Johnson is coming off a 2010 season that saw him win TigsTown's West Michigan Player of the Year award, after he posted a very solid .284/.413/.388 line from the ‘Caps' leadoff spot. The 23-year old former 7th round pick of the Tigers (2009) posted an impressive 98 walks in 122 games, good enough for second in the entire league. All of those walks helped prop up Johnson's .413 on-base percentage that ranked eighth in the circuit.
Following the 2009 draft, Johnson debuted at short-season Oneonta in the New York-Penn League, and though his .242 average won't wow anyone, he did tie for the league lead in triples with seven, along with ranking fifth in the league in walks (41).
Being drafted in the seventh round out of the University of Oklahoma was a strong improvement from his 50th round selection by the Colorado Rockies out of high school in 2006.
Johnson has the skill set of a classic leadoff man, with speed, defense, and on-base ability. He is routinely clocked as a plus runner from the left side, and he can beat out infield hits at times. His speed doesn't translate as well on the bases as one might think, and he doesn't project as more than a 10-15 stolen base guy at his best. Johnson is not an overly aggressive base runner, and he will have to improve his reads – both on steals and in taking extra bases – if he is to use one of his base tools to his advantage.
On the contrary, Johnson's speed does play well in the field, as he gets decent jumps and takes good routes in center field, and has the speed to cover plenty of ground. Though Johnson had the weakest arm of the regular outfielders in the West Michigan lineup, that's no slight against him, but rather a testament to the strength of the other arms around him. Johnson has above-average arm strength and he has good accuracy on his throws.
Johnson earns marks as a fringe-average to average hitter with a very strong ability to recognize balls and strikes and command the strike zone. He gets himself in good hitter's counts by not chasing pitches outside of the zone. Most scouts struggle to project him as an average hitter because he lacks the strength to drive the ball when challenged at higher levels. Many of the same scouts weren't convinced he would be able to maintain his on-base ability as pitchers learned to command their stuff better and were able to come at him for frequently. His power is well below-average.
Though he has speed, defense, and on-base ability, only his defense projects to be a fully-utilized skill at the higher levels, which limits his long term prognosis. Johnson is probably a fourth outfielder at best, and may top out as a Double-A or Triple-A fourth outfielder.
Performance Level Team AB AVG 2B HR RBI SO BB OBP% SLG% A
Johnson has been healthy as a pro and there is nothing significant in his history to suggest he is an elevated risk for injury.
Johnson will move up to High-A Lakeland for the 2011 season and he should be capable of duplicating – or nearly duplicating – his numbers from West Michigan last summer. His skills and tools should play well in High-A, and he won't be hurt by the tough power environment of the Florida State League.
He is the type of player that managers will like having in the lineup every day, and until he fails to perform, he will continue to advance. Given his lack of projection, he could be a candidate to see action at multiple levels in 2011, as the organization won't be worried about stunting his development.
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