Acquired: 2009 Draft, 7th Round
Ranking History: #91 (2009), #45 (2010), #32 (2011)
Johnson was a seventh round pick that signed quickly in 2009 and seeing action in 73 games with short-season Oneonta. He struggled to just a .241/.345/367 line that summer, but did pop 21 extra-base hits and nearly walked (41) as many times as he struck out (50).
The Tigers took the logical step with Johnson in 2010, moving him to West Michigan where he played 122 games and showed intriguing skills, posting a much improved .284/.413/.388 line. His 98 walks finished second in the league.
He continued to walk his way up the prospect charts in 2011 with an 84-walk performance while skipping High-A and jumping straight to Double-A Erie. Despite the large jump in competition, Johnson still hit .275 with a strong on-base percentage and a career high 33 doubles.
Johnson returned to Erie in 2012 and hit .281 with 18 doubles, and again, more walks than strikeouts in 116 games. He also received a ten-game cameo at Triple-A where he struggled with a .222 average.
Johnson is a quality minor league player with a hard-nosed approach to the game and the type of grinder mentality that could push him to the big leagues some day. He is an undersized player that still has some solid tools, but he will have to continue to perform at a high level to overcome the stigma that is associated with his physical stature.
One of the system's better outfield defenders, Johnson has true center field skills. He is an above-average to plus runner that can move easily from gap to gap, chasing down fly balls. His instincts are good, though he does struggle getting quick jumps on balls hit directly at him. His arm is average and works well in center field.
With a keen understanding of his small strike zone and strong pitch recognition skills, Johnson can be an on-base machine. He maintained a strong walk rate as he continued to compete against more advanced competition, and that will always be part of his game.
His willingness to work counts allows him to get into counts where he has the upper hand and can find pitches to drive. He has solid contact skills and rarely swings and misses. He has the strength in his upper body and solid enough bat speed to hit quality line drives to all fields, making him decent hitting threat. He doesn't project to hit better than .270 at the highest levels, but he could get there with 50-60 walks a year.
The strength in Johnson's swing is such that he can drive the ball out of the infield but he lacks significant pop. He will occasionally find the gaps and pick up some doubles but will rarely put a charge in the ball for extra bases.
Johnson's strong defensive profile and capable offensive game give him the potential to reach the big leagues. He has little chance at a full time big-league role, but he could be a very viable bench outfielder with the ability to play defense at all three positions and at least put together some tough at-bats at the bottom of the order.
Performance Level Team AB AVG 2B HR RBI SO BB OBP% SLG% AA
Johnson has yet to have any major injuries in his professional career.
Johnson will head to camp penciled in on the Triple-A Toledo roster. He may get a token look in spring training and could earn a chance later in the season with a strong showing in front of Jim Leyland and his staff.
Johnson's solid base of skills and hard-nosed approach to the game could get him to the big leagues in the next year or two and he could man the Toledo-to-Detroit shuttle for a while.
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