Cove Chatter 2015 Giants “All-Farm” Team

Christian Arroyo | Photo c/o Larry Goren | Four Seam Images via AP Images
Christian Arroyo | Photo c/o Larry Goren | Four Seam Images via AP Images

Sorry for the major lack of posting lately. Trying to run a classroom and a blog simultaneously has proven very difficult for me over the last month, but I’m working to put a few posts together with the season winding down. I’d never done an organization all-star-type post before, so I thought this would be fun. Just keep in mind, this group is statistic based. This is not an “All-Prospect” team, but more of a prospect “All-Star” team. You will find some of the top prospects in the system on this list, while others will be noticeably absent.

There are no hard and fast “eligibility rules” for this list. Some of these guys are prospects, some graduated to the majors, and others still bounced up and down a bit. Please, don’t get hung up on that kind of stuff. This is supposed to be for enjoyment. So let me know what you think! I did select a 2nd team, but I haven’t done the write-ups for those guys yet. I’ll try to get it posted in the coming days. Thanks for reading!

MVP: Matt Duffy, 3B, San Francisco – .299/.339/.434, 11 HR, 73 RBI, 11 SB, 4.5 WAR | I’m obviously breaking the nonexistent “rules” here as he didn’t spend a day in the minors all year… but I don’t care. Duffy has been the organization’s breakout player for 2015. He’s one of the steadiest bats and gloves in the National League. What a huge win for the farm system, and for us prospect watchers who’ve been rooting for him over the years.

First Team

C: Aramis Garcia, Augusta/San Jose – .264/.342/.431, 15 HR, 66 RBI, 40 CS% | A slow offensive start gave way to a summer surge for Garcia in Augusta, who showed improved defense and one of the strongest arms in the system. He’s a clear top 10 prospect in the organization right now.

1B: Chris Shaw, Salem-Keizer – .287/.360/.551, 12 HR, 30 RBI | Shaw was a 1B/OF at Boston College and one of the best power hitters in the Cape Cod League last summer. The Giants plucked him in the supplemental first round, and he led the short-season NWL in Home Runs despite only playing in 46 games and logging 200 PA. That’s a 36-HR pace over 600 PA, so it’s evident why the Giants believe in his bat.

2B: Kelby Tomlinson, Richmond/Sacramento/SF – (minors) .321/.376/.414, 3 HR, 21 SB | (majors) .275/.338/.362, 1 HR, 5 SB | Kelby looked like a completely new hitter during his second full season in Richmond. The Giants moved him up to Sacramento where he kept on producing at the plate. When Joe Panik went down, I felt very good about KT’s ability to pick up some slack at 2B. After some early defensive jitters, he settled in nicely while giving the Giants steady at-bats almost every night. He was a serious candidate for my “prospect MVP” award.

3B: Miguel Gomez, Salem-Keizer – .319/.331/.442, 6 HR, 52 RBI | The 22 year-old C/DH/3B made his stateside debut after spending three summers in the DSL. He’s a switch-hitter who is extremely aggressive at the plate… and all he did was hit this summer for Salem-Keizer (coming within 1 or 2 games of the all-time NWL hit streak record). He’s still a pretty unknown commodity, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Giants push him to San Jose next spring.

SS: Christian Arroyo, San Jose – .304/.344/.459, 9 HR, 52 RBI, 5 SB | He missed some significant time to injury for the second season in a row, but when he was healthy, all Arroyo did was hit. Ultimately he was the SJ Giants offensive player of the year, and at 20 years old he appears on the fast track to the majors (not that the Giants need any middle-infielders at the moment). AA will be a big test for him next year, but he’s the #1 prospect in the system for me right now.

LF: Hunter Cole, Augusta/San Jose/Richmond – .301/.358/.474, 9 3B, 9 HR, 63 RBI, 7 SB | Strong first full season for the 2014 26th round pick out of Georgia. He spent some time in the infield, but the Giants moved him primarily to RF once he was promoted to AA. With the Giants current MLB/AAA outfield situation, he’ll likely return to Richmond next spring.

CF: Johneshwy Fargas, Augusta – .278/.347/.349, 2 HR, 59 SB | The young, Puerto Rican CF has impact speed and arm strength. If his bat can develop, he’ll likely be one of the top prospects in the system. San Jose should be a good test of his hitting abilities next season, and he still has plenty of time to develop.

RF: Jarrett Parker, Sacramento/San Francisco – (minors) .283/.375/.514, 23 HR, 74 RBI, 20 SB | (majors) .370/.414/1.074, 6 HR. 12 RBI, 1 SB | If this were the all-prospect team, Mac Williamson would have undoubtedly been my pick here. But I’m going on overall performance, and Parker had his best season as a pro for Sacramento this year. Oh, and did I mention he just clubbed THREE HOMERUNS in Oakland?! That’s 29 big flies on the year…. whoa. After looking rather unassuming in his brief MLB stint in June, I’d say Parker’s surge this month has put his name in conversations for next year’s roster.

SP: Chase Johnson, San Jose/Richmond – 124.2 IP, 111 H, 2.82 ERA, 3.0 BB/9, 9.3 K/9 | The former Cal Poly reliever took a giant leap forward in his second professional season. He got a small taste of AA late in the year, allowing 24 baserunners and striking out 18 batters in 13.2 IP. He maintained a mid-90’s fastball and hard curveball all season, and his breakout performance puts him among the top arms in the system for me.

SP: Sam Coonrod, Augusta – 111.2 IP, 103 H, 3.14 ERA, 2.7 BB/9, 9.2 K/9 | Converted college closer tamed his previous control problems this summer in Augusta. He mixes a sometimes upper-90’s heater with a very good slider. Whether he’s a starter long term is still up for debate, but at the moment Coonrod’s stuff and results are getting rave reviews around the baseball world.

SP: Clayton Blackburn, Sacramento – 123 IP, 127 H, 2.85 ERA, 2.3 BB/9, 7.2 K/9 | Keeping AAA hitters in check is a difficult task for any pitcher, regardless of age. Blackburn is 22 years old and the owner of a PCL ERA crown. He transformed his body over the winter, and the results were obvious as he dominated down the stretch. His fastball won’t ever blow up a radar gun, but his ability to mix speeds and locate his pitches has played at every level in the minors. His next test is a MLB tryout.

RP: Jake Smith, San Jose – 84.1 IP, 50 H, 2.35 ERA, 16 SV, 2.2 BB/9, 12.6 K/9 | Smith was one of the Cal League leaders in strikeouts despite pitching out of the bullpen the entire season. From start to finish, he was a major contributor to a dominant Giants relief corps that made it all the way to the CAL Championship Series. The MLB draft was cut down to 40 rounds a few years ago; Smith was a 48th round selection in 2011. Don’t let that fool you… this guy has a big league arm.

RP: Josh Osich, Richmond/Sacramento/SF – (minors) 41 IP, 26 H, 1.32 ERA, 21 SV, 2.6 BB/9, 9.0 K/9 | (majors) 23.2 IP, 18 H, 1.90 ERA, 2.7 BB/9, 9.1 K/9 | Osich’s stuff returned to form this season, and the Giants have reaped the benefits. With Jeremy Affeldt’s contract expiring this winter, Osich might be looking at a full-time MLB job next spring. When he’s right, he’s one of the most electric arms in the bullpen.

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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.

Cove Chatter 100: #23

Chase Johnson | RHP, 21 yo, 6-3, 185 | 2013 Draft – 3 | (AZL) 3 G, 5.1 IP, 1.69 ERA, 1 BB, 7 K | (A-) 10 GS, 41 IP, 4.17 ERA, 7.9 H/9, 2.6 BB/9, 8.1 K/9

Another player who I profiled last summer. He was a closer at Cal Poly in 2012 before mysteriously losing that role in 2013. He was the first pitcher taken by the Giants in the 2013 draft, and the organization quickly moved him into a starting role. He allowed only 5 ER in his first 7 starts with Salem-Keizer, but got knocked around for 14 ER in his final 3 outings (9.2 IP). If the Giants are serious about stretching him out, I can envision him beginning next season in the Augusta rotation. There will certainly be a number of pitchers vying for those spots (just as there will be in San Jose), so it will be interesting to see how he’s used next year. Johnson showed an easy delivery while running his fastball up to 95 in the instructional league video shot by Jason Cole at the end of the season, also throwing an occasional change and an overhand breaking ball with some sharp downward bite. The draft pedigree and that fastball make him a very intriguing name to follow going forward.

They said it: “Johnson still has good stuff, though, with a fastball up to 93 mph that has good sink to it to go along with a slider and changeup that both have the chance to be Major League average. Command has been a bit of an issue…” ~ MLB.com

Johnson video:

Johnson S-K:

(Conner Penfold/Giant Potential)

Prospects in the Press

We’ve got some news on the prospect front for the first time in a while. Jason Cole of Baseball Prospectus posted video from a recent instructional league game between the Giants and A’s. Originally he posted four clips; pitchers Kyle Crick and Keury Mella, and hitters Angel Villalona and Ryder Jones. Later, Cole snuck in a one-inning stint from 3rd round pick Chase Johnson. If you haven’t seen these, I’ll link them here. I definitely recommend checking them out… All are high-quality, HD clips that get right in behind home plate. Pretty sweet views of each pitcher’s breaking pitches!

Crick Video

Mella Video

Johnson Video

Jones Video

Villalona Video

My take: The pitchers were a bit more exciting, as you might have guessed. Pitching is the cream of the crop in this franchise! Crick’s video is the longest, as he throws a few innings. He’s a bit wild at first, surrendering walks and a couple of base hits in the first inning. He settled in pretty nicely in the following frames, and was consistently 94-96 with his fastball. I don’t know about you, but I just love this guy. Do me a favor: watch the Crick video again, then watch this clip of another pitcher the Giants developed a few years back. See any similarities? Pretty awesome stuff if you ask me.

I think Mella’s video was my favorite, and I’ve watched it over a few times. This kid is highly, highly underrated in my opinion. I don’t think it’ll be that way for much longer, though. Look at that frame! Abbreviated windup (a little like David Price), fastball at 93-95, and a filthy breaking ball! Gives up a base hit to the first hitter, then absolutely makes the second guy (Higley) look silly on three pitches. He’d work through the second inning without allowing a baserunner, recording a few K’s in the process. This video was an eye-opener for me, as I still knew relatively little about this kid. Let’s just say he’ll get a nice bump up my offseason rankings. He’s got a long way to go, but that fastball looks goooood going forward. What other starting pitcher in the system throws that hard?

Johnson pitched an inning, losing a long battle with Oakland’s 1st rounder Billy McKinney. McKinney took the walk after spoiling some 3-2 pitches, and the next batter hit an RBI triple to left center. Looked like the CF had trouble getting the ball in, but it was crushed either way. Still, Johnson worked 91-94 with the fastball, and even hit 95 once from what I remember. His breaking ball is a big, over the top curve. Had a little trouble controlling it. The changeup is low 80’s, making for a very nice change of pace from his fastball. You know, for a guy whose 3rd round draft spot prompted some questions in June, Johnson is starting to get some hype at the national level all of a sudden. Baseball America ranked him the #8 player in the NWL in its offseason top 20 list last week. He was the only Salem-Keizer player to make the list, in fact. It’ll be interesting to see what the Giants do with him next year. Augusta? San Jose? Starter? Reliever? Guess we’ll have to wait to find out.

Jones and Villalona’s videos were a little uneventful. I can’t, however, get over how big Angel V. is. He is a serious bopper, and he’s headed to the AFL to put his bat to the test. It looked like he got into one pretty good during this game, but you couldn’t see where the ball landed. Could have been a routine base hit, but I got the impression it was a very long single. Either way, this kid looks like he’s got major league power. Does he have major league contact?

Hopefully Cole will get the chance to shoot a few more Giants before instructional league ends. Those were a lot of fun to check out!

Finally, the Cal League top 20 was released by Baseball America today, and the Giants ran away with it. Crick came it at #3 behind A’s phenom Addison Russell and Rockies hurler Eddie Butler (although MLB.com has Crick #42 in its updated top 100; Butler was ranked in the 80’s). Delino Deshields and Austin Hedges got the 4 and 5 spots, with our own Edwin “Esky” Escobar sliding in at #6. Who came in at #10, you ask? Well, that would be none other than Adalberto Mejia, lefty extraordinaire. Three Giants pitchers in the top 10 gives you a pretty good idea that we fans aren’t the only ones taking notice of these arms anymore. Pretty exciting stuff.

On the back end, Ty Blach came in at #15, Mac Williamson at 18, and Clayton Blackburn rounded it out at 20. Six Giants in the top 20, impressive. I think what surprised me the most here was Blackburn getting the lowest spot among this group. Many in the Giants fan base (myself included) believe Blackburn is a top 5 prospect in the system. Hell, you could make the argument that he’s #2 or 3. So I think this list gives us a pretty good idea about how the rest of the world looks at these pitchers. Also great to see Mac make the list as well, although I don’t know how he could have been left off. He fell a tick short of .300 on the season. Otherwise, his offensive numbers were very, very impressive. This is the cream of the crop in the system, ladies and gents, and they’re moving up to Richmond next year. Escobar may be moving to Fresno… as Sabean says, AA is the true test, not Fresno.

A quick recap on those BA rankings. As Giants affiliates go, I think the Eastern League and PCL are the only leagues that haven’t had top 20’s announced. Not sure if we’ll see anyone from the organization make either of those lists. Panik and Susac probably have the best shot for the EL. Maybe Heath Hembree gets a spot in the PCL 20? 10 Gigantes farmhands have made it onto their respective BA lists. The super 6 in the Cal, Chase Johnson in the NWL, and 3 more from the AZL. Christian Arroyo at #2, Mella at #14, Ryder Jones at #19. For those of you keeping score at home, that’s your 1st, 2nd and 3rd round draft picks all on the top 20 lists for their summer leagues. All of this from a Giants draft class that got laughed off the field by the national pundits in June. Interesting stuff.

That was a lot, but many good things going on in the depths of the Giants system these days. I have a feeling we’ll see a couple more of these kids crack the preseason top 100, but that’s still a long way off. For now, enjoy those videos, and we’ll catch up on the prospect front again soon as the AFL season gets rolling.

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(Conner Penfold/Giant Potential)

Org Pitching: Salem-Keizer

Dan Slania – R (21): 3.95 era, 13.2 ip, 8.6 h/9, 2.0 bb/9, 9.2 k/9 – 5th round pick from Notre Dame this year. Big body (6-5, 255), hard thrower. Nice fastball-slider combination. Maybe San Jose next year?

Eduardo (EJ) Enicinosa – R (22): 3.12 era, 17.1 ip, 4.2 h/9, 5.2 bb/9, 10.9 k/9 – Giants took him with 7th pick in 2012. Another 6-foot-5 bullpen power arm with control issues. Why is he only pitching sparingly in short-season ball?

Chase Johnson – R (21): 3.88 era, 46.1 ip, 8.0 h/9, 2.5 bb/9, 8.5 k/9 – First pitcher taken in the 2013 draft. Former Cal Poly closer, now a starter. Low to mid-90’s sinking fastball.

Cameron McVey – R (24): 3.19 era, 42.1 ip, 7.2 h/9, 3.0 bb/9, 10.2 k/9 – 3rd 6-foot-5 righty bullpen arm on this list. 22nd round pick last year out of tiny Biola (CA) College. Should help form a strong pen in Augusta next year.

Nick Vander Tuig – R (21): 11.70 era, 10.0 ip, 17.1 h/9, 3.6 bb/9, 9.0 k/9 – 6th round pick, led UCLA to CWS title this summer. Low 90’s fastball with great control. Definitely a sleeper.

Pat Young – R (21): 1.22 era, 44.1 ip, 6.1 h/9, 2.0 bb/9, 6.5 k/9 – 6-foot-5 starter from Villanova has been a nice surprise in S-K this summer. 13th round pick with a funky, but deceptive delivery.

Christian Jones – L (22): 2.84 era, 19.0 ip, 8.1 h/9, 1.5 bb/9, 8.5 k/9 – Oregon lefty was 18th round pick in June. Sturdy frame. Giants loaded up on relievers in this draft.

Tyler Rogers – R (22): 2.30 era, 27.1 ip, 7.2 h/9, 4.0 bb/9, 10.2 k/9 – 10th round pick this season. College senior with good size. Signed for $7.5k. Off to a surprisingly good start to pro career.

Chris Johnson – R (22): 2.49 era, 83.0 ip, 7.0 h/9, 0.9 bb/9, 8.5 k/9 – Repeat performer in the NWL. Much better numbers this time around, with only 8 BB in 83 IP.

Andrew Leenhouts – L (23): 2.39 era, 71.2 ip, 8.5 h/9, 1.8 bb/9, 6.7 k/9 – Crafty lefty with sub-90’s velocity. 23rd round pick last season, leads the Volcanoes in wins this year.

Overview: It is my opinion that the Giants had a very good draft this summer, and I think we’ve already seen some proof of that in the 2nd half of the season. The high school picks have led the AZL team to a dominant championship this summer, while Salem-Keizer’s been no slouch in the NWL. All of the pitchers on this list were drafted either this year or last, and they make up a quite unheralded, but strong staff.

While the starting pitching has been good all summer, it’s the bullpen arms that are likely to be the quick movers in this system. Slania is a monster who brings the heat, and there were talks of the Giants making him a starter when they took him in the 5th round in June’s draft. Looks like the front office is satisfied with him out of the pen for now. He might make some top 20 Giants’ lists this winter. Encinosa and McVey are high-upside guys who I’ve spotted on a few lists already. McVey is a little older, but he’s only in his second pro season. Encinosa is closer material, but he hasn’t logged many innings this year. I’m not sure why.

Jones and Rogers are the other relievers on this list. Jones is a 6-foot-3 lefty from the University of Oregon (and a NorCal kid from Danville) who missed all of 2012 recovering from Tommy John surgery. Once a top of the rotation starter with electric stuff, he worked almost exclusively out of the pen this spring in Eugene. If he can stay healthy, maybe the Giants give him another chance to start down the road.

Rogers, the Giants’ 10th round pick, signed for $7,500, obviously well below the slot value for a pick that high. I really don’t know what kind of stuff he offers, but he’s a 6-foot-5 kid who’s pitched very well in his 27.1 innings out of the pen this summer.

The rest of these guys make up the team’s starting rotation, and I have included them because each has seen some form of success in his their short professional careers. All 5 are college draft picks. Chase Johnson is the highest drafted (although his 3rd round selection was seen as a reach by many) of the group. He’s a former closer who the Giants are trying in a starting role.

To me, Chase has the most upside of the S-K rotation, although Vander Tuig might turn out to be the steady big league starter of the group. The UCLA ace was impressive in this year’s College World Series. If you saw his title clinching performance against Mississippi State, you know how dominant he was. 8 shutout innings in the biggest game of your career? I’ll take that guy on my team any day.

Vander Tuig hasn’t done well in his short stint as a professional (which included a spot start in San Jose), but it’s likely that his arm was pretty worn out after the college postseason. Either way, he’s a polished pitcher with great command, and I still think he could be the one from this group to bypass Augusta and start in San Jose next year.

Of course, Chase Johnson and Vander Tuig could turn out to be busts or organizational fillers. You never know, and that’s just the nature of the game. But those two will likely garner the most buzz from this crop of starters. The other three guys all have one thing in common: size. Young is 6-foot-5, Chris Johnson is 6-4, and Leenhouts is 6-3. Leenhouts and Johnson are second-year pros who have been steady members of the S-K rotation all summer. Johnson’s k/bb ratio of 78/8 is impressive, while the crafty lefty Leenhouts posted a 2.39 ERA in his 71 IP. Young is a product of the 2013 draft, and has only allowed 4 ER in 8 starts with the Volcanoes. He’s a lanky guy with a funky delivery, but he’s been impressive in his short time as a pro.

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Prospect Spotlight: Chase Johnson

Let’s take a look at the first pitcher in our series, and one of the newest pitchers on the Giants’ farm.

Chase Johnson: 21 yo, ss-A

Pos: RHP

HT, WT, B/T: 6-3, 185 | RR

2013: 6 G (3 GS), 1-1, 0.47 ERA, 14 IP, 7 H, 2 BB, 13 K

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Chase Johnson was the Giants’ 3rd round selection in this year’s amateur draft, but he’s the only one of the first five San Francisco picks who wasn’t on my recent mid-season top 40 prospects list. There are a few reasons for this. 1) My initial reaction to the Johnson pick was that the Giants were trying to save money to use on later picks (which they did, signing Johnson for $70k under slot), thus following two high school hitters (Arroyo and Jones) with a low-upside college reliever. 2) I just didn’t know that much about him when I put the list together, and really didn’t put much effort into finding out more about him at the time. I guess you could say he got swept into a corner, in a way. 3) He hadn’t yet made his pro debut when I began compiling my list.

Well, Johnson has made his debut now, and has made three starts in the short-season A Northwest League after three relief appearances in the Arizona Rookie League. Word is he’s been hitting low to mid-90’s with his fastball, which he flashed at 97 from time to time this spring in college. So let me get this straight. He’s a college closer with a mid-90’s fastball that the Giants drafted in the 3rd round, and he’s now starting? I’m beginning to think the initial assessment on this kid was very short-sided. That being said, let’s take this as an opportunity to get to know more about Johnson.

Johnson has been on the radar since his high school days in southern California. His tall frame and his live arm had him drafted in the 26th round by Texas in 2010, but he decided to attend Cal Poly instead. He was a difference-maker right away, making 8 starts and 10 relief appearances as a true freshman. In 49 IP, he logged a 2-5 record with a 3.67 ERA and 34k/21bb. The next season, however, Johnson was used purely out of the bullpen, serving as Cal Poly’s closer while also making some extended appearances of 3 and 4 innings. He had a good year, making 25 appearances, recording 8 saves, a 3.34 ERA and 31k/13bb in 35 IP. He also pitched in the Cape Cod League that summer, recording a 3.98 ERA in 20 relief outings.

Johnson was all set for a strong junior season at Cal Poly after his steady showing in 2012. However, things didn’t go as planned for the hard-throwing righty in his final collegiate campaign. He lost his job as closer, a decision that must have been made prior to the season, as he wouldn’t record a single save on the year. That role was given to Reed Reilly, a redshirt-sophomore who the Orioles drafted 15 rounds after Johnson in June. In fact, Johnson didn’t really pitch much at all in 2013. Of 11 pitchers on the Cal Poly staff, he logged more innings than only three. He made 15 appearances, all out of the pen, and had a 2.31 ERA in 23 innings, with 21k/9bb.

There really isn’t any true explanation for why Johnson was essentially demoted to the bench in his junior year. Sure, there are theories that he and his manager had a falling-out, or that he wasn’t healthy. But it’s pretty odd that a 3rd-year player who throws mid-90’s wouldn’t be a go-to guy for a school in the Big West. Either way, the Giants liked what they saw from the kid during his college days, and essentially got a guy with the ability to be a starter and a reliever, with a fresh arm to boot.

The Giants made Johnson their first pitcher selected in the 2013 draft, as well as the first collegiate player. The pick had a slot value of $510,000, but Johnson accepted a deal for $440,000, definitely aiding in the team’s efforts to sign a few guys above slot value later in the draft. Johnson made his professional debut in the Arizona League on June 28, and made two more relief appearances in rookie ball before the Giants promoted him to Salem-Keizer, where he has made three starts. In those three starts, he’s yet to allow a run, allowing only 7 hits, striking out 13 and walking only 2 in 14 innings of work. It’s a very small sample size, but the fact that the Giants are trying Johnson as a starter is quite promising. If he can keep showing good results into August and September, he’s likely to be in the Augusta rotation next year. If that’s the case, then the Giants got great value for a 3rd round pick that otherwise received little fan fare during the draft. If not, they still have a strike-throwing reliever who can dial his fastball up from time to time. Maybe I’ll need to rethink that top 40 come the end of the season.