HT: 6-5 WT: 210 POS: SP
Norfolk Tides (26 G, 25 GS, 148 ip, 4.07 ERA, 109 K, 48 BB, 15 HR, 1.47 GO/AO)
Drafted in the 5th round of the 2001 draft out of high school, James Johnson's long trek through the Orioles' system may be nearing an end. After a solid year in triple-A Norfolk and a brief cup-of-coffee with the big league team, the 24 year old will be one of many young hurlers to get a shot at a big league job at some point in 2008.
Johnson works at 88-92 MPH with his fastball, with solid command of the pitch low in the zone. Despite marginal arm action, the most common praise heaped upon the right-hander is that he is durable and works at 88-92 MPH deep into ballgames throughout the season.
As Johnson told ITW earlier this season, "Most days my out-pitch is going to be my curveball." It's a plus breaker that sits in the high-70's. He also flashes a decent changeup that serves as a usable third pitch. Left-handers were especially effective against Johnson, batting .289/.350/.459 against him in a pitching-friendly environment.
James Johnson lacks the ceiling of many of the young arms in the Orioles' system and faces a steep challenge to emerge as an option for the big league rotation. He's more likely to get a shot at a bullpen job in 2008, though there is a good chance he starts out back in Norfolk. His ultimate role will likely be as a swingman, with an outside shot at back-of-the-rotation possibilities.
As Johnson himself told ITW, "I have got to become more consistent and execute, because that's what it all boils down to. I have to trust my stuff and know that I can execute at the next level."
Michael Hollman is the Senior Writer for Inside The Warehouse and can be reached via e-mail at Publisher@InsideTheWarehouse.com