Pierce Johnson, P
Age 22 (5/10/1991)
2013 Teams: Kane County Cougars, Midwest League (A); Daytona Cubs, Florida State League, (A+)
Northsiders Report 2014 Ranking—# 8
How acquired—Drafted in first-round in 2013, #43 overall
Prior to Cubs
A three-year starting pitcher for Faith Christian Academy in Arvada, Colorado, Johnson completed only 25 innings his senior year, missing half the season with an injury. He was an all-stater the previous two seasons, going 10-0 as a sophomore including a no-hitter in the state championship game. He was drafted by Tampa Bay in the 15th round of the 2009 draft but decided to head to Southwest Missouri State. Johnson set the Southwest Missouri State strikeout record in 2012 fanning 119 in 99.2 innings, posting a 4-6 mark with a 2.53 ERA and .235 BAA. The junior's best performance was a complete game shutout over Creighton as he struck out 16, earning national player of the week honors. He finished his college career with a win over MVC champ Indiana State and then help beat top-seeded Miami in the NCAA Regional. Johnson's career took a turn during his sophomore season as after a tough start, he bounced back with 55 strikeouts in his final 53.1 innings with a 2.36 ERA and .217 BAA. As a freshman, Johnson tossed 40.2 innings with 36 strikeouts and a 7.52 ERA. He spent two summers (2010-11) in the Cape Cod League with the Harwich Mariners. While in college, Johnson transformed from a thrower to a pitcher improving his mechanics and his ability to hit spots. He also improved his mental toughness his three years with the Bears. The righty was 11-13 overall in his 49-game career, pitching 216 innings with 227 strikeouts, fifth best in school history.
After signing with Chicago on June 19, the Colorado native didn't make his pro debut until Aug. 1 against the Indians, allowing two hits in a scoreless inning. He threw two more shutout innings in the Arizona Rookie League before being promoted to Boise. Johnson made four starts for the Hawks pitching two innings in each outing, facing 34 hitters. He allowed 10 hits with three walks and 12 strikeouts. Johnson made two, three-inning starts in Boise's two playoff series. He surrendered a run on two hits to Yakima in the semi-finals and then fanned six and allowed one unearned run against Vancouver in Game 2 of the NWL finals. He finished his first pro year with a 3.27 ERA in 11 innings but had a WHIP of 1.55 and a BAA of .333.
The Colorado native took the ball on opening day for the Cougars (5-5, 3.10 ERA/1.29 WHIP), one of 13 starts he made before a mid-season promotion to Daytona. He tossed 69.2 innings in the MWL with 22 walks, 74 strikeouts, and a BAA of .250. Kane County pitching coach Ron Villone said he was impressed with Johnson's ability to absorb information and his intelligence on the mound. He arrived in Daytona in late June and allowed three earned runs in his first two starts for the D-Cubs (11.1 IP). He dominated the FSL the rest of the season, only allowing six runs over his next eight games in 37.2 innings. (6-0 1.43 ERA, 41 K). The right-hander got the win in the opening game of the FSL finals, delivering five shutout innings with six strikeouts in his only post-season appearance. Johnson logged 118.1 innings in his first full pro season, making 21 starts, with two relief appearances, both in Daytona. He finished with a strikeout rate of 9.4/9 and walk a rate of 2.8. Johnson was named Cubs Pitcher of the Month for August.
The front office has made it clear the right-hander will start 2014 in Tennessee as he makes the jump to AA. Johnson is aggressive and works quickly on the mound. He has great athletic skills and may have the best pick-off move of any right-hander in the minors. Johnson's best pitch is his fastball (low 90s) and he's well aware that locating it at every level is the key. He offers an above average slider and a change, and commands all three pitches. While its unlikely Johnson reaches Wrigley this season, he could be eyeing a pro debut in 2015 if he continues his development, and projects as a middle-of-the rotation starter.