Name: Seth Johnston
DOB: March 12, 1983
The long ball is not, however, his forte.
Built in the John Olerud mode, the infielder has a line drive swing that hits the gaps with authority and will take several balls over the fence. He is at his best when he is cracking doubles off the left-center and right-center field walls.
"Hitting-wise – here is a kid that is starting to develop into a good hitter," 2007 Lake Elsinore hitting coach Max Venable said. "I like Seth a lot. I think he is capable of hitting .300 every year. The power has come along."
Each of the past two seasons, Johnston has been limited by injuries, often derailing progress as he hits his stride.
While he possesses a level swing, Johnston's frame dictates that he continually receive at-bats to keep his timing. He has a short trigger but needs to keep the rhythm of his swing going before finding his groove.
During Spring Training in 2006, Johnston came out like gangbusters and carried it into the season when he hit .351 during the month of April. Nagging injuries put the momentum pendulum swinging in the opposite direction and he would eventually miss close to a month of action. When he returned, it took time for his timing to return. His hot streak finally came during the last week of the season, but by then it was too late.
Fast-forward to 2007 and the results were eerily similar.
Johnston came out of the chute with a bang, hitting .347 in April. May was not nearly as kind, as his playing time was sporadic with Matt Antonelli getting most of the reps at second base, Johnston's most natural position.
His timing returned in June when Lake Elsinore manager Carlos Lezcano was able to move him around the infield to allow him consistent at-bats.
July came around and for the second year in a row he would miss a significant portion of the summer month.
The final two weeks of the season resulted in another bounce-back performance, but by then it was again too late to build upon the momentum.
Johnston has solid balance at the dish, distributing his weight evenly across his body and crouching down to gain bat control. His hands don't move unless he is swinging at the ball. He lacks any true loft in his swing and is more of a ground ball hitter that relies on finding holes. When he gets under a ball it will carry to the depths of the outfield but the design is to lace balls through the holes in the infield and hit the gaps.
Because of his bat control, he is adept with two outs and as a situational hitter that executes the hit-and-run and small ball.
"Seth has a good bat," Storm manager Carlos Lezcano said. "He is a very good two-strike hitter. He has good potential with the bat."
The right-handed hitter develops a pull mentality at times and doesn't have the power down the line or the swing plane to make it a strength. When he is spraying the balls to all fields based on where the ball is pitched is when he is most effective.
Not a very patient hitter, the Texas native prefers to put bat to ball and is prone to swing at pitches that are best left alone. He doesn't chase outside the zone a whole lot but will swing at a pitcher's pitch and get himself out.
Johnston is a lumbering defender who is not considered agile. He lacks lateral movement skills and his range is limited, making shortstop a near impossible position for him to man. He has soft hands and works well coming in on the ball and attacking it – meaning second base is his strongest position.
He can play shortstop and third base in short spurts, but lacks the arm strength and athleticism to make either a permanent position – and fielding at the major league level could be out of the question. Johnston lacks fluidity in his hips to turn the double play from both sides, but has shown good accuracy on his throws.
"As he is moving up in the next year, he has to find a position," Venable confided. "He has played second base and was a shortstop in college. Because of his size and mobility, third is more suitable – and maybe in the outfield.
"My opinion – second or shortstop is not a position for him. I think he is capable of playing third or first or left field in the future. It might benefit him more. He is a big kid at 6-foot-4. With his frame he needs to get a little more agility to play that position."
Johnston lacks speed and is a station-to-station runner. He is not aggressive on the base paths and only an ideal situation will give him an extra base.
ETA: Johnston has hitting skills but has to put it together over a full season to warrant a chance. Because he lacks the athleticism to play multiple positions on a consistent basis, he has to hit and hit well. Because of the limitations defensively, his future is tied to his bat and that makes it a tough sell.