with hitting coach Tim Garland, who was the hitting coach at Kane County last season.

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