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Jun 06, 2013 - Jun 08, 2013   

TBD - ,
Stephen Johnson
RHP 6-4 205   R/R

Exit Velo
4/23/12: Johnson is one of the most unlikely top level prospects one will ever come across. Although there is absolutely no similarity in their backgrounds or builds, or even in their relative draft status as college juniors, it wouldn’t be completely unfair to compare Johnson to former Division III Ferrum (Va.) College left hander Billy Wagner. No one is projecting that Johnson is headed for a potential Hall of Fame career like Wagner, or that he will be a top half of the first round draft pick (Astros, 12th pick, 1993). But the fact that he has made his mark as an incredibly hard throwing pitcher at a non-conventional baseball school; Division II St. Edwards University in Austin, Texas, certainly warrants the link. Johnson wasn’t heavily recruited out of high school in Boulder, Colorado where he was reportedly topping out at 86-87 mph as a senior. During his first two years at St. Edwards, a private Catholic liberal arts school with about 5,400 students, Johnson was a starting pitcher and went a relatively unimpressive 7-5, 3.56 as a sophomore, with only 65 strikeouts in 78 innings. Although he had already added significant velocity to his fastball by last summer, Johnson’s profile for scouts made a rapid change when he joined the Santa Barbara Foresters of the California Collegiate League and switched to the bullpen, then helped lead the talented Foresters club to the National Baseball Congress (NBC) national championship. Johnson went 1-0, 1.88 on the summer with 4 saves and struck out 29 hitters in 24 innings. Now cast in his most ideal role, Johnson has blossomed this spring as St. Edward's closer, going 1-0, 1.26 with 12 saves, while allowing only 14 hits and 11 walks in 28 innings to go with 51 strikeouts. There are media reports that Johnson has been up to 102 mph this spring, although Perfect Game hasn’t found confirmation from scouts on anything above 100 to this point. What is certain, however, is that Johnson rarely drops below 95 mph and pitches very steadily in the 96-98 mph range. That kind of velocity and consistency puts him in the elite level of power arms in the country. While that velocity is a big positive, and all but guarantees that Johnson will be a top two round pick in June, scouts still have serious questions about two other key parts of his package. The biggest concern is with Johnson’s arm action. There are twists and turns to Johnson’s arm that are difficult to describe sequentially but that obviously come together in the end at his release point. Some organizations put far less emphasis on arm action and pitching mechanics than others, especially when it comes to a high velocity relief pitcher, so team scouting tendencies will be an important factor in who eventually selects Johnson. There also seems to be a wide variance in opinions concerning Johnson’s breaking ball, understandable since he doesn’t throw it often and has thrown only 28 innings this spring. The release point on the pitch, its shape and break, and Johnson himself, indicate that it is a curveball, although many have labeled it a slider due to its 82-85 mph velocity. It will flash hard spin and biting 11-to-7 shape at times, but Johnson has difficulty commanding the pitch and frequently has settled for just overpowering hitters with his dominating fastball for short periods. Whatever the drawbacks, Johnson’s background is one of the most interesting in the 2012 draft and will be a great story should he evolve into a Major League closer in the future.