2006 Draft: Pick Profile - Cody Johnson

So who is the Braves' top pick in the 2006 draft? In this free preview of premium content, The Braves Show's Bill Shanks has a profile on Cody Johnson, including comments from three Braves' scouts on their projections for the outfielder.

CODY JOHNSON


First round - 24th overall pick
6-4 195
Outfielder
Bats: L Throws: R
Turns 18 on August 18
Mosley High School in Lynn Haven, Florida

BACKGROUND: His father, John, played baseball at Mississippi State. Cody's baseball hero is reportedly Ted Williams. He turned down a scholarship to Florida State to sign with the Braves.

HIGH SCHOOL CAREER: As a sophomore at Mosley, when he was fourteen years old, Johnson hit .345 with 29 hits, 5 home runs, and 16 RBI. He also went 5-for-5 in the District Championship game with two home runs. Then in his junior season in 2004 he hit .489 with 42 hits, 10 home runs, 30 RBI, and 36 runs scored. Cody was 5A First Team All-State, First Team All-District, and First Team All-Region. In his senior season this spring, Johnson hit .522 with 15 home runs and 43 RBI, 6 doubles, 44 runs scored, 35 hits in 67 at bats, and 10 stolen bases.

SUMMER TO REMEMBER: Last summer Johnson really made a name for himself. With the wood bat, he hit .496 with 22 home runs, 115 RBI, 24 doubles, 6 triples, and 40 walks in 234 at bats for the East Cobb Astros. He captured the MVP award at the Perfect Game National Showcase in Atlanta in June, and then in July won the MVP award at the Wood World Bat event. Then in August, Johnson participated in the AFLAC All-American Classic in Baltimore, where he was named the 2005 AFLAC National High School Player of the Year with the Jackie Robinson Award as the top rising senior in the country.

RANKINGS: Baseball America had him ranked as the 82nd best prospect in the country, the 13th best in the state of Florida, and the second best high school first baseman in the draft. He'll be an outfielder for the Braves.

ANALYSIS

Braves' Scouting Director Roy Clark:

We've been tracking him obviously last summer when he was over at East Cobb and just dominating against the best pitchers in the country. Our scouts were all in there. As you probably know he was the summer league player of the year by Baseball America. We've seen him at his best. We've seen him struggle. We feel very comfortable with his makeup. We feel very comfortable with his ability. Just to give you a little background. We had our pre-draft workout the other day, and there were a couple of guys that came in. We had a hitting group with (Hank) Conger, who went 25th, (Chris) Parmalee, and Cody. The first time ever since I've been here, since 1989, we ran out of balls. They were hitting all the balls out of the ballpark. We had to go get a new shipment of balls for the workout. Cody, in our opinion, was the premiere power bat in this draft. He's also a year younger than most of the other guys in this draft. We are just delighted about Cody.

In our opinion, Cody was the premiere power hitter in the draft this year. We've been tracking him since early in the summer when he was over at East Cobb. We've seen him against the best competition. As a matter of fact, Kurt Kemp and I and all the rest of us, we had never seen him hit with the aluminum bat until this spring. We had seen him all summer with the wood bat. He dominated. He was the summer player of the year. As Paul Snyder just said, and I didn't realize it, out of the first 125 just drafted, he was the youngest. So he's really the age of a high school junior. He was going to Florida State, and hopefully we can get him done. He's an outfielder. He could play first base if he had to, but he's an outfielder.

I've read Baseball America. They say that he's got holes in his swing. He's seventeen years old. I've probably seen him in 75-100 at bats with the wood, against the best competition in the country. Trust our scouts. I think we know what we're doing here.


Braves' Special Assistant to the GM, Paul Snyder:

He played first base, and I was told going in that he had trouble defensively at first base. He made every play you'd want him to make. First time I saw him he faced (Kasey) Kiker, the left-handed pitcher. I was told by my mentor Bill Wight, ‘don't ever see a hitter against a left-handed pitcher.' He walked twice, popped out, and struck out once. He didn't do anything negative to put a negative question in my mind. I did see him play the outfield. He threw here in his pre-draft workout. I did not realize his arm was as strong as it was, since I had seen him at first base. As for the swing, it's a timing thing. It's not a big hitch. Matt  Williams had the same thing. The big guys that are strong it doesn't bother them. It's the little puny guys, the five-foot-six guys, that can't catch up to it when they have a hitch. I think he'll be maybe a year away from getting going because of the age factor. He's a high school junior. He's getting stronger and will gain more.


Braves' National Crosschecker Kurt Kemp

I think that every hitter has to adjust to what works for them. I think you can look up and down the big leagues and different hitters start their hands in different ways. The whole key is whether or not they have the ability to start their hands and still get it there when that ball is there. When that ball is in the hitting area, if that ball is in the right place at the right time, it really doesn't matter how it got there or how it started. We've seen hitters start with their hands high as Yastrzemski did, and we've seen them start low. Guys start them in different places, but the bottom line is will he make the adjustment as he moves up in baseball to hit the harder velocity. We believe that he will. I think those are natural adjustments that get made with hitters as they go on. Obviously, if we thought someone did something mechanically that would prohibit from ever being able to do that, they probably wouldn't have been in the draft position that Cody was in.

We think his youth is a huge plus in his favor, both physically as well as his baseball development. We think we've got someone whose going to move upward from here forward and is already pretty good as it is. It's outstanding to watch him swing that bat and to watch the ball come off the bat. Even today, he looks very, very fitting in a big league ballpark.


The Braves Show's Bill Shanks:

It is obvious the strategy in the Braves' draft. They knew the pitching was the strength of the draft, but they also knew they had to get a premiere outfielder with one of their top four selections (within the top 51 picks). They also identified the pitchers they wanted to take a shot at, and with that they knew they could go for the outfielder first and then go on a run of pitchers. With Johnson clearly their top outfield choice, they went with the lefty-hitting outfielder. The few things that are obvious are his previous success and his youth. There is no doubt that he's been successful, and he's done it at a sinfully young age. He did all that damage last summer as a sixteen years old. Sure, he was close to seventeen, but he was still sixteen and playing with kids a bit older than him. That's got to be impressive. Those numbers (.496, 22, 115) are scary. Now as the old scouting adage goes, "If they've done it before, they can do it again." Well, let's not put that pressure on him, since those numbers might be legendary. But there's little doubt with those numbers he can hit. But to realize he won't turn eighteen until August is exciting. Just think, he could spend most of his season in Rome next year at eighteen. That makes you wonder just how good he could be in three years, when he's twenty and could be in Double-A.

Will this apparent hitch, as some call it, be a problem when he gets into pro ball? Well, it looks like it's a good swing and that his approach is just different. When he drives through the ball, it looks pretty good. And his plate discipline seems to be okay. The Gulf Coast League will be his first stop, and there's no reason to believe he's going to struggle there. But he's going to play a lot of baseball here in the next five months, so it's going to be a good test for him.

The Braves did not miss out on any pitcher they could have had at 24, so they got the outfielder they wanted and still got the top pitchers on their board with their next three picks. This is a good long-term project for the Braves. They do not have to rush Johnson, and since he is younger, they can only hope what he might develop into in five years. The success he had last summer obviously made the Braves fall in love with him, and once he matures physically and fills out his frame, the organization could have a legit power-hitting prospect.


Bill Shanks is the author of Scout's Honor: The Bravest Way To Build A Winning Team, a look at the Braves' traditional front office philosophies. He can also be heard on the Braves Radio Network. Email Bill at thebravesshow@email.com.

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