In looking at the Rice outfielders I was planning on profiling, it seemed like overkill. We were going to do all three, while none of them may be drafted that highly. Instead, let's go with a Texas pitcher who's coming out of Division II and may turn out to be a quick mover through a system.
Why is that? Because Stephen Johnson is a reliever who throws gas. He's been clocked up to 101 with his four-seamer and it seems he works off that pitch with his breaking stuff. There's some violence to his delivery, which means a move to the bullpen may be in his best interest long-term.
Look at the videos below, though. That weird hitch thing with his elbow just before he extends is just...weird. He recovers well and moves into what appears to be the "Power T" look for his delivery. That's a good sign for his future health and may be how he's avoided injuries after experiencing some elbow discomfort in high school.
If he really can throw 100 and do it consistently out of the bullpen, he can have a pretty long career even if he doesn't develop other stuff. Look at what Kyle Farnsworth has done. It's not assured, but it means he's more than worth a draft pick, maybe as high as the second round.
Look back at Houston's drafts the past few years and circle the relievers they took who stayed in the bullpen in the pros. How many of them make it two years in the system? How many get released pretty quickly? Drafting a guy as a reliever out of college is just a recipe for a relatively low floor. They just don't always pan out and usually do that quickly.
It depends on how consistent his stuff can be. If he can throw that hard and develop a good slurve as his secondary pitch, Johnson looks like a closer-type bullpen guy. At worst, he'd be a dominating setup man who can use that fastball to blow past the lesser lights in the lineup.
Projected Draft Round
Right now, Baseball America has him going in the second round. He's currently sitting at No. 63 on BA's prospect list and is No. 61 on Keith Law's Top 100.
Will he sign?
I think so, but he is a junior, so a team would have to really convince him to sign. Given that he's a small-school guy and has some concerns over his delivery, I think it's in his best interest to sign now and make hay before he gets hurt.
Bibliography after the jump
He has a very long arm swing that he can't repeat, doesn't use his lower half enough to generate that big velocity, and has recoil after his release, all of which points toward a future in the bullpen. He also doesn't have a weapon for left-handed hitters, so it would be hard for him to go through a lineup two or three times. There's some closer upside here, but the real value is just as a power reliever who should reach the majors in a year or so.
St. Edward’s features the draft’s best college prospect outside of Division I, junior righthander Stephen Johnson (1-1, 1.35). Projected to go as early as the second round, Johnson has a fastball that sits in the mid-90s and has topped out at 101 mph. The 6-foot-4, 205-pounder has pitched only in relief this season, notching a D-II leading 16 saves while striking out 63 in 36 innings.
Johnson is the primary small-school arm drawing the buzz in the 2012 draft, and as of this writing, he had 48 strikeouts and a 1.01 ERA in 26 2/3 innings as St. Edwards' closer.
"He has a big body, big-time arm strength and was 96-98 mph," said the NL talent evaluator, who has seen Johnson pitch twice this spring.
Like Zimmermann, Johnson has emerged after traveling a somewhat seldom-worn path. Rob Penders, the head coach at St. Edwards, chuckled when telling a story of recruiting Johnson out of Boulder (Colo.) HS."He has a big body, big-time arm strength and was 96-98 mph," said the NL talent evaluator, who has seen Johnson pitch twice this spring.
"It was his breaking ball that attracted me," Penders said, his laugh acknowledging the irony that he's describing a player now coveted primarily because of high-90s heat. "His breaking ball was really good, and his fastball was 86-87."