It's been a tumultuous season for the Boston Red Sox as they have been struggling to find that one player who can assume the role as the 'ace' of their rotation. On May 28, the team dipped into their farm system and brought up LHP Eduardo Rodriguez. Now as we get closer and closer to the midway point of the 2015, many Red Sox fans and want to know which of the next Red Sox pitching prospects will get the call up. Some think it’ll be LHP Henry Owens, a proven pitcher at the Triple-A level, while others think that it would be the high-rising LHP Brian Johnson. By now most people are familiar with Henry Owens but many are not familiar with Brian Johnson. So as the Red Sox get ready to make their decision, let us become more familiar with Brian Johnson.
Full Name: Christopher Brian Johnson
Born: December 7, 1990
Birthplace: Lakeland, FL
Height: 6' 4"
Draft: 2nd pick in the 1st Round (32nd overall) of the 2012 MLB Draft by Boston Red Sox
School: University of Florida
MLB Debut: N/A
Background Prior to 2015
Johnson was originally drafted back in the 2009 MLB Draft at the 16th spot in the 27th round (817th overall) by the Los Angeles Dodgers out of Cocoa Beach High School in Cocoa Beach, Florida. However Johnson elected not to sign with the Dodgers and instead went to school at the University of Florida. He spent 3 years at Florida, comprising a career stat line of 22-12 record with a 3.94 ERA in 49 games played (46 starts), 237.4 innings pitched, 253 hits allowed, 116 runs scored against (104 were earned runs), 47 walks, 196 strike outs, and a 1.24 WHIP. At Florida, Johnson also played first base for the Gators. At the plate, Johnson played in a total of 144 games and had a career batting average of .273 (155-for-568) with 16 home runs, 91 RBIs, 11 stolen bases, a OBP of .326, a SLG of .458, and an OPS of .740.
During his time with Florida, Johnson won the 2010 Louisville Slugger Freshman All-American, the 2010 Baseball America Freshman All-American, the 2012 John Olerud Award (given to the best two-way college baseball player), and was part of the 2011 Florida Gator squad that played in the 2011 College World Series (they were swept by South Carolina 2-0).
Johnson also played for the USA Collegiate National Team in the 2010 International University Sports Federation World Baseball Championship. He pitched in seven games with Team USA, starting in one of those games. Johnson’s stat line was a 1-0 record with a 0.63 ERA, 16 strikeouts, and 5 walks in 14.1 innings played as Team USA ended up being the runners up in the tournament behind Cuba. Johnson would again join with the USA Collegiate National Team in 2011 to pitch in relief in 2 games. He recorded a 1-0 record with a 2.25 ERA while giving up 4 hits, 1 run (1 earned run), walked 0 batters, and struck out 4 in 4 innings pitched. Johnson also contributed at the plate on the 2011 team as a utility infielder, starting in 4 games. He recorded a .417 batting average (5-for-12) with 3 home runs, 5 RBIs, 3 walks, 2 strikeouts, an OBP of .533, a SLG of 1.167, an OPS of 1.700, and had a perfect 1.000 fielding percentage (9-for-9 fielding chances).
Interestingly enough, 3 future Red Sox minor leaguers also played with Johnson on Team USA and would then be teammates of his later on (OF Jackie Bradley Jr. and RHPs Noe Ramirez and Matt Barnes in 2010 and SS Deven Marrero in 2011).
Johnson was drafted for a second time, this time 31st overall in the 1st round by the Boston Red Sox in the 2012 MLB Draft. This time he did sign on and began his professional career down with the Lowell Spinners of the New York-Penn League in Class-A Short Season. Johnson started in 4 games with the Spinners, pitching in 5.2 innings, not allowing a single run scored, walked one batter, struck out four, accumulated a 0-0 record with a 0.00 ERA with a WHIP of .529, held opposing batters to a .111 batting average, and had a perfect 1.000 fielding percentage (3-for-3 fielding chances). However Johnson’s season was cut short on August 18 when he took a line drive off the left side of his face in a game against the Hudson Valley Renegades. Johnson ended up with orbital bone fractures and was put on the disabled list for the remainder of the 2012 season.
In 2013, Johnson started the season with the Greenville Drive in the South Atlantic League in Class-A Full Season. However during the midpoint of the season, Johnson was put on the disabled list with left biceps tendinitis from June 4 to July 20. During his time on the disabled list, Johnson made a couple of rehab starts with the Gulf Coast Red Sox of the Rookie League. During his time with the Greenville Drive, Johnson started in 15 games in the 15 games he played, accumulating a 1-6 record with a 2.87 ERA. He also allowed 50 hits, 29 runs (22 were earned), hit 4 batters, threw 7 wild pitches, walked 28, struck out 69, and held opposing batters to a .197 batting average in 69 innings. Johnson also recorded a .889 fielding percentage (16-for-18 fielding chances) with 2 errors and had a caught stealing percentage of 43 % (picked off 10 out of 23 batters). During his rehab assignment, Johnson started in 2 rehab starts, pitching in 5 innings, not allowing a single run scored, gave up 1 hit, walked 2 batters, struck out 7, held opponents to a .067 batting average, and accumulated a 0-0 record with a 0.00 ERA.
Towards the end of the 2013 season, Johnson was promoted Advanced Class-A level to play for the Salem Red Sox in the Carolina League. Johnson pitched in two regular season games with Salem, accumulating a stat line of a 1-0 record with a 1.64 ERA in two starts, 11 innings pitched, 9 hits allowed, gave up 2 runs, (both were earned), walked 5 batters, struck out 8, threw one wild pitch, held opposing batters to a .225 batting average, and had a WHIP of 1.27. Johnson also played a part in the Salem Red Sox’s 2013 playoff run for the Mills Cup (the Carolina League Championship). He pitched in one playoff game against the Myrtle Beach Pelicans, going 4 innings while giving up 6 hits, 3 runs (2 were earned), walked 2 batters, struck out 2 more, and was given a no-decision as the team won in 10 innings 4-3.
Then in 2014, Johnson started the season with the Salem Red Sox. He pitched in 5 games for the Salem Red Sox, going 3-1 with an ERA of 3.58 in 23.2 innings pitched, gave up 23 hits, 13 runs (11 were earned), walked 7 batters while striking out 33, threw 3 wild pitches, held opposing batters to a .230 batting average, and had a WHIP of 1.17 in 25.2 innings pitch. In the field, Johnson had a perfect 1.000 fielding percentage (3-for-3 fielding chances) and allowed just 1 stolen base. Then on May 2, Johnson was promoted to the Double-A to the Portland Sea Dogs in the Eastern League and remained with the team for the rest of the Double-A season. During that time frame, Johnson pitched in 20 games (starting all 20) and accumulated a 10-2 record with an ERA of 1.75 in 118 innings pitched. He also gave up 78 hits, 29 runs (23 were earned), walked 32 batters, struck out 99, threw 5 wild pitches, held opposing batters to a .189 batting average, and had a WHIP of 0.93. In the field, Johnson once again had a perfect 1.000 fielding percentage (19-for-19 fielding chances) and had a caught stealing percentage of 71 % (picked off 5 out of 7 baserunners). He was named a 2014 Eastern League Mid-Season All-Star and was named the 2014 Red Sox Minor League Pitcher of the Year.
Like in 2013, Johnson was part of a playoff run with two different teams. The first was with the Portland Sea Dogs as they faced the Binghamton Mets in the Eastern League’s Eastern Division Championship Series. Johnson pitched in game 5 of that series, going 7 innings while allowing just 6 hits, 2 runs (both earned), walking 1 batter, and striking out 8 in a no-decision. However the Sea Dogs lost the game 8-5 and were knocked out of the playoffs. Then on September 9, Johnson was called up to Triple-A to play for the Pawtucket Red Sox in their Governors’ Cup series against the Durham Bulls. Johnson started in Game 2 of the series, going 6 innings and allowed 4 hits, 2 runs (both were earned), walked 3 batters, and struck out 7 more. However he was stuck with the no-decision as the PawSox lost in 10 innings 4-3. However, unlike the Sea Dogs, the PawSox wounded up winning the series 3-2 and Brian Johnson celebrated with his teammates as they were crowned as Governors’ Cup Champions for the 2014 season.
Prior to the beginning of the 2015, Johnson was ranked as the 6th overall prospect according to MLB.com and the 7th overall prospect according to both Baseball America and SoxProspects.com in the Red Sox farm system. He also received his first spring training invite with the Boston Red Sox down in Fort Meyers, Florida. After spring training was over, Johnson reported to Pawtucket to begin his season in Triple-A.
In 14 games with the PawSox this season, Johnson has started in all 14 games and accumulated an 8-4 record with an ERA of 2.57 in 80.2 innings pitched. He has also allowed 60 hits, 30 runs (23 were earned), walked 23 batters while striking out 76, hit 4 batters, and threw 4 wild pitches. Johnson also has a 1.066 WHIP and opposing batters are hitting .214 against him. As of right now, his 2.57 ERA and 76 strikeouts are the most among PawSox starters. In the field, Johnson has a .938 fielding percentage (15-of-16 fielding chances) with 1 error.
Support WBOB Sports