Pierce Johnson Scouting Report (2014)
Pierce Johnson is a top pitching prospect in an organization full of big bats. With Javier Baez, Kris Bryant, Albert Almora and Jorge Soler as it’s top four prospects, it’s easy to be overlooked. ROTOscouting contributor and Bleacher report lead prospect writer, Mike Rosenbaum, listed the right-hander as his 82nd best pitching prospect entering the season, ahead of fellow pitchers Zach Lee and Rafael Montero — high praise for the former 2012 first round pick. Is Johnson a future fixture of an up and coming Cubs organization?
The 6-foot-3, 180 pound Missouri State product appeared smaller in person. Equally proportioned throughout, Johnson has room to add size as he matures. Johnson’s base generates sufficient velocity, but doesn’t maximize his hip rotation. Added muscle would increase fastball velocity and projection.
In his delivery, Johnson has a tendency to fly open and hurry through the finish. Recoil at the conclusion of his delivery, putting Johnson in poor fielding position. Poor fielding position if often the difference between a rally killing 1-6-3 double play or an RBI single up the middle. A 3/4 arm slot creates deception and Johnson throws his arsenal with the same arm action.
Pitching for the Tennessee Smokies, Pierce Johnson can dominate with a 91-93 MPH fastball. In an interview with Fangraphs’ David Laurila, Johnson described the pitch as a four-seamer. In person, it resembled a two-seamer with extreme boring action in on right-handed hitters. Extreme movement allows the pitch to flash plus, but difficulty commanding it results in an average grade.
Johnson also throws a cutter, sacrificing natural arm side run and velocity, Johnson will cut the fastball to induce soft contact. The average offering is not a swing-and-miss pitch, but is used to induce weak contact. Like the four-seam fastball, command causes the pitch to play down.
Johnson’s best pitch is a 82-83 MPH slurve. Staying on top of the pitch, Johnson achieves 10-to-4 break. Depth and the ability to command the slider adds to its effectiveness. Against left-handed hitters, he was able to backdoor the slurve for called strikes. Against righties, Johnson showed the ability to bury it under hitter’s hands. With few 0-2 and 1-2 counts due to a lack of fastball command, Johnson loses opportunities to use the slurve as a chase pitch in the dirt.
Thrown sporadically, his 81-82 MPH change-up is uninspiring. Showing confidence in other pitches early, Johnson didn’t flash it until later in the appearance. To achieve a 10 MPH speed differential from the fastball, Johnson slows his delivery. The pitch also lacks deception, although its natural drop is a plus.
Fastball command will dictate Johnson’s future role. If it improves, Johnson projects as a mid-rotation arm — even without a strong change-up. If not, then his floor is a Major League reliever. While the Cubs have plenty of bats in the organization, top flight arms are lacking. Because of this, Johnson will be developed slowly and given every opportunity to remain a starter.
TOOL PRESENT FUTURE PROJECTED ROLE THIRD STARTER WITH FLOOR OF LATE INNING RELIEVER Fastball 50 60 Cutter 45 50 Slurve 55 60 Change up 35 40 Control 40 50 Command 40 50
Owning Pierce Johnson
Taking a gamble on improved fastball command is a wise decision for any fantasy owner. Rosenbaum ranked Johnson as a top 100 prospect for a reason. While similarly ranked pitchers like Zach Lee and Rafael Montero offer higher floors, the ability to accumulate strikeouts with a true out pitch is a strength neither pitcher possesses. Due to the potential for high strikeout totals, owning Pierce Johnson is be a no-brainer.
12 May 2014 / Chris Blessing /
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