Chase Johnson Deals for San Jose

Tim Hudson and Andrew Susac were supposed to be the main attractions last night at San Jose Municipal Stadium. Turns out a Giants prospect was ready to steal the show. Huddy made his first rehab appearance, allowing only one hit and striking out two over a clean 2.2 shutout innings. Susac spent the whole night behind the dish and went 2-4 with a HR at the plate. In reality, it was a good night for both rehabbing big leaguers. But Chase Johnson, who would have been the regular starting pitcher, entered the game in the 4th and had easily the most dominant pitching performance by a Giants farmhand this season.

During his 6 innings of relief last night, Johnson allowed only 3 hits, walked one batter, and kept Lancaster off the bases with 14 strikeouts! This from a guy who had never struck out more than 9 in his professional career. Just a week after profiling another “Johnson” in the San Jose rotation (newbie right-hander Jordan), Chase Johnson’s already rising stock now appears to be soaring.

Remember, Chase was the Giants 3rd round pick in 2013. He was essentially a money-saving pick who signed under slot and allowed some flexibility for the two prep hitters drafted before him, Christian Arroyo and Ryder Jones. At the time of the draft, Johnson was a little used reliever at Cal Poly who could run his fastball up to 97 in short spurts. He started some during his freshman season, was moved to full-time closer as a sophomore, and ultimately lost the job (for unknown reasons) to Reed Reiley during his final year in college. He made only 15 appearances as a junior, but the Giants love their hard-throwing college relievers, and were all over him that June. I profiled him that summer as he was transitioned immediately into a starting role in the organization.

Later that summer (2013), then Baseball Prospectus writer Jason Cole posted some video of Johnson in an instructional league game that caught my eye. This was an eye-opener for me, as Chase showed a solid low-90’s fastball, a diving curve and a pretty good changeup. When Baseball America named him a top 10 prospect in the Northwest League that summer, it became pretty apparent that there was some real potential in that right arm.

After an inconsistent season as a full-time starter in Augusta last year (110 IP, 4.57, 40 BB, 94 K), Johnson has flourished in San Jose in 2015. One thing he’s been able to do his entire professional career is induce groundballs, which he’s done this season to a (career low, but still impressive) tune of 1.61 groundout to air out rate per MiLB.com. Now, he’s combining the ability to get those grounders with an overpowering mid-90’s fastball. The same guy who was topping out at 94 or 95 as a starter is now running his heater up to 97-98 at times, and has been doing it nearly all season for the Giants.

Over his last 10 outings – including last night’s relief appearance – Johnson is 6-1 with a 2.08 ERA over 56.1 innings. He owns a 63/18 K/BB rate during that span. For the season, his K/9 is now at an even 9.0 (111 K in 111 IP). His ERA has been dwindling all year, and is now down to 2.43. He’s also not allowing many baserunners, as his WHIP has crept down to 1.16. For a guy who just made it into the MLB.com’s recently-released Giants top 30 prospects list, I think there’s serious some re-evaluating going on here.For me, Johnson is clearly a top 10 prospect in the organization at this point.

Baseball is a funny game. Sometimes the guys who get all the press don’t show the results, while the guys with the results don’t get near the amount of press. Chase Johnson has shown the stuff this year; It’s about time he starts getting the press.

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9 thoughts on “Chase Johnson Deals for San Jose”

  1. Great write up. Very stoked about this outing, as I’ve had Chase in my Giants Top 10 most of season. I like the strong lower half and the easy velocity. There is so much to work with here and it sounds like his secondary pitchers are coming together and the FB command improved. He’s great raw material and it sure seems like he’s making Giant strides (excuse the pun).

  2. I went to graduate school last year at Cal Poly with a former Cal Poly player who is a current coach on the team. He said he played with Johnson and that he lost his closer role because basically he couldn’t throw strikes. He also said that they used Johnson at some regional showcase, or tournament, where there were a lot of scouts. I guess he had control that day and dominated with some 97 MPH fastballs. Maybe this is when the giants took notice?

    Its clear the Giants have helped him with his control. Love this org. Love this team. Great time to be a giants fan.

    1. Thanks for the input J. Whatever happened, nice that the Giants ended up with a hard thrower who didn’t have a ton of mileage on his arm. Now he’s popping mid-90’s every start. What a development!

  3. Blatently ripped off from teh SJ Giants blog:

    Arroyo And Johnson Named Postseason All-Stars

    Shortstop Christian Arroyo and pitcher Chase Johnson were named to the postseason California League All-Star team last Friday. Arroyo ranks third in the California League with a .320 batting average. He hit .300 in the first half (27 games) and is batting at a .332 clip since the All-Star break (51 games). Arroyo has also produced 25 doubles, two triples, nine home runs and 40 RBI’s this season. Johnson, who was promoted to Double-A Richmond last Tuesday, logged an 8-3 record with a 2.43 ERA in 20 games (18 starts) for the Giants. He struck out 111 batters compared to 34 walks over 111 innings and had a 0.94 ERA in the second half (5 ER/47.2 IP).

  4. Hey Cove. I hope all your engagement matters are going excellently. You know, recently I’ve been thinking a lot about our Giants farm system. We *might* not have a flame-throwing ace-potential arm or a superstar-caliber prospect among ’em… (Although, we might). However…

    I feel like we’re so loaded with depth. Of very good to excellent talent. Forgive if it seems insensitive to say we’ve got heaps of ‘lottery picks.’ Enough that several are sure to turn out. #3-5 starters. Superb utility players to starter-level position players. Excellent-to-elite bullpen arms. From less than one year to three years away (from MLB). I’ll take it.

    It means, we could use our financial might to actually supplement our stock with some top-tier free agent, perhaps. Or we’ve got plenty of talent we could use in a BIG trade. Last year I honestly thought we could’ve gotten Matt Moore while he was still rehabbing from TJS, if we threw the farm at TB. Dude just struck out 16 in 6 innings in the minors. Dang, that team-friendly contract would allow us so much… I keep thinking of a top arm like Danny Salazar. I’ve loved Nick Kingham’s hybrid curveball for a very, very long time. Get an arm like that, then we could maybe sign Cespedes or Heyward, too.

    My point? Oh, yeah. All these guys rising up. Biagini, Chase Johnson, Jordan Johnson, Cole, Arroyo, Broadway, Osich… Last year it was Horan, Ragira, Tyler Rogers… Boatloads more. Gregorio. Mark Reyes, Jose Reyes, Fargas, Slater… You know the names. Wow. And we’re so lucky to see the product arriving at AT&T! Tomlinson. Whoa. Cheers.

    1. Carmot, it’s funny that you posted this. We must be on the same wavelength, because this is EXACTLY what’s been on my mind lately. I’m not sure I have the time to dive into all of the reasons I feel this way right now, but I’m hoping to write about a “status of the organization” type post very soon. Let’s just say I’m more excited about the future of this club than I am about the current season (and we’re in a playoff race!). The emergence of Kelby is HUGE for me, as it gives this club another reliable utility/bench bat option when everyone is healthy. It also allows them flexibility to almost literally leave the offense alone this winter, focusing solely on upgrading the rotation. I too think we could be in for a big signing or trade in the coming months. The resources are there.

      And the coolest part of all this for me… the Giants are totally re-tooling this system right before our eyes. These types of players may not get the hype initially, but there’s so much depth in the system right now it’s hard to fathom. Thanks for the comment, and I hope to follow up on these thoughts soon.

      1. Hey, Cove. You know I always look forward to your posts, right? You share a lot of great insight, info, and opinions. So, it seems we’re thinking along the same lines? Well, recently I’ve drastically changed my stance. I’ll say that (obviously) I highly doubt we could get Matt Moore now, he looks like he’s returning to his elite form. And we no longer have some of the pieces to trade that I thought would get him.

        So, no… Salazar is no longer my top target. I do think he could breakout from 2016-18. Big time. (And, IMO, we’d match up well to trade with CLE to fill some of their future needs). But I see us retaining Byrd. And the perfect complement for him would be to get Jackie Bradley Jr. A true CF (and LHB) to add to our core. Byrd plays a strong bench role and starts some. Gives Pagan rest (in LF, if we keep him), gives Pence rest, backs up w/ Blanco. Depth. Young, talented, elite defense AND cost-controlled. Boston won’t need FOUR CF’s, right? (Betts, Castillo, JBJ, and also Margot in their pipeline).

        So… JBJ + Byrd + Casilla. Sign David Price. IMO, that’s an excellent offseason right there. Add 1-2M for an IF bench veteran (or maybe keep Adrianza?). Should all fit below the luxury tax. What would you think of that? Cheers.

        Dream big.

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