Steve Johnson Draft Update

Former Dodgers minor league pitcher Steve Johnson was taken in the first round of the Rule V draft from Baltimore. Here is the report by his father, Dave Johnson, a former major league pitcher himself, as you can see, he's a pretty good writer, too. It's a neat look at a different side of baseball.

A little Steve Johnson update is overdue. So here it is. Yesterday was a great day for Steve and his baseball career. Steve was taken in the First Round of the Major League Rule 5 Draft by the San Francisco Giants. The inner workings of baseball, is hard enough to describe to the average fan. But, this can be one of the most complicated rules of all. I'll give it a try.

When a minor league player is drafted out of high school and plays 5 seasons, he becomes eligible to be selected in the Rule 5 Draft. The Rule 5 draft is held the last day of Baseball's Winter Meetings. The Winter Meetings were held in Indianapolis this year. The way to protect a player from being selected is to put him on the Major League 40 Man Roster. Players on the 40 Man Roster are protected and not eligible to be selected by other teams. Players not protected on this 40 Man Roster are available to be selected by another team. The date to finalize the Major league Roster was November 20th. 

Steve was not protected by the Orioles. They felt that he was not close enough to being Major League ready. Therefore, no team would draft him and keep in the Majors all year. You see, that's where it gets complicated.  If you are selected in the Major League portion of the Rule 5 Draft, the team that selects you pays your team $50,000.00. You have to stay in the Major Leagues ALL season or be offered back to the team from where you were selected for half that price.  Only about 20-25% of the players selected in the Major League rule 5 Draft stay with that team.  Most are offered back to their original club. In essence, it's a $25,000.00 look see. There are other factors to this thing that are more complicated and I would only confuse you more. You have the gist if it. 

When Steve came over to the Orioles from the Dodgers in the George Sherrill trade this summer, things were looking good for him. He had just been promoted to AA Chattanooga and was having success. That continued at AA Bowie after the trade.  Steve's goal this year was to get to AA and to do well enough to force the club to protect him. 

When Steve was not protected by the Orioles, he was very disappointed. The ramifications of not being protected were many. It meant whether Steve would go to Major League or Minor League Spring Training. It had a very large impact on his minor league salary for 2010. Steve made around $6,000.00 in 2009 in his fifth year as a professional player. That's crazy!! Without being protected and sent to the minors, his salary for 2010 would have only gone up about $2,000.00 for the year. Making $8,000.00 a year as a 6 year pro baseball player. Somebody stop me!  When Steve was not protected it hurt a little. He had to readjust the chip on his shoulder and look forward to the Rule 5 Draft in December.

I didn't sleep to well Wednesday night. The Draft was going to be Thursday morning at 9 am. I was going to listen to it live on MLB.COM. I didn't wake Steve because I knew the chances that somebody would take him were slim.  I thought, let him sleep. He has done all he could do. No sense in torturing him by listening to it on the internet. Now it was up to the scouts, coaches, managers and front office people throughout all of baseball to make a decision on Steve's immediate future. 

I knew this was huge for Steve and I was just hoping somebody would see that the kid can pitch and he's more advanced mentally than many his age in pro baseball. I know I'm biased, get over it. I was a nervous wreck sitting in front of my computer.  I had been sitting there since about 3:30 in the morning.  I texted a friend in Indianapolis covering the meetings to see if he had heard Steve's name floating around the last few days. Nothing! Didn't look good. Received a call from a friend and scout at about 8:45 and he was hearing that it didn't look like Steve was going to be selected. I dug in, turned on the computer and went to the MLB.COM website. Just after 9AM they started the draft.

I thought going in that Steve's best chance to be taken was going to be with the first 8-10 teams. They draft in reverse order of finish that season. Washington had the first pick and I thought that was Steve's best chance. But, a few days earlier, the Nats agreed to give the Yankees the player they pick, in return for Brian Bruney. I knew the Yankees were not going to want Steve. They are vying for the World Series every year. One down and a few to go. 

Looking at different websites the last week or so to see if there was any scuttle butt about Steve, gave me an idea of some of the names of players that most people (the press) thought would be selected. Most teams that would take a young guy with little "high level" minor league experience would be a rebuilding team that was not very good the year before. Texas passed and Florida passed.

  You do not have to take a pick. Once they passed and most do once you get past about 15 teams, I thought it was over for Steve. After hearing all the picks up to that point, I thought that it was weird that most of the picks were names that I had not heard about leading up to the draft. Nobody was hearing Steve's name leading up to the draft either. 

So, you're telling me there's a chance? I'm sitting in front of the computer and Texas passes, Florida passes then San Francisco is on the board.  Come on, they won 88 games last year. They were just given the Topps Award for the best Minor league organization for 2009 at the winter meetings. The Giants also have a very good pitching staff with guys like Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain and Barry Zito.  I'm thinking, it's over, time to deal with it and move on. 

Next thing I hear is "Johnson, Steven from the Norfolk roster of the Baltimore Orioles". I jump up out of my chair and run into Steve's room and jump on top of him yelling "The Giants took you! The Giants took you!" It sounds like, The Giants won the pennant! The Giants won the pennant! Can't get that out of my mind.


At this point, he is in a daze and probably is thinking get off of me you crazy man. I'm trying to sleep. Then, I am jumping up and down at the foot of his bed and he's yelling at me to stop jumping up and down. He thought I was stepping on his new remote starter key fob he just got last week. The things kids worry about?  Anyway, what a really cool moment for me. I don't know about him. He usually doesn't get too hyped up about things and this was no different yesterday morning.

So, you with me?  Here's the deal. A very good team with a very good pitching staff and a very good minor league system is taking a chance that Steve can make their team next year as a long reliever. Awesome. Worst case scenario is that the Giants feel he is not quite ready and send him back to the Orioles. Not a bad option at all, don't you think?

It's all good. Thanks for your support and I'll keep you informed of Steve's progress. You can Google "Steve Johnson Rule 5 draft 2009" and get a bunch of different articles about it if you want.

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