Scouting Padres Prospect Michael Johnson

Few in the organization can take a ball headed towards the plate and shoot it out and over the wall of any park. Michael Johnson has that ability but has rarely been healthy enough to display it on a consistent basis.

Vital Statistics;
Name: Michael Johnson
Position: 1B
DOB: June 25, 1980
Height: 6-foot-3
Weight: 215
Bats: Left
Throws: Right

Owning the worst luck of any player in the system, Johnson's ailments have been many and several have just been – wrong place, wrong time.

This year was no different and it began on opening day. Rounding second base, he pulled up with a gimpy hamstring. That cost him over a month of games. In July, Johnson took a grounder off his face and would miss another 45 days of action.

"That seems to be the history with him," 2006 Mobile hitting coach Arnie Beyeler said. "Going back to the Cal League days he got hurt against us while we were playing him. He is a guy that has a target on his back and whenever things are going good for him he gets hurt. It is a tough thing."

In four years, Johnson has played in 278 games. That equates to an average of 69 games per year. With a swing based on timing and feeling right in the box it has been tough for the first baseman to get into a rhythm.

He logged just 54 starts in a 140-game season for Double-A Mobile. And he hit a miserable funk through June and early July before getting conked with a ball, batting .192 over a 31-game stretch. Only a late surge upon his return, and it was a small sampling of 30 at bats, saved it from complete disaster.

At some point, the freak injuries have to either stop or Johnson might be in another profession.

Now 26, Johnson has three years of service in Lake Elsinore and less than half a year in Double-A, despite his lofty second round status.

One of the nicest guys around and an extremely hard worker when he is on the field, Johnson has attributes that are easy to salivate over.

His power is unquestioned. Johnson can send it into the next stratosphere at any time. He has some plate awareness and while he will always be susceptible to striking out he will also draw his share of walks.

Coupled with his mammoth power it is an acceptable combination. He is also clutch – with men on base he enters into a comfort zone and is a consistent run producer.

Johnson has a long swing but his quick hands negate any thoughts that he can't get around on a fastball. He is a dead pull hitter that will find trouble when he is trying to pull the ball down and away, often resulting in the weak grounder to first base.

The natural lift in his swing often leads to a ton of fly outs but it is that uppercut swing that gives him the elevation to leave the park.

Over his four-year career, spanning the 278 games, he has 132 extra base hits. That number equates to 48.7 percent of his total hits. Over the last two seasons he has hit more homers than doubles. It is easy to drool over those numbers.

"He is a good kid," Beyeler said. "He works hard. He brings a lot of ability to the table and we just have to keep him healthy and see where he ends up."

His work at first base has improved each of the last two seasons. He does not have great athleticism or range but gets the most out of his frame with solid fundamentals. His work on the bag is also solid; he will make picks and save errors.

In the end it boils down to health. Will he stay healthy through a full year? Does it matter anymore? Twenty-seven is around the corner and he will have a spot in the game but everyone, including him, has grown weary of the constant injury timeouts.

"He just wasn't on the field enough this year to do the things from a developmental standpoint that the organization would like," 2006 Mobile Manager Gary Jones said. "But he showed signs. At the end he played through some pain after taking the ground ball of his face and the hamstring early. It is one of those things that I don't think anyone can explain. It is just one of those things that seems every year something happens to keep him from staying on the field."

A power display and year without the disables list has a funny way of making people forget the past.

ETA: The clock is ticking. Johnson's only position is first base, cutting down on his chances of earning a utility role with the Padres. Should he be reenergized with a show of might, Johnson could be an attractive player to be included in trade. Odds are, barring injury, his path to the big leagues won't be in San Diego.

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