Dodger Prospect #27, RHP Steven Johnson

Latest in a series on top Dodger prospects as we count down to the very best. While Bill Shelley is on medical leave, take a look at Prospect #27, RHP Steve Johnson.

Steve Johnson was lured away from Boston College and the Dodgers have been pleased with the results. Even though his rookie season with the Gulf Coast Dodgers was scaled back because of a tired arm, he jumped all the way to Jacksonville and worked two scoreless innings in an emergency. His fast ball comes up around 90 mph and he has a dependable curve which he uses wisely to put batters away. While his fast ball is only a bit above average, it has a sinking action that is especially tough on righthanders. His curve also drops down effectively and he has a much better feel for a changeup than most high schoolers.

He has an excellent feel for the craft probably because he's been schooled well by his father, former major league pitcher Dave, who pitched in 53 games for the Orioles 1974-75 and Twins from 1977-78 who now conducts a baseball school in addition to working on Oriole telecasts.

Although Johnson probably won't get much bigger (6-1, 185) it is exactly the same size and weight that his father was while pitching for Baltimore.

Steve was only 17 (He would turn 18 on August 31) when he debuted in the rookie Gulf Coast league but a sore arm cut his season to only six games and finished 0-2, 9.53. Hardly the way the state of Maryland's high school Player of the Year had imagined how things would be.

Steve and Scott Van Slyke have a lot in common. They were teammates on the GCL Dodgers, and their fathers were together on the Pittsburgh Pirates.

In 2006 he worked hard to recover in the spring though he wasn't surprised when the camp broke that he was left with the extended camp squad.

And the Dodgers knew that he had far more ability than that brief encounter in the GCL had demonstrated. So, when a 911 call came from Jacksonville which was suddenly short on pitching, they nominated Steve as the person to fill the void.

He flew to Birmingham, got into uniform and was in the bullpen when the Barons started pounding the Suns so the call came, well before he expected it. Suddenly he was in a Double A game with a decent-sized crowd cheering the home guys.

"My knees were shaking," He told Bill Shelley. "But I just wanted to throw strikes, do what I could do and see what happens." And that was just what he did, two innings without allowing a single runner- six up, six down.

As quickly as possible he phoned his parents. "I couldn't wait to tell them what happened but my dad surprised me when he answered because the first thing he said was, 'You did great.' They had been able to hear the game on the internet. So, he was asking about every ball hit- were the flies hit hard? How about the ground outs?'"

Steve doesn't get people out with mid to upper 90's heat. Rather, he relies a lot on a sinking fast ball that usually hovers around 90 and also throws an advanced change.

His new teammates proved to be more than friendly and helpful, he says. First baseman Craig Brazill, who had spent time in the big leagues, introduced himself and asked, "Where did you play last year."

"The GCL," was the answer.

Brazill exclaimed, "I thought you looked young. How old are you?"

"18"

Good Lord! I played in the GCL and let's see, you would have been eight years old then. And now we're teammates."

Steve was to get another taste of Double-A action three days later. This was in no blowout for Alvis Ojeda turned a 1-0 lead over to him when he entered in the sixth. He gave up a single but also notched two strikeouts in a scoreless inning. He got through the seventh without any damage as well.

In the eighth, he notched another "K" but then gave up a double. "So they brought in Mark Alexander; he got the next two outs and pitched a scoreless ninth. So we won 1-0."

That was it, for the record, 4.2 innings with a perfect 0.00 ERA. And a marvelous experience.

Johnson was sent to Ogden in 2007 where he was 5-5, 3.89 in 14 starts. He fanned 86 (leading the league) and walked 25 in 78.2 innings.

In 2007 he started strongly with Great Lakes, missed much of the middle of the season with an aching arm, then impressed the Dodgers so much down the stretch he was sent to extended spring training where he again dazzled.

Late in the season he pitched a great game against Cedar Rapids, winning 3-2 and recording 74 win shares, the ninth best total on the Great Lakes staff. Johnson finished with a 48.1 season average, just a bit below the norm, but came off his injury with such a rush that he recording a sparkling 58.2 average over his final six starts.

He should pitch for Inland Empire inn 2008 and who knows, might get another taste of Jacksonville later in the season.

His record:
Steven David Johnson   br  tr  6-1  185
Born-August 31, 1987 in Baltimore, MD
Obtained- Selected in 13th round of the 2005 draft

year	team   	w-l   era   gm  gs   in    h  bb   so   ave
2005	GCLg	0-2   9.53   6   3  11.1  18   4   14   .360
2006	Ogden	5-5   3.89  14  14  76.2  79  25   86   .133
	Jacksn	0-0   0.00   2   0   4.2   2   2    3   .267
2007	InEmp	3-6   4.85  18  16  81.2  90  40   65   .280

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