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Jun 06, 2013 - Jun 08, 2013     
TBD - ,
Pierce Johnson
RHP 6-1 170   R/R

FB
60
40
OF
IF
1B
C
Pop
Range
CB
SL
CH
Split
Knuckle
Exit Velo
Distance
4/3/12: It was evident in 2009 to the Tampa Bay Rays, when they drafted an obscure Johnson in the 15th round out of a Colorado high school, that he had top-of-the-rotation potential. But it took almost three years for the rest of the baseball world to see and appreciate the untapped talent in the projectable 6-foot-3, 180-pound righthander. In the opening game of the Missouri Valley Conference schedule March 24, Johnson electrified a large gathering of scouts by striking out a personal-best 16 in a 3-0, complete-game win over Creighton. With a fastball that was a steady 91-93 mph, touching 95, along with a sharp-breaking, nearly-unhittable slider and an above-average change, he dazzled throughout. He had excellent command of his raw stuff, walking one and scattering five hits. With his lively, powerful arm, Johnson had shown flashes of that kind of dominance in his career at Missouri State, especially in his starts leading up to that signature outing, but never put everything together until that night. Suddenly he had teams that remained skeptical of his ability revising his draft worth from possible first-rounder to probable first-rounder. Typical of his checkered college career, though, Johnson struggled with his control in his next outing against Dallas Baptist, and lasted only three innings. Though he struck out five, he also walked three and allowed five hits. In his first seven starts this season for the Bears, Johnson is just 2-3 and an unimpressive 9-10 overall in three years. But his ERA has steadily improved from 7.52 as a freshman, to 4.76 as a sophomore to 2.01 as a junior. His sub-.500 record this season stems mostly from a lack of run support as his secondary numbers, 19 walks and 71 strikeouts in 49 innings, are more indicative of how well he has pitched. Culminating in his masterpiece against Creighton, Johnson had a streak of five straight games with 10 strikeouts, and he has consistently impressed scouts with his easy arm action and superior stuff. Even as Johnson was a mediocre 6-5, to go with his subpar 4.76 ERA, as a sophomore, he began to show signs of his vast potential a year ago as he rallied from a slow start to post a 2.36 ERA in his final 53 innings, in the process striking out 55. He hoped to build on that effort by duplicating his strong performance of 2010 in the Cape Cod League (3-1, 2.11, 43 IP/41 SO), with a return engagement to Harwich, but was forced to shut it down last summer after only 12 innings when he dislocated his knee while warming up in the bullpen for his fourth scheduled start. Until that point, Johnson’s fastball was a steady 90-94 mph, and the pitch stood out as much for its good running action as for its velocity. Though no surgery was necessary on his knee, it may have cost Johnson a shot at being grouped among the elite crop of college pitchers for this year’s draft heading into the 2012 season. The consensus among scouts was that he was a solid second- to fourth-rounder, but needed to prove himself this spring. That projection has clearly been revised upward. The exposure Johnson has received this spring to date is in stark contrast to 2009, when few clubs (with the notable exception of the Rays) saw him pitch. Not only was he tucked away at a small private school in remote Colorado, but he missed half of his senior season. Colorado rarely gets its due as a prime producer of baseball talent, but recognition should come to that state’s underappreciated development ranks in June. Not only does Johnson have an excellent shot of landing in the first round, but a second Colorado prep product, Louisiana State righthander Kevin Gausman (an unsigned pick in the 2009 draft), also is a primary target for the first round.